Preston was sworn in as the 13th Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) on Jan. 15, 2004. He is the longest serving SMA, and retired from the Army on March 1, 2011. Throughout his 35-year career, Preston has held a variety of leadership positions, ranging from cavalry scout to command sergeant major. His most recent assignment was as command sergeant major for Combined Joint Task Force 7, serving in Baghdad, Iraq.
As SMA, Preston served as the Army Chief of Staff’s personal advisor on all enlisted-related matters, in areas affecting soldier training and quality of life. He devoted the majority of his time to traveling throughout the Army, observing training and talking to soldiers and their families. He now sits on a wide variety of councils and boards that make decisions affecting enlisted soldiers and their families, and is routinely invited to testify before Congress.
Preston’s military education includes the Basic Noncommissioned Officer’s Course, Advanced Noncommissioned Officer’s Course, First Sergeant’s Course, M1/M1A1 Tank Master Gunner Course, Master Fitness Trainer Course, Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer’s Course and the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.
His awards and decorations include two Legions of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, four Army Meritorious Service Medals, one Joint Service Commendation Medal, four Army Commendation Medals, three Army Achievement Medals, nine Good Conduct Medals, two National Defense Ribbons, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, the Kosovo Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, four NCOES Ribbons, the Army Service Ribbon, five Overseas Ribbons, the NATO Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal (Government of Kuwait), two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards, an Army Meritorious Unit Commendation and the Department of the Army Staff Badge.