CSM Ruiz conducting a briefing
(photo courtesy 403rd AFSB PAO)
MSG Half-Mast recently visited the Korean peninsula to speak with Command Sergeant Major (CSM) John G. Ruiz, the senior non-commissioned officer of the 403rd Army Field Support Brigade (AFSB).
CSM Ruiz joined the Army in 1989, shortly after graduating from Calipatria High School in California. He’s held a variety of command and staff positions during his career. Some of the positions include: Ordnance Chief Enlisted Career Manager in the Personnel Development Office for the Chief of Ordnance; Command Sergeant Major, 70th Brigade Support Battalion; and G3 Sergeant Major, 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). He’s also served in multiple positions while assigned to 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (4IBCT), 1st Infantry Division, which included Battalion Operations Sergeant Major, First Sergeant, HHC Brigade and Brigade Operations Sergeant Major, as well as numerous others. CSM Ruiz assumed the duties of Command Sergeant Major of the 403rd Army Field Support Brigade in October 2018.
MSG Half-Mast: CSM Ruiz, Powerhouse Seven, Maintaining the Warriors, Hoo-ah! Thank you for taking the time to speak with PS Magazine. Other than, of course, the health risk to readiness for your Soldiers, how has the pandemic impacted the readiness and sustainment of equipment? And what changes, if any, have you had to integrate to maintain readiness, in light of the pandemic?
CSM Ruiz: We never had a direct risk to the readiness of our Soldiers or with the sustainment of our equipment. In mid-February of 2020, we faced the challenges of COVID-19 first-hand. Many of the initial spikes were from our own footprint here in Daegu. The leadership of Korea and Japan utilized health protection control (HPCON) measures to keep everyone safe, as we operated under the “new normal” of the virus. To this point, fifty three (53) operations orders have kept 403rd AFSB units in compliance with the commander’s intent, which was to focus on keeping our Soldiers, Korean augmentees to US Army (KATUSAs), DA civilians, Korean nationals and master labor corps employees safe and compliant with safety protocols. We also had to change and adapt to the evolving environment and continue to synchronize, integrate and deliver readiness to our customers throughout Korea and Japan.
MSG Half-Mast: Korea has always been and continues to be a uniquely challenging assignment. What are some of the unique challenges that the AFSB in Korea faces that other AFSBs don’t?
CSM Ruiz: One of the unique things is to have over two thousand (2,000) Korean and Japanese teammates, as part of our Powerhouse team. Of course, this workforce diversity is really more a blessing than a challenge.
One obvious challenge is the time zone difference. As we finish up our day here in the Land of the Morning Calm, we also have requirements that we have to meet from our higher headquarters, Army Sustainment Command (ASC), located at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. This is by no means a complaint, simply a challenge that we face in the 403rd AFSB, due to the time zones that we are in.
MSG Half-Mast: Have you noticed any sustainment or maintenance trends from Soldiers or units that you think are positive trends, or possibly negative trends? In what ways does the AFSB work to overcome the negative trends, while reinforcing the positive ones?
CSM Ruiz: As we receive Korean Rotational Forces (KRFs) here, we sometimes experience varying sustainment and maintenance trends by the rotating divisional units, but these are mostly system errors that arise from practices and processes here on the peninsula that differ from what they are used to. We can quickly fix system errors and get the units on track with local processes, which they often find are better. This said, we’re always seeking ways to improve our systems and processes.
Currently, we are in the early stages of converting the Army War Reserve Deployment System (AWRDS) to the Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-A). Also the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is new to the Army and we’ve seen the new variants here in Korea, during a recent deployment. There are always logistics challenges that accompany newly-fielded equipment.
One way we manage trends is to conduct thorough onboarding of KRFs deploying here. We participate in weekly meetings and other critical “touch points” among ASC, our brigade staff and the KRF brigade staff. We then get verification from the ASC commanding general that the 403rd AFSB is ready to assume support of the KRF unit. This has worked very well during my time in Korea, and it remains a vital part of our battle rhythm.
MSG Half-Mast: As the senior enlisted leader in a unit focused on sustainment, responsible for enhancing the readiness of other units on the peninsula, what guidance do you give your Soldiers and other unit NCOs about their roles ensuring USFK is ready to “fight tonight”?
CSM Ruiz: It all begins with indoctrination. We indoctrinate Soldiers with a welcome letter to this great organization and follow-up with them via an office call or meeting and telephone calls. We explain the structure of the organization and its responsibilities, as well as the responsibilities that are inherent in their roles with the unit. In regards to onboarding a Soldier, I like to look at leadership first; I don’t necessarily look at their particular military occupational specialty or MOS. Leadership is vital because we are a readiness-based, customer service-oriented and highly-diverse brigade HQ. This AFSB has a broadening assignment that teaches tactical, operational and strategic sustainment planning and preparation. So, I challenge all of the Soldiers to understand and broaden their portfolio of thinking and leading. I know it was a challenge for me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Another important part is to document their experience and always remember “Maintaining the Warriors!” is not just a motto; it’s our responsibility.
MSG Half-Mast: When you rotate out at the end of your tour, what advice to your successor would be at the top of your list and why?
CSM Ruiz: That time has come for me. On a good note, I personally know my replacement and he comes with a great deal of experience and knowledge. He would be the first person that I would select as my replacement. He will do great things while he is here. The first thing I will tell him is to maintain the relationships with our higher headquarters. Enjoy the great work force and always thank them for their hard work and dedication. I know I really appreciated the absolute professionalism and honor they brought to work every day.
While I have this platform, I’d like to thank everyone for the recognition and patience that you have shown and bestowed upon me. I’m thankful and humbled to be a part of AMC, ASC and the absolute-best AFSB in the US Army. To Team Powerhouse, farewell and thank you for allowing me to be a part of your team. “Powerhouse Seven, Maintaining the Warriors, Hoo-ah!”