FRANKFORT, Ky. –
The National Guard Senior Enlisted Advisor visited Kentucky to meet Soldiers and answer questions in Lexington, Frankfort, and Louisville, Ky. on Dec. 4, 2022.
Senior Enlisted Advisor (SEA) Tony Whitehead visited Soldiers with the 138th Field Artillery Brigade (FAB); 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade (TAB); Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment (HHD), 75th Troop Command (TC); the 223rd Military Police Company; and the 202nd Army Band before the holiday season to take questions about the senior enlisted advisor to the Chief, National Guard Bureau position.
Whitehead’s priority with each unit was the same; he wanted to spend time meeting enlisted members and to encourage noncommissioned officers to strengthen their working relationships with the officer corps.
Whitehead spent time with Soldiers, asking them questions about not just their military career, but their civilian jobs and how their military and civilian careers have complimented each other.
While at each location, Whitehead also recognized troops who stood out among the units.
Sgt. 1st Class James Troxell with the 138th FAB was recognized for being the brigade’s senior noncommissioned officer of the year. Troxell was also awarded the Outstanding Geoscience Graduate Student Award by Western Kentucky University and his work developing emergency response plans for natural disasters in his civilian career.
Pilots, crew chiefs, and medics of the 63rd TAB, to include Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Lowe and Staff Sgt. Ryan Hunter, were also recognized by Whitehead for their service to their community as first-responders of the flooding in eastern Kentucky in July.
Overall, the SEA learned about Kentucky National Guard Soldiers and what their values are.
"Kentucky Soldiers are a lot of fun!" said Whitehead. "They have a lot of energy, they have a lot of pride, they have a lot of patriotism. They have a lot of appreciation for community. And that is an important part of being a Guardsmen. I've seen Kentucky Guardsmen take that to heart in everything they do."
Whitehead is the first service member to hold the rank of senior enlisted advisor and he is the only person to hold that rank.
He is addressed as SEA or S.E.A. but not Chief Master Sergeant, Chief or any other branch equivalent.
As the Senior Enlisted Advisor, he has equal precedence to the Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau when he is with CNGB and equal precedence to a 3-star general when he travels alone.
While meeting with several of Kentucky’s National Guardsmen, he talked about his position and the unique parts of the job.
The SEA serves as the Chief’s principal military advisor on all enlisted matters affecting training, utilization, health of the force, and enlisted professional development. As the highest enlisted level of leadership, he provides direction for the enlisted force and represents their interests.
“In the last few months, the service senior enlisted advisors across the entire Department of Defense had an opportunity to speak to Secretary [Loyd J.] Austin,” said Whitehead. “He has tasked us to make sure that we are very open and honest with him about how we get after the care and the feeding of service members and their families.”
“When there are challenges in the budget, people programs seem to get cut first. He [Austin] is intentional about making sure that doesn’t happen and he wants us to keep him honest about it.”
Whitehead’s priority is to make sure that Guard members are included in upcoming changes to benefits, such as childcare providers on drill weekends. Currently, only six states, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia, and Washington, are part of the first-year pilot program.
As the Senior Enlisted Advisor, Whitehead’s responsibility is to be the voice for the Airmen and Soldiers of the National Guard who do not live close to large installations.