RICHMOND, Va. –
During a career spanning across four decades, Command Sgt. Maj. Irving Reed Jr. followed a path that led him up and through the enlisted ranks to the top enlisted spot in the Virginia Army National Guard. His career started in 1982 and today, he’s the Virginia Army National Guard’s Command Sergeant Major.
“My father had been in the military and he recommended that ‘Hey, if you’re not going to go to school, you might want to look at the military.’ So I did,” Reed said. “I had my own ideas about what the military was about and wanted to get out there and see what it was really like.”
Reed first served on active duty with 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, until 1986. He took a five year break in service and then, in 1991, he joined the Virginia Army National Guard.
Since then, Reed has served in a series of leadership roles, mostly within the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He served as a team leader, squad leader, platoon sergeant, first sergeant, battalion command sergeant major, as the commandant of the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, and most recently, as command sergeant major of the 116th IBCT.
Reed said it was during his first deployment, to Kosovo as part of the NATO Kosovo Force, or KFOR, in 2006-2007, that he faced one of his most challenging assignments, that of first sergeant.
“It was a big change, going from a small 36-man platoon to now you’re first sergeant of a company that’s deployed forward on a 14-month deployment. I got a really good taste of what that job encompassed,” said Reed. “I had some good assignments up to that point, such as [in the] scout platoon, that were challenging on a more individual basis. This was challenging on a much higher level.”
Following that first deployment, Reed had to make a decision. He could either retire
as a first sergeant or continue serving and take on more challenging leadership roles. His battalion command sergeant major helped guide his decision making.
“He was one of the first individuals to set me down and lay out a flight-plan, if you will, for my career,” Reed explained.
That kind of mentorship, Reed said, is important for Soldiers and for leaders.
“That’s key for any Soldier, at any level, for their leaders to sit down with them and lay that plan out for certain benchmarks you need to accomplish to get to where you want to be,” Reed said. “Even though I’d been in the military for a long time at that point, no one had really done that.”
To achieve success, Reed suggests Soldiers set goals for themselves and create a pathway toward reaching those goals. Then, he explained, position themselves to be ready to act when opportunities become available that will help them move further along that path toward their goals.
“I would recommend to young Soldiers, don’t be afraid of those difficult assignments, get out of your comfort zone,” said Reed. “In order to grow, you have to venture out of that, take the difficult assignments, and get your schooling, whether its military or civilian, so that you can be ready when an opportunity is in front of you.”