Brig. Gen. Jason E. Kelly welcomes senior leaders and their spouses to Fort Jackson during Senior Leader Orientation held July 26-28. Attendees were shown Fort Jackson and the Columbia area. (Photo by Emily Hileman)

Senior leaders orient to Jackson, Midlands

By Emily Hileman and Robert Timmons, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

It may be an annual occurrence, but the 2023 Senior Leader Orientation was different than previous iterations. Not just because this is the first Brig. Gen. Jason Kelly, Fort Jackson commander attended, but the number of senior leaders and unit commanders is by far larger than normal.

The three-day orientation helped the senior leaders, and their spouses, learn more about Fort Jackson and the surrounding communities. On Day One they toured post to include the Future Soldier Preparatory Course and the 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception). On Day Two, they attended Basic Combat Training graduation, and went on a guided history tour of nearby Columbia, South Carolina. The final day of the orientation, the group received briefings from on-post agencies.

Lt. Col. John Baker, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment commander, said he found the orientation helpful.

“It’s been extremely wonderful for me,” he said of the event. “I’ve spent most of my entire military career at Fort Liberty, North Carolina. Moving to Fort Jackson was a completely unknown. The Senior Leader Orientation and their efforts to plug us in to the community, exposed us to the key partners here on the installation has been really wonderful and really beneficial for me.”

He said for a person new to an area after spending a lot of his career at a different post the SLO was “hugely beneficial.”

He said the exposure to the area for both him and his peers, who face similar questions coming from diverse backgrounds helped them “to get that common understanding, common purpose. It’s been really great.”

Baker said he didn’t go through a similar orientation at Fort Liberty where he was assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operation Command side of post.

“Granted coming from the USASOC part of post, people tend to become homesteaded in organizations so there’s not really a senior leader orientation rather, because the senior leaders have been there for 10 or 15 or 20 years,” he said. “So, on a post like Fort Jackson, where personnel are a little bit more transient. It’s really wonderful. I think it’s great. I actually would like to come back next year.”

Col. Michelle Williams, commandant of the Finance and Comptroller School, said the orientation was “absolutely” helpful.

“This is like the first time in my 24 years of military experience I’ve ever had the immersion into the community,” she said. “So, this was great. I was here as a student back in 1999, and 2003. So to come back now in 2023 and actually get this with the actual community as well as the staff here at Fort Jackson was fantastic, phenomenal.”

In her 24 years of service, she has never had an orientation like it, she said.

“You always get a presentation and It’s usually death by PowerPoint and that’s about it,” she said. “This, as far as bringing us together in a social environment, and then actually bringing us out to the community. It’s the first time I’ve ever had that.”