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NEWS | May 18, 2023



In the vast Indo-Pacific, where soldiers operate in small groups and alongside allies and partners, trust is critical to success, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston said.

“I would say it’s the secret sauce in our Army, this thing called trust,” Grinston said May 16 during a fireside chat focused on the role of NCOs in the Indo-Pacific on the first day of the Association of the U.S. Army’s 2023 LANPAC Symposium and Exposition in Honolulu.

Building trust takes time, Grinston said, and becomes harder to do when working with allies and partners. “How do you keep that open communication?” he said, offering as an example that he has monthly calls with a group of his counterparts in the Indo-Pacific. “What we found is we all have the same problems,” Grinston said. “You find ways to connect. … It takes time, and how do you find ways to connect routinely, and not once a year at Yama Sakura, not once a year at LANPAC.”

Trust is just as essential within the U.S. Army, including trust from officers in their NCOs, Grinston said. “We have great authority because our offices trust us,” he said. “Never lose that trust. It is fleeting and can go in a second. … You’ve got to earn that every day. You can’t screw that up.”

Looking at the Indo-Pacific today, Grinston, who served as the senior enlisted leader for I Corps from 2016–2017, said the theater has “changed dramatically.”

When he served in I Corps, the Army was still rotating two corps headquarters in and out of Iraq, he said. The Army also was just starting to build its Operation Pathways exercise program with allies and partners. “Even though we said, ‘Hey, this is the No. 1 challenge, … as an Army we kept being pulled away to these other things,” Grinston said.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was a wakeup call, Grinston said, as leaders began to grapple with whether a similar invasion could happen in the Indo-Pacific as China eyes Taiwan. “Believe it or not, that European theater shaped more emphasis over here [in the Indo-Pacific],” he said. “Do we have the ammunition if this happened here? Do the Taiwanese have the will that we’ve seen in the Ukrainian army?”

Now, the Indo-Pacific and its challenges “really has all our attention,” Grinston said. The Army is putting resources in the region, he said, citing as an example the reactivation of the 11th Airborne Division in Alaska. “It’s not just us saying it’s the priority theater,” Grinston said. “We’re putting a lot of resources there.”