David Robinson, Peyton Manning and Lennox Lewis all did it. Now one Soldier knows for himself how it feels to go out on top.
Command Sgt. Maj. Courtney M. Ross, U.S. Army Financial Management Command senior enlisted advisor, retired from the Army after 24 years of military service at the Maj. Gen. Emmett J. Bean Federal Center here May 15.
Ross, a native of North Augusta, South Carolina, served as USAFMCOM’s second command sergeant major after it was realigned as a two-star command, and he helped oversee the command’s realignment as a major subordinate command under the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
“Today, we honor a leader who has done so much for our [financial management and comptroller] branch, our community, our Army, and our nation during his 24 years of service,” said Brig. Gen. Mark S. Bennett, USAFMCOM commanding general, who presided over the ceremony.
Ross’ father served in the Army, retiring after 24 years, his older brother joined the Marine Corps and sister served in the Army. With that military pedigree, to some it may have seemed his future was set, but Ross said his mother stepped in with one request – that he give college a try first.
“Now, in my short time serving with Command Sergeant Major Ross, I’ve learned a lot about him, but perhaps one of the biggest things I’ve learned is how important family is to him,” said Bennett. “I know the respect and love he has for his parents, so it came as no surprise to me he took her advice.”
Ross attended a junior college for a year, where he recalled he found success on and off the court, but he said that didn’t satisfy his desire to be part of something greater than himself. So, having fulfilled his mother’s request, the nineteen year old enlisted as an accounting specialist in 1996.
His service records show he completed basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and he arrived at his first duty station, Fort Stewart, Georgia, as a newly-minted private around Christmas of that year.
For the next two years Ross distinguished himself among his peers and his leadership took notice. Because of his hard work, Ross said he received orders to go to the Joint Field Support Center, Maryland, where he worked accounting, military pay, travel pay, and budget work for classified operations.
During this assignment, Ross was named Soldier of the Year and was promoted to sergeant before getting orders to support the 650th Military Intelligence Group in Shape, Belgium. He spent three years there before heading back to the United States to Fort Hood, Texas, where he spent five years serving with both the 15th Finance Battalion and then with the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters.
While at Fort Hood he deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On his second OIF deployment, a then Sergeant 1st Class Ross got orders for another special assignment working with the Joint Staff in Washington D.C., where he was subsequently promoted to master sergeant.
He served eleven months with the 45th Sustainment Brigade at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, before being made a first sergeant for the 125th Financial Management Company just up the road.
“This was one of my best assignments because I felt it was the first place I was able to give back to my Soldiers in the same way so many of my leaders and mentors had supported me,” said Ross. “And, this was really the first time I truly understood the importance of being a humble leader.”
“Throughout his career, Command Sergeant Major Ross exemplified servant leadership and showed that in order to be the best leader, you must humble yourself, put others first, and be the best follower and disciplined Soldier you can be,” remarked Bennett.
From Hawaii, Ross deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where he was selected for the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, a 10-month course that prepares senior enlisted Soldiers to lead at the highest levels of leadership in the Army.
“As a commanding general, I can tell you that every commander values the advice and counsel of his or her sergeant major as they provide the discipline and direction for our enlisted force and represent them and their needs to leadership,” said Bennett. “Being selected for this highest enlisted grade in the Army means you are truly the best of the best because you have to be to be entrusted with the awesome responsibility of leading our American Soldiers.”
After graduating from the Academy, Ross headed to the 176th FMSU in Yong San, Korea, for a year before heading to Shaw Air Force Base, where he served the U.S. Army Central Command.
In 2016, Ross got orders to go back to Fort Stewart, his first duty assignment.
“That was really amazing to be able to go back to my first duty assignment location, where I was as a private, as a sergeant major,” recalled Ross. “I didn’t think it could get any better than that.”
The Army wasn’t done with him yet. Ross was then sent to serve with the 3rd Infantry Division for two years before getting orders to head to Indianapolis and serve as the senior enlisted advisor for the newly re-designated USAFMCOM.
“This assignment has been the best of my career because of what I’ve been able to do alongside our civilians and Soldiers here for our financial management and comptroller community as well as our entire Army enterprise,” said Ross.
While he left college early to join the military, that didn’t stop him from achieving the academic success his mother encouraged in her 18-year-old son.
Ross is a graduate of Trident University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and a Master of Business Administration degree. His military education includes all of the Noncommissioned Officer Education System courses to include the First Sergeants Course; Sergeants Major Academy; Inspector General Course; Nominative Leader Course; and the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution Course.
“Your ability to influence and lead officers, NCOs and lower enlisted Soldiers is unmatched in my twenty-nine years in the Army,” concluded Bennett. “Your professionalism is above reproach and is apparent in the way you conduct yourself on and off duty, and I know I speak for all the Soldiers of this command and anyone who has had the privilege of serving with you, your mentorship and guidance will be sorely missed.”
USAFMCOM conducts enterprise-level financial operations and provides technical coordination for financial management units and commands across the Army in order to ensure the effective implementation of policies and programs to support optimally resourcing the Army.
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