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HEIDELBERG, Germany —Got a problem? Wondering how to get to air assault school, whether your unit is going to be deactivated, if your new tattoo, complete with BBs, violates the uniform?

Ask the command sergeant major.

"You might not get the answer you want, but you’re going to get an answer," said U.S. Army Europe Command Sgt. Maj. Ralph Beam.

Beam is soon to join the blogosphere, writing regularly about USAREUR military matters on the USAREUR Web site.

The blog is to appear Feb. 26. Before that, Beam is soliciting questions — about whatever is on people’s minds. Write him at askthecsm@eur.army.mil.

Don’t be afraid to hurt his feelings.

"I’m a very informal person," he said. "I’m nothing more than a senior sergeant, but I’ve been around."

Likewise, he says his answers will be sugar-coating-free.

"I will tell them what I think right should look like," he said.

"He’s not going to be rude to the soldiers," clarified Sgt. Maj. Lisa Hunter, who’ll be helping with the blog.

The blog won’t be totally freewheeling, what with security, legal and chain-of-command issues.

"I’m not going to talk about deployment dates," he said.

But Beam said he wants to address both routine and serious concerns.

"There’ll be some hard questions where the investigator general will get involved," he said. "I have access to resources that will help get things done."

Most questions will be answered within a day or two and reactive comments are welcome, even noncomplimentary ones. But, said Hunter, "no personal attacks."

Beam said he thought he’d write about tax issues in his first posting — reminding soldiers of free tax preparation services available at military legal offices. Other blogs might have to do with issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual assault prevention or motorcycle safety.

Beam’s blog idea developed in part because 2009 has been designated the Year of the Non Commissioned Officer; and one of the initiatives is for senior NCOs to reach out and engage with the community. A blog seemed like a way to reach younger soldiers, Beam said.

"They text, they do all sorts of things," he said. "There are all kinds of conversations going on without me."

Beam’s blog follows a couple of others from high places. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston last month started one about the Year of the NCO. His first response came from someone who "found it hard to believe that a Senior NCO did not join GEN (David) Petraeus (commander of the U.S. Central Command) in the coin toss during the Super Bowl. … I really feel like we missed the largest television audience of the year."

And Gen. John Craddock, commander of the U.S. European Command, also started a blog last month. "My staff has taken advantage of the incredible advancements in web technology and New Media to develop a site that will encourage dialogue and transparency with the public while still providing information on U.S. military activities with our partner nations within Europe and Israel," Craddock wrote.

"I recognize that citizens of every nation are eager for information about what the U.S. military is doing in Europe. This site will feature timely and updated content designed to keep you well informed. Please take the time to sign up for the e-mail updates and subscribe to our news story RSS (real simple syndication) feeds."

At its best, Beam’s blog will work the way an e-mail exchange with a frustrated specialist worked awhile ago, he said. The specialist wrote he wanted to go to air assault school but was getting nowhere.

Beam told him a number of things in his reply: Get assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. Send in a DA-4187, used when soldiers are requesting personnel actions on their own behalf. Then there was the pep talk.

"I gave him the Daddy speech: ‘You can do anything you want to do,’ " Beam said.

Beam didn’t hear from the specialist again for some time. When the soldier wrote again, he was a lieutenant. After getting Beam’s advice, the specialist had gone to air assault school, then Officer Candidate School.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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