The Army’s former top noncommissioned officer will begin a new chapter in January when he takes over the Army Emergency Relief foundation.

Now-retired Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston is the first-ever noncommissioned officer to head the relief foundation, which was founded in 1942. According to the release, Grinston will take over as the organization’s director and chief executive officer on Jan. 1 when its current leader, retired Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, retires.

Army Emergency Relief provides soldiers with grants and interest-free loans in times of emergency financial need, with amounts greater than $1,000 requiring commander approval. The relief foundation is technically independent of the service, though it enjoys special privileges that other nonprofit agencies don’t. The organization has provided more than $1 billion in financial assistance to soldiers during the War on Terror era, according to its website.

Grinston, who served for 36 years before retiring this year, held ex-officio roles on the fund’s Board of Managers for the final seven years of his enlisted career, the release said. After a successful viral fundraiser for the organization in March, he changed his social media profile photos to a doctored version of his official photo that portrayed him with a beard.

During his time atop the Army’s noncommissioned officer corps, Grinston proved a champion for causes important to rank-and-file soldiers through a deeply personal communication style that won him both admiration in the ranks and derision from some groups.

The retired sergeant major has posted periodic, sometimes humorous updates about his post-service life on his LinkedIn page since retiring.

I do not think my body knows how to sleep [eight] hours,” he mused after realizing his body clock kept waking him up at 5 a.m. — despite his best efforts. In another message, he confessed that he was “definitely new to job hunting.”

In a LinkedIn post announcing his new role at the relief fund, Grinston expressed gratitude and confessed to feeling “additional pressure” to perform well as the first NCO to ever hold the role, so “other enlisted will get a similar opportunity.”

Grinston also shared his final job-hunting conundrum ahead of his first day on the emergency fund’s staff, where he will join outgoing director Mason for a transition period.

“What do I wear to work on the first day?” he recounted wondering. “I went with a nice pair of slacks and a button down shirt. Very exciting times!”

Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.

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