Year of the NCO: Wounded warrior embodies meaning of leadership
October 21, 2009
BAUMHOLDER, Germany - The Noncommissioned Officer Corps is often considered the backbone of the Army but defining what it means to be a part of that brotherhood is not as easy as it sounds. One of several definitions of what an NCO is could be summarized by saying he or she is a dedicated leader of Soldiers. Sgt. 1st Class Chris Edwards, assigned to the U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder, explains that attaining NCO status does not automatically make you a leader.
He is a wounded warrior whose injuries prevent him from accomplishing the basics such as PT, weapons training or physically showing other Soldiers how to perform a task. Despite his disabilities he has elected to remain in the Army and continue to serve.
Edwards explains that there is usually a transition period after becoming an NCO to becoming an effective leader.
"I think that the easiest way to transfer from being an NCO to a leader is for one, you have to be humble. In the grand scheme of life you're not better than anybody else.
"Yes you're a higher rank, you've probably been in longer than your troops, but to really be a leader you have to take the needs of your Soldiers before the needs of yourself. Once your troops figure out that you're there for them and not the other way around, that's when you become a leader. That's when they give you the respect. You earn the respect, you haven't demanded it. They give it to you freely and it's a much better environment," he said.
"You don't have to yell and scream to get respect. That's a huge misnomer, and it irritates me to no end to see a young NCO yelling and screaming at his guys. You could get twice as far with just a calm word and explaining to them what they're doing wrong instead of yelling at them.
"You mature as a person and that's when you make that step - that transition from just being an NCO, to a leader, because then you're leading your troops. You're not telling them what to do," said Edwards.
Being an NCO is synonymous with words such as leadership, dedication to duty and respect for yourself and others. An NCO must walk a fine line between effectively leading Soldiers and maintaining the respect of his superiors and the Soldiers he or she leads.
For Edwards, being an NCO has taken on a totally different perspective when it comes to leading Soldiers. The meaning of being an NCO, though, remains as intact as when he was able to lead his Soldiers into battle.
"Being a wounded warrior, I chose to stay on active duty. I didn't need to, but it's just that I love being an NCO. I don't think there's any greater honor than leading troops into battle," said Edwards.
Things are much different for Edwards now.
"I'm just being around the guys. I'm helping out the younger troops with whatever it might be - helping to spread a little bit of knowledge, a little bit of wisdom," Edwards said.
"Being an NCO is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Once you leave you're done. I mean, you can always retire and sit around reliving the glory days, but I wasn't ready for that so I chose to stay in and still live them," he said.
Edwards currently serves in the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder.