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Mentoring soldiers keeps Fort Bliss air-defense enlisted leader young at heart, energized

Command Sgt. Maj. Steve Burnley is the senior enlisted leader for the division-level 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command at Fort Bliss. He took over the position in July.

U.S. ARMY PHOTO

By DAVID BURGE | The El Paso Times (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 26, 2018

Command Sgt. Maj. Steve Burnley is never too busy to stop and mentor a young soldier.

Burnley, a 46-year-old from Alexandria, Va., is the senior enlisted leader for the division-level 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command at Fort Bliss. He took over the position in July.

“If I see something or someone asks me a question, I will stop what I am doing to offer some advice, make an observation or make a recommendation,” Burnley said.

“I hold that philosophy in my office, too,” he said. “If someone comes and knocks on my door, I don’t tell them to go down the hallway and schedule an appointment. I say, ‘Come in and sit down.’ I will stay late if I have to.”

Burnley helps to lead an organization that oversees about 10,000 air-defense soldiers at five U.S. installations and about a half-dozen foreign countries. That includes about 2,500 soldiers at Fort Bliss with the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

Mentoring and interacting with young soldiers helps to keep Burnley feeling young and energized, too, he said.

“I still feel like I have plenty to give,” Burnley said. “I still feel young. The young soldiers give you energy. You get out there and visit them down range and they motivate you.”

Burnley and his family have past ties to Fort Bliss. He did his advanced individual training at the installation in 1993 when he was a young private. He served as an instructor in the Officer Basic Leaders Course from 2003-05 at Fort Bliss and attended the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy in 2010-11.

His family is happy to be back at Fort Bliss, and they thoroughly enjoy El Paso and the surrounding area, Burnley said.

The job helping to lead the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command — along with Brig. Gen. Christopher Spillman — is also a great opportunity, he said.

His number one goal is to make sure that soldiers in the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense are ready and able to do any mission when called upon.

“I would like to say that the 32nd produces some of the most resilient, adaptive and ready soldiers the Army has to offer, on top of being technical and tactical experts (at their air-defense jobs),” Burnley said.

The 32nd AAMDC will host a large-scale exercise in February and into March in which it will bring units from all over the command to Fort Bliss, Burnley said.

The command is bringing back the Roving Sands name for the exercise. This was the name of a large exercise back in the 1990s.

The idea is to create an experience similar to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., but for air-defense soldiers, Burnley said.

It all boils down to readiness.

“Our job is to be ready to deploy,” Burnley said.

Col. Alan Wiernicki, the deputy commander for the 32nd AAMDC, said Burnley brings a “breadth of experience” that makes him the “right NCO at the right time” for the command.

“He understands combat readiness as well as any senior NCO I’ve met, and he has already made a tremendous impact on the readiness of the units in our command,” Wiernicki said.

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