599th brings commanders, sergeants major together

599th brigade and battalion commanders and sergeants major meet in the brigade command conference room to kick off the in-person commander’s call at 599th headquarters July 28.

599th brigade and battalion commanders and sergeants major meet in the brigade command conference room to kick off the in-person commander’s call at 599th headquarters July 28.

By Donna Klapakis
599th Transportation Brigade Public Affairs

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii — The 599th Transportation Brigade hosted its battalion commanders and sergeants major during an in-person commander’s call at the headquarters here July 28-31.

Because the unit has its brigade headquarters in Hawaii, with each battalion distant from all others, scattered throughout the Pacific, the brigade commander takes an opportunity once a year to get the commanders together.

Command Sgt. Maj. Claudia Shakespeare, brigade command sergeant major, explained the reason for the event.

“The purpose of the commander’s call was to strengthen the team’s relationship and to help each of us better understand our roles in our area of operations, as well as raise awareness how our missions interrelate and overlaps,” she said.

Although attendees considered different aspects of the event to be most beneficial, the battalion commanders and sergeants major appreciated the chance to get together.

“I believe the benefits to us were twofold, in that we were finally able to get with our counterparts in the other battalions and get a better understanding of where our missions overlap and where they differ,” said Sgt. Maj. Bradley Waters, sergeant major of the 836th Transportation Battalion in Yokohama, Japan. “It also gave us a chance to meet the brigade staff and thank them for their work on our behalf.”

“When we conduct a video-teleconference, it is always rushed and takes out the personalities of the people you are dealing with,” said Navy Cmdr. Matthew “Mark” Wills, the commander of SDDC 320, a Navy reserve battalion in Alameda, Calif. “This got us out of our regular work environment, and we were able to see what our counterparts do and understand their challenges. It also gave us a chance to see the boss and understand her challenges.”

“The face-to-face with the staff was very good,” added Lt. Col. Charles Novotny, commander of the 835th Transportation Battalion in Okinawa, Japan. “Now that we know the personalities of the people we have been dealing with on the phone, we’ll be more effective in our communications. That was especially beneficial to the two new battalion commanders. This creates dialogues.”

Novotny said he also appreciated the chance for the commanders and sergeants major to revisit leadership topics, as a group and in person, from the brigade commander.

Participants were busy with briefings and discussions. Leaders of each section in the 599th headquarters briefed their roles and responsibilities and brought commanders up to date on the latest developments. They also tried to find out how to better support the battalion commanders’ needs from afar.  On the last day, the 599th commander and sergeant major discussed leadership, communication, counseling and mentoring, and how to develop and achieve unit goals.

“This commander’s call strengthened old relationships and helped to build new ones,” Shakespeare said. “It also helped us to resynchronize processes across the brigade.  I look forward to the opportunity to add to our knowledge and fellowship next year.”