Faces of the fort: Sergeant finds honor as commanding officer’s driver Print E-mail
Thursday, 10 October 2013
Story and photo by Melissa Buckley
GUIDON staff

When Sgt. Michael Steele joined the U.S. Army and began his profession as an 88M motor transport operator, he had no idea he would one day trade-in driving heavy trucks for smaller, more on-the-go vehicles.

For the first seven years of his career, through two Iraq deployments, Steele drove vehicles like Humvees, Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck Load Handling Systems, Palletized Load Systems and M-915 Series Heavy Trucks.
Sgt. Michael Steele, chauffeur and transportation coordinator to the commanding general, changes the plaque on the front of his vehicle to indicate a major general is onboard. Steele, an 88M motor transport operator, is the driver for Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, and is responsible for all aspects of the commander’s ground travel.

Now, Steele is usually seen driving around Fort Leonard Wood in a SUV — carrying Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith, Manuever Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general.

“I am responsible for the safety and well-being of the CG while getting him to his engagements. I am also responsible for the fleet. I didn’t even know being a chauffeur was in the 88M career path. It has totally caught me off guard, but at the same time I am honored to do this,” Steele said. “I wanted to try something new and get out of my comfort zone.”

Out of his comfort zone — that’s exactly what he got when he started his new job a few months ago. He wasn’t accustomed to spending so much time around so many senior leaders.

“It was very weird. I have to keep myself humble and remember the Army’s customs and courtesies,” Steele said.

As a Soldier he is expected to live by the Army’s values, but now he said he feels like he is being tested on them daily.

“I have to take everything into account. People see me. People know who I am. I am always being looked at. I have to be a professional Soldier at all times,” Steele said.

Another characteristic of his new job is educating others on what to do when they see the CG’s vehicle.

“A lot of people don’t salute. When you see the stars you are suppose to render a salute,” Steele said.

According to Army Regulation 600–25, the practice of saluting officers in official vehicles (recognized individually by rank or identifying vehicle plates and/or flags) is considered an appropriate courtesy and will be observed. Salutes are not required to be rendered by or to personnel who are driving or riding in privately owned vehicles, except by gate guards who will render salutes to recognized officers in all vehicles unless duties are of such a nature as to make the salute impractical. When military personnel are acting as drivers of a moving vehicle, they should not initiate a salute.

“I have to change the plaque in front because it represents the CG while the vehicle is moving. When he gets out of the vehicle I flip it backwards, so the stars aren’t showing. When he gets back in I flip it back, so that the stars are showing,” Steele said.

Steele’s exact title is chauffeur and transportation coordinator to the commanding general.

“When he goes to other duty stations, I have to make sure he has transportation on the ground,” Steele said. “The most challenging thing would have to be the coordination. When he goes (on temporary duty), I have to work with other people I don’t know. I have had to work on my social skills.”  

He also said he’s gotten very good at multi-tasking and being prepared.  

“We are constantly on the go. I have to plan ahead. I don’t want to look like I don’t know where I’m going. In my off time I go out and recon to see where we are going,” he said.

Steele said being the CG’s chauffeur has made him a better, more well-rounded Soldier.

“The best thing is the interaction with others. I like seeing how the CG affects others. He loves to interact with Soldiers,” Steele said. “I was driving one day and he saw a group of Soldiers and made me stop. He got out, talked to them and took time with them. At first, they were a little uneasy, but I could see that the Soldiers appreciated it. He makes me want to approach others. That’s a really good quality I have learned from him.”

Steele plans to carry on the lessons he has learned as the CG’s chauffeur to his next job.

“When I get back on-line and I get Soldiers again, I am going to take good care of them,” Steele said.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 23 October 2013 )