The Army has created its most senior post ever for a soldier.
The new role of Army Sergeant Major has been created to ensure the Army's most senior staff understand what life is like for soldiers serving in the British Army. This vital link between those making decisions and those carrying out the day to day tasks falls to Sergeant Major Glenn Haughton.
He was hand-picked for the new role by the Chief of the General Staff but the new Army Sergeant Major – whose appointment was announced in January 2015 - plays down the achievement and puts it down to good fortune as well as ambition.
For a boy who left school at sixteen before he had even seen his GCSE results, Sergeant Major Haughton has come a long way. He is the first to admit he was never academic but does concede with a smile that from the day he joined the Grenadier Guards in 1988, he had his eye on the Regimental Sergeant Major’s badge – he got his hands on it in 2011 with the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.
Sergeant Major Haughton was selected for Late Entry Commission in 2012 and went on to put officer cadets at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst through their paces as the Academy Sergeant Major. In doing so, he joined a select group of 30 Command Sergeant Majors in the British Army, selected from among the strongest applicants on the Late Entry Commissioning Boards. He now heads up that group as the Army Sergeant Major, providing guidance and direction from the very top of the Army, and feeding back the soldiers’ voice to Higher Command.
As the Army Sergeant Major, he has input across Army matters and sits on a number of boards and committees. Mr Haughton is a member of the Lower Honours Committee, the Army Medals Board, the Army Dress Committee and is a trustee of the Army Central Fund. He is the only serving soldier who is also an Army Benevolent Fund trustee and, crucially, the only soldier ever to be an executive member of the Executive Committee Army Board (ECAB). This means he has a say at the most senior level on the key policy decisions that will affect the Army and its serving members. He sees himself as the soldiers’ representative to CGS and his contribution at ECAB as crucial.
“The Generals are listening to the soldiers. CGS has said my role there is to keep ECAB honest and relevant,” explained Mr Haughton.
Mr Haughton may have reached the pinnacle of his career as a Sergeant Major and have the ear of the Chief of the General Staff, but he has not forgotten his roots as one of the Army’s disciplinarians. He has kept the unmistakable serious demeanour and stature of an RSM – his added status and connection to the head of the army just give him an even more effective platform from which to stamp out unacceptable behaviour.
He sees sport as a key component of any soldier’s career and wellbeing and sets the standard as vice president of Army Football. He is also a passionate champion of the Army Leadership Code, an advocate of the Army Servicewomen’s Network and LGBT forum, and promotes the idea of maximising talent in the Army.
“All of you can aspire”
Despite his own faltering academic start in life, the Sergeant Major is keen to encourage soldiers to take advantage of the education available during their service. Although he kept his eventual GCSE results close to his chest, he has since redeemed himself and set the example to the younger generation. During his career, he has gained an Extended Diploma in Strategic Management and is now studying for an MA in Business Administration. The new Sergeant Major sees these qualifications as a means to match his peers in the civilian world, he said: “The world and our enemies are always developing and we need to keep up. I always say of course we should remain tough, but smart in a complex environment.”
Despite dedicating so much time and effort to his career and the soldiers he serves to lead, Sergeant Major Haughton has had time to fit in family time with his wife and two children. With characteristic humility and a matter-of-fact tone, he credits them and colleagues around him with his success, saying he could not have done it without their support.
At the end of his 3-year tenure, he will be moving on to the year-long Intermediate Command and Staff Course at Shrivenham, for which he will take up his substantive promotion to Major.
If he has one message to the soldiers of the British Army, it is that he is no exception: “All of you can aspire to be Command Sergeant Majors, and all Command Sergeant Majors have the chance to compete for the prestigious appointment that is the Army Sergeant Major.”