Back to Focus

New I Corps CSM embodies former NCO’s actions

I Corps’ Command Sgt. Maj. Shawn Carns believes that leadership is a relationship based on trust. Photo credit: JM Simpson

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

I Corps' Command Sgt. Maj. Shawn Carns leads by what a Sgt. Gonzales taught him long ago.

"When I first came into the Army, I had a rough time; I was struggling to find my way; I wasn't sure what to do as a private," began the native of Indiana, PA. "One time at NTC (National Training Center) Sgt. Gonzales asked me if I wanted to learn to drive a Bradley. Here was a leader taking an interest in me."

Carns added that Gonzales impressed him not by not only instructing him how to be a better soldier, but that he also took the time to learn more about him.

"I wanted to be like Sgt. Gonzales," explained Carns, "and he is the NCO who made me the soldier that has allowed me to get to where I am right now at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM)."

The first steps to eventually arriving at JBLM began in July of 1992 when he enlisted in the Army. 

"College had been a no-go," related Carns with a smile, "but I always had a passion to serve in the military."

Initially he had thought about enlisting in the Air Force. When he went to visit the recruiters, however, they were out.

"So, I stopped in at the Army office and watched an Airborne Ranger video. After seeing that, I signed up." Since then, he has served in every position in the infantry and while doing so developed his philosophy of leadership. 

Carns assumed his current responsibilities on May 2. At that time, Carns verbalized what Sgt. Gonzales had taught him, "Leadership is a relationship based on trust."

Those seven words form the intent of how Carns leads soldiers. He also stated they are the exact words that led I Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson to select him as the Corps' newest senior enlisted soldier.

"You start by building a team by forming a relationship," explained Carns, "and you start the relationship by getting to know your soldiers - this is all about ‘people first,'"

While Carns acknowledges that noncommissioned officers must uphold standards and discipline within the ranks, this is not at the core of what he believes.

"My philosophy is to build relationships. If you build a good relationship, standards and discipline will follow. As you build that relationship you get to know your soldiers, and you understand their goals and what they want to do."

Carns further believes this leads to commitment, buy-in, trust and inspiration - the essence of serving others.

"Everything we do is a team effort. I tell the sergeants major this all the time; it's not my idea but our idea. I truly believe that," continued Carns.

"It's not just my decision; it's our decision. I don't want to be the person from Corps sending something down to them without talking to them about it. If it doesn't make sense, we're not going to do it."

Carns added that if there is disagreement, he wants to hear it.  

"I tell them all the time to be themselves. Being yourself is both logic and emotion. If you speak from the heart and not just from the mind, that is being yourself," he explained.

It is at this point in the team building process that Carns believes commitment and trust merge to create good decisions.  

Moving forward, Carns' major goal is to know his soldiers, form and maintain teams, and ensure that JBLM units in Hawaii and Alaska are included in this process.

"I want to be the headquarters we need to be for them," he commented.

"I tend to focus on one specific goal - an attainable goal - and then form new goals in collaboration with Gen. Brunson as we move ahead," he said.

In his closing comments, Carns reaffirmed not only his belief in building stronger relationships with soldiers and their families but also with the surrounding communities.

"This is how we earn trust from each other, and I will continue and maintain those relationships."

Read next close


'Top Gun: Maverick'

comments powered by Disqus