Monday, July 21, 2014

Blue Geronimo inducts honorary command sergeant major

by Sgt. Eric-James Estrada
4/25th IBCT Public Affairs

7/21/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Born and raised in Kansas City, Kan., retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bernie Knight served four years in the Marine Corps before enlisting in the Army in 1987 as an infantry rifleman.

Over the years, Knight would serve in a variety of units and serve in nearly every noncommissioned officer leadership position, to include team leader, squad leader, Bradley Fighting Vehicle commander, long-range surveillance detachment team leader, operations sergeant, platoon sergeant, observer controller, first sergeant, operations sergeant major and command sergeant major.

In a July 14 ceremony outside 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment "Blue Geronimo" headquarters on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Army Lt. Col. Tobin Magsig, 1-501st Infantry commander, charged Knight as the honorary command sergeant major of the battalion during an honorary command sergeant major induction ceremony.
"I'll try not to get teary eyed," Knight said to the attendees as he thanked the command group of Blue Geronimo for the bestowing of the honor.

Knight expressed his gratefulness to be inducted as the honorary command sergeant major.

"Sir, I would like to thank you personally, you and Command Sgt. Maj. [Mitchell] Rucker, for giving me this opportunity. I'm honored," Knight said. "I couldn't think of anything better to do on retirement than serve as the honorary command sergeant major."

The honorary command sergeant major serves as the link between all members in the battalion currently serving and those who have served before.

Inducting an honorary commander or command sergeant major is unlike a change-of-command or a change-of-responsibility ceremony. Instead of passing the unit colors from an outgoing commander to an incoming commander or command sergeant major, a symbol of honor that represents the lineage of the unit is bestowed upon the honorary commander and command sergeant major.

For the paratroopers of Blue Geronimo, that symbol is the arrow for the honorary commander and for the honorary command sergeant major, it's the tomahawk.
The arrow represents the moral compass and sense of purpose and direction the honorary commander provides.

The tomahawk symbolizes the lethal force of the NCO Corps necessary to complete the mission; it also resembles a primitive ice pick to reinforce the battalion's additional requirement for arctic proficiency.

The passing of the Tomahawk from Magsig to Knight is a visible expression of the faith and confidence Magsig places in Knight's abilities to fulfill the obligations of his newly-appointed position.

"I first witnessed the depth of Command Sergeant Major Knight's knowledge in December 2012 at the Black Rapid Training Site in Central Alaska while attending the Cold Weather Orientation Course," the Blue Geronimo commander and native of Nashville, Tenn., shared with the audience.

"I know all of USARAK's leaders walked away from that event remarking at the mentorship they received from 'The Arctic Yoda,'" Magsig said. "For Command Sergeant Major Rucker and me, that mentorship has continued as Command Sergeant Major Knight has never done a very good job hiding his love for this battalion."

In 2007, Knight deployed to Iraq as command sergeant major of Blue Geronimo in what would be a hard-fought, 15-month deployment.

"I stand here and I look through the crowd and I look at the Geronimo's that were here when I was here many moons ago and before me and I look over there and I see first sergeants that served with me on our deployment to Iraq," Knight recalled.

It was Knight's six years with the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, serving as a platoon sergeant, then operations sergeant major, and finally as Blue Geronimo's senior-enlisted advisor that would hold the unit close to his heart.

"It was the second deployment since Vietnam that the 501st had deployed," Knight told the audience. "It was a 15-month deployment and most of us thought we were only going to be there for a year and the news was not good, but I tell you through the 72 months, history continues to repeat itself."

Knight reminded the paratroopers of Blue Geronimo they are a special and determined force and he stands ready to offer his knowledge whenever needed.

"You are the manpower," Knight said. "Everybody knows that hard work is done by the Soldiers, the paratroopers contained within this organization. Anything that I can pass on to help you with the next deployment, I would gladly do."

Knight's final assignment was that of U.S. Army Alaska's top-enlisted leader after a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan as command sergeant major with another Alaska-based unit, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

His military and civilian education includes all levels of the NCO Education System, the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, Ranger School, Long Range Surveillance Leader's Course, Marine Corps Sniper School, Marine Corps Infantry Mortar School, Bradley Fighting Vehicle Course, Jungle Survival Course, Survival Escape Resistance to Interrogation and Evasion Course, Basic Recruiter School, Jump Master School, and Pathfinder School. Knight earned an associate's degree in general studies from Barton County Community College in Great Bend, Kan.

Knight's awards include: the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with six oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal with eight oak leaf clusters, Valorous Unit Award, Combat Infantry Badge with Star, Expert Infantry Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Ranger Tab, Pathfinder Badge, and the Gold Recruiter Badge. He is a recipient of the British and Thai parachutist badges.

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