Initial Military Training welcomed a new command sergeant major at a ceremony on Friday. Command Sgt. Maj. John Calpena, right, turned over responsibility to Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Woods, left. (Army) ()
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FORT EUSTIS, VA. — Initial Military Training welcomed a new command sergeant major at a ceremony here today.
Command Sgt. Maj. John Calpena turned over responsibility to Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Woods, a career artillery soldier with tours as a drill sergeant and recruiter.
Woods called this an “opportunity to give back to the Army” as he reflected that today’s soldiers have served in the longest sustained war with a volunteer fighting force since the American Revolution, which lasted eight years — and those soldiers need training commensurate with this challenge.
At IMT he will help standardize, refine and assess training for initial entry soldiers, recently commissioned and appointed officers and warrant officers at 23 U.S. installations.
Woods saluted combat vets, their families and the Guard and Reserve, saying “the active duty would have burned out long ago if not for [them].”
Calpena, who served as IMT command sergeant major since May 2010, retired after 32 years of service to a standing ovation. His career included service in all three Ranger battalions. And it was a career that almost ended at 20 years when a frustrated Calpena struggled to find his way. He said his saving grace was his wife Eliza, and admitted it was no easy feat for her. He was already a sergeant major when they tied the knot 13 years ago, and his new wife was not accustomed to military life. Early in the relationship, when Calpena told her he was a Ranger, she asked what park he worked at. But she adapted well and became a leader among spouse support groups. She was honored for that service at the ceremony.
“What's next?” Calpena asked. “I can only imagine because this trip has been so amazing. ... What I want to do with the rest of my life is still make a difference and do something that impacts others in a powerful way. I will focus my thoughts and attention, I will trust God and know that wherever that is, it is going to be awesome.”
Calpena and his family will return to San Antonio.
IMT commander Maj. Gen. Ross Ridge described Calpena as a “selfless” soldier who honored the noncommissioned officer corps through “countless contributions.” At IMT, Calpena was instrumental in the charge to ensure volunteers are transformed into capable and competent soldiers, Ridge said, and he “will be greatly missed.”
Events during Calpena’s IMT tour include:
■ The merging of the Drill Sergeant School and Advanced Individual Training courses.
■ A revival of the master fitness program.
■ The dramatic suspension, reinstatement, then forced retirement of Sgt. Maj. Teresa King, the Drill Sergeant School’s first female commandant.
■ Development and implementation of outcome-based training throughout all phases of individual entry training. This training focuses on critical thinking to hone problem-solving skills and has become the Army Learning Model.
■ Changes to nutritional models.
■ Critical refinement of key soldier skills in marksmanship, combatives, values and culture.
■ Fundamental changes to warrior tasks and battle drills aimed at ensuring relevancy.
Woods was selected by Maj. Gen. Bradley May, the former IMT commander who retired in November. “I think he made a damn fine choice,” Ridge said. “But it doesn't hurt that you are an artilleryman.”
Woods returned six months ago from his third Operation Enduring Freedom deployment. He served as command sergeant major for 191st Infantry Brigade, 1st Army Division West on this latest tour. He also has four tours with the 82nd Airborne Division and tours with the 3rd Infantry Division and 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
Forty-five inventions also earned him the Defense Department’s 2003 “Inventor of the Year” award. These have saved the Pentagon more than $1 billion in cost avoidance. His inventions include:
■ 105mm Howitzer night direct fire sight system M913 GELON.
■ The 155mm towed Howitzer night sight system.
■ The dual use day/night direct fire sight reticule.
■ The dual optic MILES Laser trainer.
■ The Urban Assault Kit (Paladin) improved crew protection, 155mm system.
The master parachutist also has a Masters of Education degree and has completed every NCOES school.
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