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
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
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
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
"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
"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.