Cantrell, Jones step into new roles as senior enlisted advisor, state command sergeant major

By Capt. Holli Nelson, West Virginia National Guard | West Virginia National Guard | Feb. 5, 2019


Two ceremonies on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, formalized senior enlisted leadership changes for the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) and West Virginia Army National Guard (WVARNG).


During a ceremony at WVNG Joint Force Headquarters in Charleston, Command Sgt. Maj. Phillip Cantrell relinquished responsibility as WVARNG state command sergeant major to Command Sgt. Maj. James “Dusty” Jones, who will now serve as an advisor on all matters pertaining to the more than 4,000 Soldiers in the WVARNG.


Immediately following, Cantrell assumed the responsibilities of his new role as WVNG senior enlisted leader from Command Sgt. Maj. James Allen, who is retiring after more than 33 years in the WVNG.


Brig. Gen. Russell Crane, commander of the WVARNG, presided over the ceremony for the transfer of responsibility from Cantrell to Jones.


Crane lauded the work of Cantrell in his role as state command sergeant major, stating, “It’s a difficult task to become a command sergeant major. It’s even more difficult to become state command sergeant major. Command Sgt. Maj. Cantrell set the standard for what the state command sergeant major does.”


“He’s not only technically and tactically proficient, he’s well versed in the strategic environment,” Crane said. “He won’t hesitate to help a Soldier with basic rifle marksmanship, or to instruct a Soldier in the deployment of a claymore mine. He can also advise senior officers on strategic engagement with our government and our partner nations. I know this because I’ve witnessed him do it to perfection.”


“Command Sgt. Maj. Cantrell owned this assignment” Crane continued. “Command sergeants major are proven leaders on the tactical, operational and strategic levels. Command Sgt. Maj. Cantrell, you have done that and more for this organization and myself. You’ve also been my battle buddy and mentor. Thank you.”


Crane also thanked the Cantrell family for their support of the organization and asked the same of the Jones family, who will be stepping into their new role. He also recognized the qualifications of Jones and his leadership capabilities as he assumes responsibly for the enlisted force of the WVARNG.


During the ceremony, Cantrell was awarded the Legion of Merit for his exceptionally meritorious service during his assignment.


Cantrell thanked his family and friends for their love and support throughout his career and the Army staff who assisted him in being successful and the Soldiers under his command.


“I want to say thanks to every Soldier who works every day to make the West Virginia National Guard the greatest unit it could possibly be,” Cantrell said. “To continue to do the things we need to do to support the domestic operations and to be sure we have a force ready to fight this nation’s battles if called upon - I truly, truly appreciate every Soldier for what you do.”

He also thanked Crane for his leadership, mentorship and for allowing him to be an equal partner on the leadership team and epitomizing the qualities of leadership outlined in the Noncommissioned Officer creed.


Jones discussed his outlook for the position and thanked those in command for allowing him the opportunity to serve.


“Thank you for the opportunity to serve in this position. I look forward to it and I think we’re going to be able to do some great things together and take this organization even further,” Jones said.


He also thanked Allen and Cantrell, and his brother, an E-9 in the West Virginia Air National Guard, for their leadership, mentoring and work to make the WVNG better. His finished by thanking his family for their support of him over the years and as he steps into this new role.


Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, The Adjutant General of the WVNG, presided over the second ceremony as he bid farewell to Allen and welcomed Cantrell into the position.


Hoyer discussed the importance of the peaceful transfer of leadership and of senior enlisted leaders being the keepers of the colors who live out the values of the organizations each and every day.


“Today, the keeper of the colors are the holders of the culture and values of an organization,” Hoyer said. “So whether it’s Jim, or Phillip or Dusty, or any of the senior enlisted leaders in this organization, their responsibility to the leadership is to help us make sure that we hold the culture and values - and in our case this means the Army and Air Force values,” Hoyer said.


Allen officially transferred responsibility by ceremoniously passing the colors to Hoyer who then passed them to Cantrell during the ceremony. Allen was then award the West Virginia Distinguished Service Medal for his outstanding contributions to the state and nation during his tenure as senior enlisted leader.


“Thank you for everything you’ve done for me and my family,” Allen said to Hoyer.


“This organization is just awesome,” he said. “January 24th was 33 years for me with the West Virginia National Guard and I never regretted a minute of it. In the end, it’s all worth it, whether it was deploying or going to annual training. It was definitely a positive experience on my life and my family.”


Cantrell then outlined his vision for his new role and what he hopes to achieve in his work with Hoyer.


“(Maj. Gen.) Hoyer, thanks for selecting me for the position,” Cantrell said. “I truly am honored. Your vision to make the West Virginia National Guard and the State of West Virginia the center of the universe is very clear. I’m going to do everything I can in my power to make that clear to everyone who has anything to do with it. We will succeed sir, under your vision.”


He ended by thanking the leadership of the WVNG for their focus on empowering the non-commissioned officer corps and the work of Allen during his time as the senior enlisted leader.