Bomb disposal expert is new top enlisted leader for US Army Garrison Japan

Command Sgt. Maj. David Rio accepts his new job as senior enlisted leader for U.S. Army Garrison Japan from Col. Christopher Tomlinson, the garrison commander, at Camp Zama, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Photos by Juan King/Stars and Stripes
Command Sgt. Maj. David Rio accepts his new job as senior enlisted leader for U.S. Army Garrison Japan from Col. Christopher Tomlinson, the garrison commander, at Camp Zama, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Photos by Juan King/Stars and Stripes

Bomb disposal expert is new top enlisted leader for US Army Garrison Japan

by Seth Robson
Stars and Stripes

CAMP ZAMA, Japan – An expert in explosive ordnance disposal assumed responsibility Friday as the top enlisted soldier for the garrison that oversees 17 U.S. Army facilities in Japan.

Command Sgt. Maj. David Rio, 44, of Oolitic, Ind., stepped into his new job as senior enlisted leader for U.S. Army Garrison Japan in front of fellow soldiers, civilians and Japanese officials during a ceremony at the home of U.S. Army Japan in Kanagawa prefecture.

The command sergeant major acts as the principal adviser to the commander to carry out policies on performance, training, appearance and conduct of the organization, according to the Army.

A graduate in chemistry from Indiana University, Rio enlisted in May 2001, months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks that led to more than two decades of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rio trained as an ammunition specialist at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., and the Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., according to his biography.

He deployed to Afghanistan three times between 2002 and 2012, Rio told Stars and Stripes after he assumed his new responsibility.

“I did get in the bomb suit a few times but generally that is the last course of action,” he said. “We like to use remote means.”

Rio said he helped dispose of explosive devices all over Afghanistan on his first two deployments and was based at Paktika province on his last mission.

“In Afghanistan, the chance to go and do our job, which was helping people and reducing explosive hazards, was very rewarding,” he said.

Work as a top enlisted soldier in a garrison is a different type of pressure, Rio said.

“The thing that translates is being able to solve problems and help people,” he said.

The outgoing senior enlisted leader at the Japan garrison, Command Sgt. Maj. Justin Turner, said the coronavirus pandemic was a challenge during his two years in Japan.

“We weren’t going to stop providing day care … stop installation repairs or close the gates,” he said at Friday’s ceremony. “Our workforce came up with innovative solutions.”

robson.seth@stripes.com Twitter: @SethRobson1


Col. Christopher Tomlinson, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, stands between his incoming and outgoing command sergeant majors during a change-of-responsibility ceremony at Camp Zama, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022.


Outgoing Command Sgt. Maj. Justin Turner hands the guidon to Col. Christopher Tomlinson, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, at Camp Zama, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022.

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