“No trooper, no special forces operative wants to sit behind a desk,” British soldier turned TV personality Ant Middleton once mused. But a brave, inspired few will stand on one.
Staff Sgt. Justin Smith commemorated his indefinite reenlistment with the Army earlier this month by reciting the oath atop the glass-paneled desk of his division sergeant major at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“I wanted to do something special and fun,” Smith told Army Times. “I figured reenlisting on the senior DIV NCOs desk would be really memorable. You can’t do much to top that.”
Soldiers have long used reenlistment ceremonies to buck the branch’s formalities — within reason. In the military, these moments present rare opportunities to bend boundaries and loosen up in a job that often demands unflinching discipline.
Senior officials aren’t always fond of lighthearted twists on the ritual. A master sergeant in the Air National Guard caught flak from the service’s top officer in 2018 when she reenlisted wearing a dinosaur puppet on her right hand.
Fortunately for Smith, no such drama followed his reenlistment.
He insists his command sergeant major was “very receptive and good-natured” about his choice of venue, and the unconventional use of office decor. Even so, a well-timed photo of the event seems to show the command sergeant major eyeing a bayonet hanging from the wall as Smith repeated his oath — a moment that some observers on the popular Army subreddit quickly zeroed in on.
“I thought the comments were hilarious, especially the ones trying to narrate what was going on in CSM Light’s head and how they noticed he seemed to be staring at his bayonet with malicious intent,” Smith said.
“I definitely believe he found it just as humorous as the rest of us there,” he added. “And no, I didn’t have to clean his desk afterward.”
Smith boasts a storied legacy of service. His relatives partook in major American conflicts dating back to the Civil War. Smith himself served two tours in Afghanistan after first enlisting in the Army Reserve in 2008 before transferring to active duty in 2012.
The 40-year-old Ohio native moved to the 1st Armored Division in 2021. He now works for the public affairs team at division headquarters out of Fort Bliss.
“I wasn’t expecting this much attention from what I did,” Smith reflected. “But at the very least, I hope it shows that the Army is what you make of it.”
Army Times Editor James Clark contributed reporting to this story.
Jaime Moore-Carrillo is an editorial fellow for Military Times and Defense News. A Boston native, Jaime graduated with degrees in international affairs, history, and Arabic from Georgetown University, where he served as a senior editor for the school's student-run paper, The Hoya.