It’s early morning. As the sun slowly rises over the horizon, a cacophony of sounds ring in the distance. As the echoes meander closer, distant figures make their way over a hill. Now more pronounced, melody blends into a crescendo. It’s a platoon of Army Soldiers running, lined up like precision, bellowing out in unison, a military cadence. The cadence is so strong, you can feel it building camaraderie and boosting morale, transforming these Soldiers into a cohesive unit. Just another morning in the life of Fort Jackson.
Located in Columbia, South Carolina, Fort Jackson provides the Army with trained, disciplined, motivated and physically fit warriors who espouse the Army’s core values and are focused on teamwork. Leading this mission is Brig. Gen. Jason E. Kelly, the 53rd commanding general of the Army Training Center and Fort Jackson.
Accomplishing this mission means training more than 45,000 basic training and 12,000 additional advanced training Soldiers every year.
“The responsibility of Fort Jackson is to use its will and resources to protect the nation by generating tomorrow’s fighting force,” said Kelly.
Kelly says this is accomplished by creating and maintaining an environment where people are enabled, empowered, and protected to work to their natural best with a true sense of belonging.
“There is no place I’d rather be than right here. I am honored to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Team Jackson and train the future generation of our Army,” Kelly said.
Positive, engaged, and hyper-aware, the general has a vision for his tenure. He wants to boost Fort Jackson’s current trajectory as the flagship training center and a destination of choice and create a climate and culture of putting people first, recognizing that it is our people who accomplish the mission supported by their families.
“I want to engage, reach out, and be an ambassador for our installation and our Army. Perhaps most importantly, I want to be a good ancestor. I want to make intelligent, forward-looking decisions that will positively affect generations of Soldiers and families,” Kelly added.
Prior to Fort Jackson, Kelly was the South Atlantic Division commander, so he understands the importance of partnerships from both sides.
“I learned a lot watching the Savannah District rehab Pope Army Airfield a couple years ago at Fort Bragg. I witnessed the power of collaboration, transparency, and persistent engagement,” he said.
Now he can experience the partnership as a customer.
“We enjoy great collaboration with the Charleston District. We trust the District and the District is actively engaged here at Fort Jackson,” said Kelly.
According to Kelly, USACE must have good partners.
“We are dependent on strong relationships and good partnerships. We are dependent on you,” he said.
Kelly enjoys being a partner and said, “I’m doing my very best as a senior commander to make sure Fort Jackson is a good partner,” he said.
“Every day is an opportunity for me to be and do better than I did yesterday,” he said.
One of Kelly’s favorite books is “Think Again” by Adam Grant. He explains that the author suggests that we should be deliberate about our efforts to reconsider, rethink, reevaluate and reimagine our beliefs, thoughts, and identities.
As for effective leadership, Kelly believes every day is a turning point.
“I subscribe to this. What I am today is provisional. Everything is on the table. I reserve the right to learn and grow,” he said.
According to Kelly, what makes the mission of Fort Jackson so special is it generates readiness for the nation.
“I never lose sight of what we do here at Fort Jackson. We create disciplined, trained, physically fit, resilient, and morally grounded Soldiers for the nation. The leaders and Soldiers that we provide are our legacy,” he said.
And on most mornings, you can witness the early stages of this legacy forming, platoon after platoon, Soldier after Soldier, in the form of a song.