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Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff since October, has been touring the world trying to promote a spirit of compatibility between soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.

Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff since October, has been touring the world trying to promote a spirit of compatibility between soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

STUTTGART, Germany — Ten or 15 years ago, Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey and his fellow soldiers might have sat on one side of a room while Marines sat on the other side.

And they would have just looked at each other.

“That was our culture,” Gainey said. “It’s like a football team — there’s a rivalry [between] your team and my team. We didn’t hate each other.”

Gainey, who in October became the first senior enlisted adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been touring the world trying to promote a spirit of compatibility between soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.

“Now, we’re standing on the dock and a new generation is on the cruise ship,” Gainey said Friday in an interview with Stars and Stripes. “We [older troops] can either decide to get on the ship with them and go on the cruise, or stand on the dock and wave goodbye.”

Gainey, the former command sergeant major for III Corps in Fort Hood, Texas, said he got a good look at the services working together while serving with Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

He said some airmen who had been made into truck drivers were nervous about getting on the road in a war zone. But after they trained on tactics in Kuwait and got to work in Iraq, Gainey said, the airmen performed no differently than anyone else.

“Yes, there were some bumps initially because you’ve got that culture,” Gainey said. “But they all had that same focus.

“When I’m out and about, if I see a hiccup, I get back to that service’s senior enlisted adviser and say, ‘Hey, guys, here’s a hiccup in the road. How are we going to fix it?’”

Gainey, 49, was chosen for the job by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the Joint Chiefs chairman. The South Carolina native figured that he and Pace must have hit it off during the interview process.

“After 38 years, I still know exactly what I’ve known since I was a second lieutenant,” Pace said at the time. “Nothing good in my military career has happened without the great advice and counsel of a superb senior enlisted partner.”

While Pace’s job is to advise the president and defense secretary, Gainey’s job is to advise Pace on the needs of enlisted troops. He also helps guide the senior enlisted advisers of the individual service branches.

Gainey said he has contact daily with Pace but no list of marching orders.

“I don’t run to daddy all the time,” Gainey said. “I’ll go to the services ... before I have to take them to him.”

Gainey said that enlisted troops needed to have faith that issues facing them are being addressed from on high. As an example, he cited a recent 2,000-pound increase to the household goods allowance for E-7s and higher.

The most pressing issue that troops face, according to Gainey, is support from Americans back home.

“Our young men and women are doing a job just like anybody doing a job,” Gainey said. “They need your support. It’s important.

“They’re not politicians. They’re just young men and women doing a job they have to do.”


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