Command Sgt. Maj. Catherine Farrell named as Senior Enlisted Advisor

Command Sgt. Maj. Catherine Farrell named as Senior Enlisted Advisor

Michigan National Guard

 

Date: 02.20.2019
Posted: 02.20.2019 14:22
News ID: 311298

The Sergeant Major

Photo By Lt. Col. John Hall | State Command Sergeant Major, Catherine Farrell, is the senior enlisted advisor for the Michigan Department of Military and Veteran Affairs and the Michigan National Guard. She assumed the responsibility for the Michigan Soldiers, Airmen, Army and Air Force civilians, and veterans throughout the state on Feb. 13, 2019. Her prior command sergeant major assignments included the 177th Military Police Brigade and the 126th Press Camp Headquarters. She brings with her, over 30 years of experience in Military Police, Public Affairs, Operations, and five deployments.

LANSING, Michigan — “I am all about taking care of our Soldiers and Airmen, our veterans and their families – they come first!”

This statement is the mantra of Command Sgt. Maj. Catherine Farrell who assumed the duties as the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Michigan Department of Military and Veteran Affairs Feb. 15th. She is a veteran non-commissioned officer having served thirty years between the active Army and Michigan National Guard.

“It is always lead by example. If I can’t set the standard, then how can I expect any Soldier or Airman to meet that standard,” stated Farrell. “We expect every Soldier and Airman to pass PT, to meet the standard for height and weight, to look professional in their military uniform, know the military customs and courtesies.”

Farrell is a no nonsense Command Sergeant Major who believes in holding Soldiers and Airmen to the standard and getting results. “It is the little stuff. Leaders and Soldiers must take care of the little things to be successful. APFT and height/weight, that is little stuff — that is an Army Standard with no excuse for anyone not meeting it. You know what you have to do, you train for it and you succeed,” stated Farrell. “Meeting the standard and training Soldiers is what was instilled in me when I first came into the Army 30 years ago.”

Farrell is very clear in her vision of how to lead troops. “Leadership is leading by example – Be, Know and Do – the NCO Creed. As an NCO we are there to train our Soldiers. In order to achieve this, we have to have a good rapport with our officer corps, and vice versa. Officers need to respect the NCO corps and respect our professional opinion when we advise them. I have had great rapport and as a result great success as command sergeant major at the 177th Military Police Brigade and the 126th Press Camp HQ.”

“I love working with the Soldiers and Airmen. I can’t wait to hear from them on what I can do to make things better for them, but they should expect that whatever they do, it will be done correctly. I will not be soft on them. Every Soldier and Airman is obligated to do things to standard, just like I am, just like the TAG is, just like every officer and NCO in our Army should be expected to do.”

What some may view as “old school” Army, was instilled in her as a child growing up in southern Michigan.

“I grew up on a dairy farm down in Washtenaw County, right outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan. I joined the Army to get away from that dairy farm. I was tired of getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning to milk the cows. As soon as I turned 10 years old I had to start getting up and doing chores before I went to school. By the time I was a senior in high school I decided, you know, I am not going to do this for the rest of my life. I thought, ‘How am I going to get away from these early mornings in the cold?’ I just happened to see a U.S. Army recruiting sign one day. I thought, I am going to join the Army — I am going to get away from getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning. So I joined the active Army, where I ended getting up at 4:30 in the morning to do physical training. Like many young people who join, I questioned what I gotten myself into. But that was the best experience of my life.”

“My dad was a hard-core Irish dairy farmer who could outdo a drill sergeant any day. So when these drill sergeants would start yelling and screaming, I started snickering, thinking, This is nothing compared to what my dad would do. So after the first couple of times I did that, I was assigned a rock the size of a boulder for me to carry everywhere. It was to remind me to not to snicker and smirk when the drill sergeant would give us commands. It seems I was a slow learner, because I ended up carrying it until the end of AIT. But that was great. They held me accountable.”

“Joining the Army made me realize what the farm did for me. It instilled the responsibility and initiative to take care of other things besides myself and take care of myself as well. When it came to taking care of the farm animals, I learned to be responsible at a young age and be accountable. This translated well to the Army where I realized that at a young age, my father had instilled in me responsibility, which is instrumental to take care of Soldiers. I have done that throughout my military career.

“After I completed my active duty time, I realized how much I missed the farm and what that hard life did for me. I thanked my dad a few years ago. He looked puzzled, saying, ‘What did I do? I just made you work. That is to be expected of every child.’ It took me a while, but I am glad that I grew up and realized how important it was that he instilled those values in me, the values of hard work and taking care of something greater than yourself.

“I look forward to this challenge,” said Farrell. “I think I have enough mentorship, and I know how to reach out to that mentorship if I have any issues or challenges that I don’t know how to face. I know they will all be there for me, because they have all reached out to tell me they will be there for me. These are great mentors who know how to take care of Soldiers and know what it takes to take care of Soldiers and do the right thing.

I have been on Overseas Deployment for Training (ODT) missions to Estonia, Poland, Germany and even Egypt. ODT missions are a great experience for any Soldier who has never been outside of the country. SSG Ames who is now a public affairs NCO for US Army Africa served with me on an ODT mission with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in the spring of 2014. He was just a Specialist back then, had never been out of the country and was nervous as could be. I said, ‘Don’t worry, I will take care of you’. He had the greatest experience working with those elite Soldiers. I like to think it had a lasting impact on him. I could see a change in his attitude and professionalism. So what do you know, three years later he has the confidence to accept a job that has him leading teams throughout Africa. That tells me that he learned a lot on that ODT mission to Estonia. It makes me feel good that he has accomplished so much and is taking on so many responsibilities now.”

“I have worked operations too, even as a battle NCO on one of my deployments. I have worked in G1 which is a complicated position, yet it allowed me to better understand why personnel readiness is National Guard Bureau’s number one priority. I understand the importance of it to include administrative, medical and dental. We cannot get to Objective T, and be considered fully mission capable, if we don’t have the personnel to be there for that training to meet Objective T.”

What will be the early focus points for Farrell? She states, “One of the first things I want to do is to ensure Soldiers are taking full advantage of the Blended Retirement System (BRS), to ensure they are getting the full matching amount. My fear is that many of them are enrolled in this system and are missing out on free money through the government match.”

Also a priority for Farrell is training and maintenance. She says, “Maintenance takes a huge place in our readiness too. We have to take care of our equipment. We have to really stress maintenance which is a big issue. The COMET inspection is a significant method we use to determine maintenance readiness. I find it hard to believe that any unit is not ready for a COMET inspection, because CSMS and the G4 send out a pre-checklist of what will be inspected to ensure the units are squared away, and yet many are not meeting that. So where is the oversight there?”

Those who serve and in what capacity has changed much during the career of Farrell. “I am happy to see that women are going into combat arms, get qualified as Sappers in the Engineers, and go to Ranger School. I think that is great. Women prove every day that we are Soldiers. If these options were available 25 years ago, I would have done it in a heartbeat, if for no other reason than to show that I could do it. I don’t think it should be about gender, it should be about capability. The Army sets a standard, when you meet that standard, then nothing should hold you up, certainly not anyone’s opinion of your capability based on gender.

In talking about her predecessors, Farrell says, “This March will be 22 years I have been in the Michigan National Guard. Based on this experience and meeting with other state command Sergeants Major within the Michigan National Guard, I realize I have big boots to fill, because of the phenomenal job they have done.

Farrell closes by noting the role of families in the success of the military. “My husband has been through three deployments with me, he is non-prior military, he is a retired detective sergeant from the Lansing Police Department. He has supported me 100 percent in my military career, which I respect and love, because he knows how much I love serving in the military. He supports me and I love that. “

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