By By Scott Koker Messenger Associate Editor
Traveling across the U.S. has become commonplace for Army Command Sgt. Maj. Christian Carr, but his recent visit to Columbus MEPS in Ohio was far from routine.
As senior enlisted advisor at USMEPCOM since May 2018, Carr has visited 49 MEPS and participated in 18 staff rides, which have played a key role in his leader development program.
“They’re valuable when it comes to development, oral communication, presentation skills and learning about history,” said Carr, who will be leaving USMEPCOM for his next assignment in early October. “They help people develop public speaking and research skills among other things.”
Carr was joined on the Columbus trip by Army 1st Sgt. Mary Reed, who recently became senior enlisted advisor at Chicago MEPS. After touring the Columbus MEPS and participating in unit physical training, they joined a staff ride led by Navy Command Senior Chief Brandon Fullmer.
Fullmer, the senior enlisted advisor at Columbus MEPS, had organized one staff ride prior to Carr’s August visit.
“The first one didn’t go so well,” Fullmer said. “Being a Navy guy, I didn’t understand it as well as I do now.”
Fullmer learned from the experience and his second staff ride was described by Carr as “unbelievable.”
“He is one of the most engaged, 360 degree SEAs I’ve seen in 49 MEPS visits,” Carr said of Fullmer.
Carr was most impressed by the wide variety of staff ride participants. Officers, non-commissioned officers, Army National Guard soldiers and service liaisons joined the group for the day’s activities.
“That is an unprecedented feat,” Carr said. “Most staff rides don’t have that level of involvement, which is extremely contingent on the individual MEPS team. If the climate is struggling and there’s not a lot of teamwork, fewer people will show up.
“In order to garner as much support as he did, (Fullmer) has to be a pretty well-rounded leader.”
The staff ride perfectly reflected Fullmer’s efforts to increase teamwork since arriving at Columbus MEPS about a year ago.
“It’s something we’ve really tried to improve,” he said. “I decided to go all in with the staff ride and we really got a lot of support from civilians and leadership top to bottom. We had a lot of buy-in and people wanted to participate.”
In addition to the participation rate, Carr lauded the group’s trip to Motts Military Museum in nearby Groveport, Ohio.
“I’ve been to several military museums and that one is like no other,” Carr said.
The group’s self-guided tour featured exhibit presentations by Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Shawn Porter, Fullmer, Marine Corps Sgt. Colin Messer, National Guard Spc. Justin Cox, Army Sgt. Patrick Edwards, National Guard Cpl. Tessa Kolman, National Guard 1st Lt. Drake Snell and National Guard Sgt. Jasmin Szuch.
“They delivered phenomenal presentations,” Carr said. “The preparedness of the group overall was probably the best I’ve seen on a staff ride.
“I’ve been on a lot of staff rides where the presentations were good, but that was definitely a cut above the rest.”
Messer’s presentations on World War II and the Korean War were selected as the best of the bunch by Fullmer, Reed and Porter.
“His depth of knowledge, confidence and presence were impressive,” Carr said. “He didn’t even read from a paper.”
The 5,100-square-foot museum also includes exhibits about the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, NASA, military medals, prisoners of war and Tuskegee airmen.
“It has every era of war history,” Carr said. “The combat vehicles there are absolutely amazing.”
A fundraiser is underway as part of an effort to house what museum director Warren Motts called the second largest collection of artifacts from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“When we’re finished, we will have the biggest collection of 9/11 artifacts outside of Ground Zero in New York,” Motts said.
According to the museum’s website, mottsmilitarymuseum.org, the 9/11 artifacts include a fire truck that was crushed during the collapse of the WTC towers, a 20-foot piece of the antenna from the WTC’s North Tower and two damaged police vehicles. Motts said WTC marble slabs he acquired could be used for flooring in a new museum building.
The staff ride marked Fullmer’s second visit to the museum.
“For a single person to put that together, it’s amazing how much stuff the museum has,” Fullmer said of Motts. “We were there for two hours and could’ve spent a lot more time there.”
The group’s visit and exhibit presentations left a lasting impression on Motts, who spoke about some of the museum’s artifacts during the tour.
“They were fantastic,” said Motts, a former Army photographer during the Vietnam War. “They were smart as a whip while giving presentations and had great questions for me.
“It was an honor to be able to talk to them. It makes you realize we’re in good hands because if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have the freedoms we do.”
Carr would like to return to the area and the museum someday. In the meantime, his first Columbus staff ride was an experience he won’t soon forget.
“I would say (my Columbus visit) is tied for first with a visit I took to Denver MEPS,” Carr said.
Warren Motts, director of Motts Military Museum in Groveport, Ohio, gestures while speaking to the Columbus MEPS staff ride group last month. In the background is a fire truck that was crushed during the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.