Interview with the War College CSM

CSM_parrish War College CSM
INTERVIEWEE: CSM Malcolm Parrish, Command Sergeant Major, US Army War College; INTERVIEWER: CSM Dan Elder, US Army, Retired

This is one in our series of interviews with noncommissioned officers from the field, as well as those in key or strategic positions who are influencing the Army and the Noncommissioned Officer Corps. This interview is with CSM Malcolm Parrish, Command Sergeant Major, who serves as the senior enlisted advisor of the US Army War College.  Below are his responses to our questions:

Q1. What were some of the things that surprised you the most after reporting in as the US Army War College Senior Enlisted Advisor?

Great question, the only thing I knew about the United States Army War College (USAWC) was what I heard from former students who attended. I envisioned a distinguished two story ivory building with ivy growing on it. What I found was more than a single building, more than just a school for LTCs and COLs to learn strategy and the art of war. I found a campus containing six entities comprised of two centers, two Institutes, a school for Leader Development and Resiliency department supported by a garrison team all combined creating the USAWC.

The School of Strategic Landpower(SSL) is what everyone thinks of as the “War College”, the place all services, agencies and international partners send their best senior leaders to be educated an developed for service at the strategic level while advancing knowledge in the application of Landpower.

The Center for Strategic Leadership and Development (CSLD) develops senior leaders and provides strategic support to the USAWC, the Army Staff and Senior Leaders by conducting wargames, on average of every six to eight weeks. The results of these exercises are published and available to the Army leadership as well as Ground Combatant Commanders (GCCSs) and their staff. Examples include: Mali; Congo; and Transnational crime.

The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) provide historical material for use to support the U.S. Army, educate the public (including international audiences) and honor our Soldiers past and present. It houses our Army archives! I personally held four original copies of Von Steuben’s “Blue Book,” with protective gloves of course.

The Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) and USAWC Press is the only research organization in the U.S. that focuses on the strategic role of Landpower and the results of their research are available to everyone and they are responsible for getting “the word” out to the world.

Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI) is our Army’s only organization focused on Peace and Stability Operations at the strategic and operational level. As of 4th quarter FY 13 PKSOI became the Army’s lead and joint proponent for DOD in Peacekeeping and Stability Operations.

Senior Leader Development and Resiliency (SLDR) addresses Leader presence within the human dimension of war, building strategic motivation, enhancing mental and physical stamina, critical thinking and physical performance in combat, long term demands of strategic leadership, building Soldier and family resilience and ready and resilient senior leaders.

These centers and institutes are available to everyone, not just our students but for our Army. Together, they combine and form the USAWC.

Q2. Based on your background and assignments, what best prepared you for this assignment, and were there other preparation you wished you had?

 Hindsight being 20/20, I would say my Active Component/Reserve Component assignment to 4th BDE, 85 DIV Training Support (TS), Fort Knox, Kentucky best prepared me. That unit much like this assignment is top-heavy. Meaning, as a Sergeant First Class, I was one of the junior members of the organization and had quickly learn how to communicate and interact with a senior population.

The Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) presented me this opportunity to be his Professional Military Education (PME) “Scout” of Strategic education for Senior NCO’s. If you look at the educational timeline of an NCO over a career you’ll find that the Sergeants Major Course (SMC) conducted at the U.S. Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA) is the “pinnacle” of our enlisted education system. Currently this is the last training we receive unless selected to attend the “Keystone” course designed to prepare Joint Senior Enlisted Leaders for assignments to the most senior strategic level. Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development (INCOPD), USAWC, along with support from the CAC, USASMC, CAPE and the SMMO all came together under the guidance of the SMA to take advantage of the opportunity of that education timeline to develop a course that will better prepare Sergeants Major (SGM) to advise Commanders at the Strategic level. Three and four star Commanders were asked a series of questions; “what would you like your CSM/SGM to be able to affect upon assuming the position, to be immediately value added to the command.” Experiences over the last 12+ years of combat prove the role of senior NCO’s has grown. And all of these experiences were taken into account. The results generated a critical task list that verified the “gaps” in our educational development and has allowed us the ability to develop a course to close these gaps. The CSM/SGM Executive Education Course (CSEEC) will better prepare CSMs/SGMs for duties at the strategic level. A pilot course will be conduct during the third qtr of FY 14.

We came together as a true TEAM of senior leaders for all of the right reasons to better our NCO Corps.

Q3. What do you see as the primary role of the Command Sergeant Major at institutions of Officer Professional Military Education?

I believe the primary role (other than the senior enlisted advisor) would be the opportunity to provide the senior NCO perspective to a wide audience of senior leaders, military, civilian and multinational audience. Many countries of the world are working hard to create an NCO Corps within their militaries as strong as ours. I have and do take the opportunity to talk with some of them, and they ask great questions.

Q4. What instructions did your Commanding General give you upon assumption of your duties, and have they changed any over time?

MG Anthony (Tony) Cucolo III is a phenomenal leader and “wingman,” as many already know. Because of his past experiences and future vision, he created an environment that allowed my reception and integration into the position seamlessly. Which sometimes is a difficult thing being the first of anything in any organization. We sat down and he laid out three lines of effort for me and in no particular order they were and still are:

  1. Be his senior enlisted advisor (and wingman);
  2. Interact with the 385 resident students and provide a senior NCO perspective, (to include the 77 International Fellows from 71 different countries); and
  3. Be the CSA and SMA “scout” for strategic Education for our NCO Corps

Those initial lines of effort have not changed.

Q5. Based on your experience, what bit of advice or wisdom would you share with NCOs destined to primarily officer education system assignments like Carlisle Barracks, West Point and Fort Leavenworth?

The role as an advisor is the same no matter if you are a BN/BDE/DIV CSM or the USAWC/CAC/West Point CSM; the Commandants, Staff, Leaders and Soldiers/Students need you. The technique by which you deliver the message may be different but the counsel is the same. The uniqueness of the USAWC is the op-temp allows greater opportunity to engage, talk with, and think about what was said and re-engage with multiple repetitions throughout the year

Q6. In your opinion, what types of differences do you see between officer and enlisted education systems, and are there lessons to be shared between them?

Another great question! The difference between the officer and enlisted education systems is our focus. Simply put, officer education focuses on the organization or institution at echelon, enlisted education focuses on the mission, training and developing of Soldiers.

We have the best Army in the world because of our NCO Corps and they are the best NCO’s in the world because of our NCO education system. We have the best education system because we are always striving to keep it current. Look at the work of TRADOC and INCOPD with NCO 20/20. Every NCO from SGT to MSG has the opportunity to participate in an on-line survey by providing their personal input into the way the Army educates our Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) in the future. INCOPD created five separate working groups, each with their own focus areas from across the Army to take lessons learned and best practices and technology to enhance the broader NCO Professional Development System (NCOPDS) from the former NCO Education System (NCOES) as we go forward. I do not believe there has been a better time to serve in our Army and effect positive change in our education system than now.

Q7. Are you and other senior enlisted advisors able to interact with and participate in the ongoing studies of War College students?

Absolutely! We, as well as any senior leader, can sit in any of the 24 seminars and interact with the group. It is a great experience for all. For the sake of clarity, the USAWC resident class of 2014 is comprised of: 216 Army; 32 Air Force; 17 Marine; 14 Navy; 1 brave Coast Guardsman; 28 Civilians from the Army staff and Interagency; and 77 International Fellows. We also have a Distance Education Program (or non-resident course) with 369 students that take’s two years to complete. The size of each seminar fluctuates a bit with the actual number of students. However, the composition of Army, Sea Service (Marine or Navy), civilian (from the interagency) and International Fellows within each seminar is maintained. So as you might imagine each seminar is quite a diverse and interesting group.

Q8. What has been the most difficult part of your assignment at the War College?

I would have to say that I do miss the daily interaction with Junior Leaders and Soldiers. There is nothing that can compare to a group “Hooahs” out trying to be the best they can be and seeing junior leaders apply purpose, direction and motivation!

Q9. What is one thing you want people to know about you?

Though “Hope” is not a method or strategy, I Hope that the Soldiers and Leaders I’ve served with already know that I care about Soldiers and their Families. I care about setting conditions to develop our leaders into the next group of senior leaders. I care about trying to be a better husband and father to my Family, mentoring Leaders and Soldiers and being a positive part of our Profession.

Our thanks to CSM Parrish for participating in this interview and wish him continued success. Statements here are personal opinion and do not reflect the official position of the US Army or DoD, participation in our interview sessions does not equal endorsement of any type. The NCO Guide is a news outlet of professional commentary and opinion from current and former Soldiers with the desire to share their expertise and experience and can be read at

One thought on “Interview with the War College CSM

  1. James Isgett, SSG(Ret.)

    Great NCO. I ha the pleasure of serving with CSM Parrish while in 3rd ACR. He taught me everything I knew about the Bradley and being a Scout, the geatest thing he taught me was how to be a fair and competent NCO

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