In 1995, Robert Craven was a teenage high school dropout with a baby on the way. Looking for options to improve his life, he turned to the Army and embraced its “be all you can be” motto as his own. Trained as an artillery surveyor, Craven climbed the ranks, becoming a sergeant major in just sixteen years. Now, with more than a decade as a sergeant major, he is the United States Corps of Cadets command sergeant major, where he impacts every cadet, enlisted soldier, and officer that comes to the United States Military Academy. In this episode of The Spear, Craven talks about the formative influences his noncommissioned officers had on him as a young private and still do today.

As the senior platoon sergeant in a HIMARS battery deployed to Afghanistan, Craven found himself having to replace the rotating first sergeant while simultaneously addressing a command climate in another platoon that risked mission success. Craven chose to lead with love, serving as an honest broker for the battery commander, the troops, and the young officers in the battery.

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Image credit: Eric Bartelt, USMA Public Affairs Office