FORT PICKETT, Va. –
The Virginia Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion welcomed Sgt. Maj. Paul A. Johnson as the battalion’s senior enlisted leader in a Change of Responsibility ceremony held June 8, 2022, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Johnson was promoted to the rank of sergeant major just before the ceremony and has served in the RRB since 2008, when he came on as a recruiter.
“I’m excited to tackle changes that need to be made,” Johnson said. Soldier care is priority [and] making sure Soldiers are trained properly and cared for. I want to make sure they can engage the average citizen and recruit them.”
Johnson’s military career started in 1989 when he joined the U.S. Army Reserve.
“When I was three years old, I remember, I would play with army men,” Johnson said, explaining that he tried to join the Army the very day he turned 17, but was delayed due to an injury. A year later, all healed, he achieved his long-time goal of military service.
I wanted more and more army men,” he recalls his lifetime desire to have a military career. “When I was in high school, I tried to join the Army the day I turned 17.”
Over the course of more than three decades in uniform, Johnson has served in Desert Storm, worked as drill sergeant, an active duty recruiter and a recruiter for the Army National Guard at various locations throughout Virginia, including in Cedar Bluff, Gate City, Harrisonburg and Staunton. He also worked as a recruiting section chief, first sergeant and operations noncommisioned officer in the RRB.
Attaining the rank of sergeant major brings new challenges to Johnson’s diverse career.
“For the sergeant major role, I’m learning different things. Being a sergeant major in a recruiting battalion can be a challenge,” he said. “I care about being that guy who is accountable and responsible for my Soldiers. I’ve done the job long enough to know how to take care of my Soldiers. I just want to be the guy people can come to if they have a problem or a solution.”
Recruiting work can be an extremely stressful, requiring early mornings and late nights.
“Recruiting is demanding. You have to be willing to do the work and sometimes put in 16-18 hours of work a day,” Johnson said, again highlighting the importance of taking care of Soldiers. “You’ve got to spend time with family, work them into your schedule, and give them just as much time as you give to the Army.”