CCAD’s New Depot Sergeant Major on Leadership, Professional Development, & the CCAD Workforce

by Brigitte Rox, CCAD Public Affairs

Photos by Kiana Allen (RELEASED).

Corpus Christi, TX (July 23, 2015) – On 23 July 2015, Corpus Christi Army Depot welcomed its new Depot Sergeant Major, Steven Odom, as his predecessor, Sergeant Major Martin Dickinson, retired after 32 years of service to the United States Army.

With 25 years of Army service that started in 1990, a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s of Science in Aviation Management, SGM Odom is breezing through his professional milestones in with no signs of slowing.
The Army aviator spent 14 years of his career in the 82nd Aviation Brigade, Fort Bragg, NC, where he first met and served with SGM Dickinson and CCAD Commander Colonel Billingsley Garner Pogue.

“SGM Dickinson was one of my mentors coming up in the Army,” SGM Odom said of his predecessor. “We have a very similar leadership style.

“When you become Sergeant Major, you have to change your whole leadership style,” the new Depot Sergeant Major said. “You have to be calm and collected. You have to think on your feet because you’re advising your commander.”
As COL Pogue’s right-hand man, SGM Odom understands that effective leadership is a team effort. He is well aware of his role in the command group and will draw on his diverse and extensive Army leadership background to meet the challenges of his new position.

“When you’re a first Sergeant, you’re the first line of defense for your Soldiers. You’re attacking everything aggressively,” he admitted. The need for immediate response sometimes came at the cost of a proactive strategy, he added, as there is often little to no time to think through operational plans and procedures.

“As a Sergeant Major, your demeanor has to change. You have to give wise counsel to everyone that you support. This includes making educated decisions based on facts acquired through research and fact-finding missions.”

In the months leading up to the transfer of depot responsibility, SGM Dickinson mentored SGM Odom on all aspects of CCAD to prepare him for his role.

“I've been operational my whole career,” he said. “I've worked in the operational units that CCAD provides maintenance for.

“As a young soldier coming all the way up, even as a Command Sergeant Major, you hear about CCAD. That's where you send your helicopter parts. That's where you send your helicopters for reset.

“But until you come here and see it, you don't realize the scope of what happens here. The first time you see a helicopter stripped completely down to the frame and see one come off the production line completely rebuilt: it's overwhelming.

“You never expect to get stationed somewhere like CCAD,” he said. “It's a great place; it's a great location, especially for an Army guy.” As such, the new Depot Sergeant Major considers this change of pace an important landmark in his career.

SGM Odom takes advantage of the Army Career Tracker (ACT), a self-paced professional development tool available online for military personnel. It is similar to Army Materiel Command’s (AMC) civilian equivalent, Total Employee Development (TED). ACT has an automated mentor system which SGM Odom credits for having a significant impact on his career.

“It is mentoring on a larger scale,” he said. “I can put a question out there in a blog, like: ‘What would be your recommendation for my next position for career progression?'”

One by one, his mentors would respond to his query online with suggestions on possible paths he could take – offering their own lessons learned and insider knowledge.

“It's kind of giving you the answers to the test,” SGM Odom said. “We’re fortunate to have that tool.” But that doesn’t make his new position any easier.

CCAD is unlike anything SGM Odom has ever experienced. The industrial and revenue side of the Army is a significant departure from his years in operations, but he never expected being the top non-commissioned officer at CCAD would be an easy gig.

“I took this job to be a challenge,” he said. “I wanted the diversity of knowing not only the operational side of the Army, but the strategic side as well. How better to get exposure than to come here!

“Diversity resonates with job security,” the Sergeant Major added. “Knowing how to do more than one thing increases your chances of being a quality commodity for your supervisor.

This is a message he wishes to share with the civilian workforce at CCAD as they adjust to a smaller workforce with added capabilities.

“I'm a very strong supporter of cross-training. In a line unit, if you don't cross-train your Soldiers, you're not going to make the mission. Soldiers have to be diverse.”

But the responsibility is on the individual’s shoulders.

“How far do you want to go in your career?” Odom asked. “It takes dedication. You have to want to learn something new every day.”

When he’s not at work or spending time with his family, SGM Odom mentors 36 people on ACT. Being on either side of the mentor system takes work, but it is an investment he feels can be a game-changer in shaping tomorrow’s Army.

“You just have to be dedicated enough to follow the advice of the people who have been successful before you. “
SGM Odom intends to use his opportunity at CCAD to develop his strategic skills. He already has a few targets on his game plan.

With a focus on conflict-resolution, the Sergeant Major hopes to manage depot issues at the lowest level to enable the commander to focus on top-line priorities. For matters requiring Command Group coordination, SGM Odom will be armed with the facts in every situation to enable him to provide realistic, sound council to the commander. In this way, the top enlisted soldier at CCAD ensures that COL Pogue has all the information he needs to make informed decisions with the best interests of the Army and the depot mission in mind.

SGM Odom also feels there’s a lot he could learn from CCAD’s unions. He intends to reach out to them to learn more about the work they do for Veterans and the workforce, the issues and concerns affecting the workforce, and their ideas on possible solutions.

“I’m a resource for anybody that works at CCAD. We serve our employees. That’s what we do.” In other words, by doing his job, SGM Odom hopes every CCADer can focus more on their job.

“Everybody at the depot is doing their part to serve their country by providing quality parts on aircraft for the Warfighter,” he said. “When people put that CCAD sticker on a component, just like the Colonel said, we give a guarantee that it's going to work right the first time—and I'm a firm believer of that.”

For SGM Odom, the support the workforce provides its customers brings with it its own rewards that can be witnessed as testaments of pride that you could see in every office, lab, workshop, or hangar on any given day.

“I can tell that most employees are very grateful to be working here,” SGM Odom said. “That is spoken by the generations of people working here. I spoke to a gentleman last week: two of his brothers work here, his nephew works here and his dad worked here.”

Length of service was another testament SGM Odom identified as an indicator of workplace satisfaction.

“I went to a retirement ceremony for an artisan that has worked here for 43 years,” he said. “To know that someone has been supporting Army aviation for more than forty years of his life is humbling…this gentleman had 43 years here at CCAD and 45 years of total service. I'm 42 years old. This man was working at CCAD when I was born.

“The dedication and the work ethic you see here, I don't think it's matched anywhere else that supports the Army on the industry or business side of the Army,” he said.

SGM Odom seems to already be a good fit for CCAD. His words reflect that same sense of Duty and Selfless Service among the workforce that is so often remarked on by those visiting the Army’s premier helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul facility.

“The Army has been very good to me and I want to give back.”


 

Designated a Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for rotary wing aircraft, Corpus Christi Army Depot ensures aviation readiness through overhaul, repair, modification, retrofit, testing, recapitalization, and modernization of helicopters, engines and components. This effort includes world-wide on-site field maintenance teams, analytical crash investigations and chemical material process facilities. CCAD serves as a depot training base for active duty Army, National Guard, and reserve units. CCAD, as South Texas' largest industrial employer, employs more than 5500 personnel and contractors providing an overall economic impact of more than $1.14 Billon to the local community.