Michael Grinston became the 16thSergeant Major of the Army (SMA) during an Aug. 9 ceremony. Grinston, a 31-year veteran, assumed the post as the service’s senior enlisted leader after serving as the top non-commissioned officer at U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley nominated Grinston for the post in June, when they were serving respectively as Army secretary and chief of staff. Grinston’s awards include a Defense Superior Service Medal, two Legion of Merit medals, and five Bronze Star medals – two of which include “V” devices. A native of Jasper, Ala., he is qualified to wear the Ranger tab, as well as the Master Parachutist, Air Assault, Drill Sergeant Identification, and Combat Action badges.
As Grinston was sworn in at Fort Meade, Md., he recounted significant events that he believes defined his career and will serve as cornerstones of the tack he will take as the senior enlisted advisor to Army civilian and military leadership.
Raised by a single mother, Grinston joined the Army at 19 for the education benefits and stayed because he enjoyed “the people and being active,” he said.
Initially an artilleryman, Grinston found himself and fellow soldiers in an infantry role, trying to overcome an ambush in the town of Baiji at the onset of combat operations in Iraq. He said he is reminded every day of the two men who died and two others who were wounded that day.
“It’s what wakes me up in the morning. When you go through something like that, it’s life-changing,” Grinston said.
As difficult as that day was, Grinston said the hardest part of his job is notifying the next of kin that their soldier relatives in his unit died in combat.
“You can’t forget it,” Grinston said.
During his tenure as SMA, Grinston will focus on helping train soldiers to adapt to the service’s evolving multi-domain role. He also will play a key role as the Army Combat Fitness Test rolls out sometime late next year.