INFANTRY FIRST SERGEANT RILEY SEAU INFLUENCES ENGINEER COMPANY
FORWARD OPERATING BASE MASUM GHAR, Afghanistan – When the soldiers of 38th Engineer Company learned that they would be getting a new first sergeant during their deployment to Afghanistan, they did not know what kind of leader he would be.
Even more daunting was the fact that this first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Riley Seau, was not even an engineer; he was an infantryman.
“It was new when we found out he was infantry,” said Pfc. Daniel Eanes, a bridge crew member with the engineer company’s Mobility Support Platoon. “Was he going to know our job, or expect us to know an infantry job?”
Luckily for Eanes and the other soldiers of the engineer company, Seau has had many broadening assignments over his 19 years in the military that would prove to benefit the company.
Seau grew up in the infantry world, but his most recent assignments were as the chief instructor at Warrior Leader Course, which teaches the basic skills of leadership for noncommissioned officers, followed by his position as the first sergeant of the Honor Guard. Both assignments were during his tour in Korea from 2009 to 2011.
He said everything he learned in the Army as an infantryman plays a big part in how he conducts himself as a first sergeant.
“All the tactics (and) stuff that I learned from my previous leaders about leadership has made me successful,” Seau explained. “Coaching, teaching, (and) mentoring young soldiers to be better leaders, better than myself, that’s my main goal.”
Being able to go from infantryman to instructor to an engineer first sergeant shows a level of flexibility that Seau said is important for an NCO.
“Your environment always changes and also in the battlefield, you never know,” said Seau, an American Samoa, native. “When a key leader goes down in combat, that next Soldier’s going to have to step up and take over that position.”
Even with all of the infantry knowledge Seau had, he would still have to know what exactly was expected of his new engineer soldiers.
“You have to be technically and tactically proficient in whatever job that you are,” said Seau. “Coming into this (military occupational specialty), I was … out of my environment.”
Seau said he did not know much about the engineer mission and coming into the company was on-the-job training for him. He credits the NCOs in his company for educating him about the capabilities and mission of the engineers.
“Each and every day that I go on patrols with them, I ask questions,” said Seau. “As long as you have strong NCOs within your company, I think that leader … will do fine.”
Seeing how the engineers work and how they contribute to Combined Task Force 4-2 (4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division)’s mission has given Seau a new perspective, he said.
“I have a lot of respect for the engineer soldiers for what they do,” said Seau. “Each and every day they’re out there constantly finding (improvised explosive devices).”
There is a mutual respect for Seau because he serves as an example to other soldiers serving outside their assigned duties.
Eanes is a bridge crewmember who mainly serves as a horizontal construction engineer, which typically uses heavy equipment such as bulldozers to do constructions projects.
“I normally do another MOS myself, and that shows me, just like first sergeant is an infantryman in (an engineer) unit, that if you’re well diverse in your MOS, then whatever’s thrown at you, you can always give advice,” said Eanes, a Halifax, Va., native.
“No matter what your MOS is, you should know how to do everything or at least have an understanding somewhat …what it is that you’re talking about,” Eanes continued.
Now that Seau has had the knowledge needed to run an engineer company, it will help him as his infantry career progresses, he said.
“I can advise my senior leaders how to utilize these assets because I never knew how the engineer company ran until I was in this position,” Seau said.
Seau said his advice to leaders serving in positions outside their job description is to make sure they take care of their soldiers.
‘If you take care of the soldiers, the soldiers will take care of you’ is a motto that Seau said he has found to be true.
“First sergeant is a first sergeant,” Seau said. “You take care of the troops (and the) health and welfare of the soldiers. So as long as you do that, you’re going to be successful.”