USAREUR's senior NCO shares thoughts on discipline, leadership, accountability
September 19, 2013
WIESBADEN, Germany - "You have a responsibility to be disciplined in your conduct and your behavior and to hold your Soldiers accountable."
That's one of the messages U.S. Army Europe Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport shared with Wiesbaden noncommissioned officers during a visit to the community Sept. 12.
After taking a look at various aspects of military operations in Wiesbaden, USAREUR's senior NCO discussed leadership, mentoring and fielded a range of questions from first sergeants and fellow NCO leaders during a luncheon at the Strong Teams Cafe.
"My general message is that I want all of our USAREUR Soldiers to be fit, disciplined and well-trained," Davenport said. "NCOs need to understand their responsibilities and develop a plan to support that."
Saying that it's not enough to simply go through the motions of training, physical fitness and education, NCO leaders must become personally engaged in formulating training plans and disciplining those Soldiers who fail to achieve the standards to hold them accountable.
"You all have a critical role in fitness," he said. "NCOs need to be the example of those characteristics and must have a plan to improve their Soldiers' weak areas. If Soldiers aren't fit -- they fail their Army physical fitness test or don't meet height/weight standards -- you aren't doing them any favors by not disciplining them with a flag and remedial PT. I'm not talking about abusing or hazing them with remedial PT -- I'm talking about tough love that holds them accountable and helps them to improve."
The same applies to ensuring that Soldiers maintain their health and are ready to deploy when called. "Being medically ready is more than just being green in MedProS (Medical Protection System). It's getting everything looked at that Soldiers have been putting off such as dental work, surgeries (knee, shoulder, etc.). Engaged leaders should know about these concerns and need to make sure their Soldiers take care of those issues."
NCOs must serve as role models, Davenport said, and truly understand what the NCO Creed means. That means leading by example and not showing up on the blotter as some have done in USAREUR communities. "After all, the first line of the NCO Creed begins 'no one is more professional than I.' Professional NCOs don't drink and drive or commit assaults to end up on the blotter. We must be the examples of standards and discipline."
"The noncommissioned officers should have a passion to lead. A part of that passion is taking care of families that are a critical part of our teams," he said. "If our Soldiers' families have problems, it's our job to help fix them. That takes investment and commitment to our Soldiers and their families."
Everyone needs a mentor, Davenport said, "to help you become a better leader." Mentors need not be in one's unit, he added, but it's critical that NCOs reach out to those leaders who can guide their development and provide advice.
As leaders, NCOs must also talk with their Soldiers, rather than talking at them, Davenport said. "We've got to have a dialogue -- speak face-to-face and see eye-to-eye to make sure there's a clear understanding. We have become dependent on too much email and texting to communicate with our Soldiers."
Leader development is another critical area where NCOs must be actively engaged, he said. "NCOs must prepare their Soldiers to be ready to attend NCOES (NCO Education System), schedule and participate in NCOPDs (NCO Professional Development Study) to better understand the profession and seek self-improvement through college classes and other studies."
During a question-and-answer session Davenport responded to comments ranging from how to become knowledgeable about health issues to how to cope with multiple taskings from higher headquarters. He also addressed a question about the soon-to-be-released updated Army Regulation 670-1 (Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia). Davenport said he expected the updated regulation, which addresses everything from hair color to tattoos, to be released sometime this fall.
Regarding opportunities for promotion to senior NCO ranks, USAREUR's NCO leader said, "Promotions will get tougher with fewer positions. On average it's going to take a little longer time in grade."
NCOs must be competitive once they get in the window of eligibility, Davenport said, explaining that having a well-written NCOER (NCO evaluation report) that is specific, taking care of Soldiers and their families, being physically fit, having a good Department of the Army photo and seeking the tough jobs that separate one from one's peers are all vital components for those wanting to be promoted.
"I want to leave you with this one thought on standards and discipline -- and that's the on-the-spot correction," Davenport said. "If everyone did at least one a day, think how much better the Army would be."
While some NCOs may prefer not getting involved, it's critical that they consistently reach out when corrective action is required. "We as professional Soldiers need to know how to discipline and correct our Soldiers and how to provide corrective training when a standard is not met.
"We've gone folklore," he said. "We need to get back to the books, and we've got to know the standard so that we can enforce the standard. That includes backing up fellow Soldiers when they report seeing something wrong and being able to accept guidance from a junior Soldier when correction is indeed called for even if you are an officer or NCO.
"You have to understand what it means to be an NCO and the absolute critical role that you play in setting and enforcing standards and discipline in your units," Davenport concluded.