-- Change-of-responsibility ceremony held at site of brigade’s “heart and soul” -- CSM Dennis Smith becomes the RTB’s 21st command sergeant major -- CSM John Burns to retire after more than 25 years on active duty
FORT BENNING, Ga. — The Ranger Training Brigade has a new top enlisted Soldier.
CSM Dennis Smith became the unit’s 21st command sergeant major Friday during a change-of-responsibility ceremony at Hurley Hill. He replaces CSM John Burns, who plans to retire later this year after more than a quarter-century on active duty.
“This is the heart and soul of the Ranger Training Brigade,” COL Douglas Flohr, the RTB commander, told the crowd, which gathered on the banks of Victory Pond. “It’s the site where thousands of Rangers have pinned on their pads and gone into the water, regardless of the temperature. So it’s sacred ground for us.”
Smith is no stranger to the Ranger community. He’s a former command sergeant major of 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Most recently, he was command sergeant major of 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, 198th Infantry Brigade, on Sand Hill.
In his 24-year Army career, Smith has served in various Airborne, Ranger and light Infantry assignments throughout the U.S. and completed a tour in South Korea with the United Nations Command’s Joint Security Force. He was hand-picked to stand up the provisional 75th Ranger Regimental Special Troop Battalion at Fort Benning.
“His military service is unparalleled,” Flohr said. “He is a skilled Soldier and leader, and our brigade is extremely lucky to get him.”
Since 9/11, Smith has deployed multiple times in the war on terrorism. He belonged to a five-man Pathfinder team during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Smith told RTB and post leaders he appreciates the opportunity to lead Rangers.
“It feels real good to be back in a tan beret, I tell you,” he said. “I’ve had black and tan, and I love them both ... I look forward to working for you, and I look forward to working with you. I’m sure our experiences will be great.”
Burns, meanwhile, had been the RTB’s command sergeant major since 2007.
“I believe when it’s time to go, you just need to go,” he said. “The last two-and-a-half years … have been an honor. I’ve had the privilege of walking in the presence of heroes — the Rangers of World War II, Korea and Vietnam will always make me want to do more for our Soldiers and our country.”
Burns, who enlisted in July 1984, served in numerous Airborne, Ranger and light Infantry assignments. The Carlisle, Pa., native has held every NCO position from team leader to brigade command sergeant major. He has deployed in support of operations Just Cause, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
When he became the RTB commander 19 months ago, Flohr said he knew nothing about Burns.
“What I learned very quickly is that the Army … provided me with a great partner (and) one of the most gifted leaders I’ve ever had the honor to serve with,” he said. “I’ve had the good fortune of working with a leader whose motives are completely selfless, whose recommendations are grounded in common sense, and who’s completely focused on Soldier welfare and training.
“He’s cared for the Soldiers of this brigade. This man knows how to train Rangers … We’re all going to miss him terribly (and) we owe him a great debt of gratitude.”