U.S. Army South's "Year of the NCO" Essay
October 28, 2009
Whether in New Orleans or Baghdad, at home or abroad, the real workhorses of our post-9/11 military have not come from among the generals and colonels, or even the captains and lieutenants, but from the enlisted ranks of corporals and sergeant majors. Never before in military history have non-commissioned officers dealt at the lowest tactical level, where operational success or failure is determined been so critical to the success of the Army.
The NCO's corps can traced its history back further than that of the U.S. Army itself. Today's NCO can be likened to the select few Soldiers in the Roman Legions during the Roman Empire. A Roman centurion was responsible for between 60 and 120 men, making him comparable to a First Sergeant in today's Army. Also within the Roman Legion the Roman Decurion held a small-team leadership position similar to that of a Platoon Sergeant today. It was not until 1775 that the American NCO, like the American Army itself, started to blend the traditions of the French, British, and Prussian armies into a unique institution. With the birth of this new institution the American version of the NCO began to take shape, breaking from the traditions of its European counterpart. Although influenced by Europe, the American Army NCO corps was entrusted with great responsibility, coming to embody American culture. As General von Steuben, General Washington's choice for drill master, wrote: "The choice of noncommissioned officers is an object of greatest importance. The order and discipline of a regiment depends so much on their behavior..."
On that note during the 1777-'78 winter at Valley Forge, General von Steuben, laid the groundwork for the NCO corps as it exists today, and created the genius of the American military: the radical decentralization of command so that the general directive of every commissioned officer is broken down into practical steps by sergeants and corporals at the furthest edge of the battleground. Commissioned officers give orders; NCOs get things done.
Today's NCOs is where responsibility, accountability, and leadership at its ultimate are exemplified. The professionalism of today's NCO corps based on General von Steuben groundwork, has resulted in a force that adjusts quicker to battlefield realities, adapts to asymmetric enemies and takes advantage of opportunities without waiting for authorization. The fact that the Army has been able to adapt rapidly from a force prepared to fight tank-on-tank conventional battles to one involving counterinsurgency is a testament to the professionalism of the NCO corps. I believe it's safe to say that absent the Army NCO capabilities, we would not be in a position today to even debate withdrawing our forces from Iraq.
I believe that as an NCO in today's Army we must always strive to Lead by Example, Train from Experience, Maintain and Enforce Standards, Take care of Soldiers, and always be ready to Adapt to the Changing World. I believe that all this is possible as long as we remember to BE, KNOW, and DO. We must not only be the backbone of the Army but it's heartbeat as well.
As a Non-commissioned Officer you can expect me to be a professional leader committed to taking care of Soldiers, and always placing the mission first. In the absence of leadership I will take charge and make sound and timely decisions.
My leadership will know me as a solid performer who is competent, technical and tactically proficient and as a professional. I will do this by adhering to the Army regulations, field manuals, and the Standard Operating Procedures of my section. I will ensure my Soldiers do the same.
My peers can look forward to a loyal co-workers, I will help them up when they are down, and give them a strong foundation to stand on while they are up. I will help them as expeditiously and courteously as possible, and never step into their areas without just cause.
My Soldiers can expect a leader who is fair and impartial yet compassionate, who holds them to strict but attainable standards. I will at all times teach, coach, counsel, and mentor my Soldiers by being what a leader is, knowing how to be a leader and doing what leaders do.
I will instill within them the Army Values, and ensure they know that they are not an interruption of my work. I will let them know that they are the purpose of my work and that they are entitled to my help. I will treat them as human beings and not a cold statistic. I will know and lead each Soldier under my command individually and as a team, and make it clear that we all must succeed.
In closing, I want to say that I enclosed only a portion of the US Army NCO history, I did this because as an NCO in the Army today we have an opportunity to make history and I challenge every NCO to decide how it should written. Soldiers are now and have always been the guardians of freedom, liberty, and the sacred values and trust of the American people and our nation. As NCO's we must lead these Soldiers and we must stand up and be counted. We are Non-commissioned Officers, Leaders.
Answers.com. Noncommissioned Officer. 2007. 08 July 2007.
Arms, L.R. A Short History of the NCO. 01 November 1991. 08 July 2007.
Williams, Anthony J. The Role of the NCO in Transformation - Non-Commissioned Officers,
U.S. Army. March 2001. 08 July 2007.
Noncommissioned officers: the backbone of the U.S. Army
Stainbrook Scott R. What It Means to Be an NCO
"What You Can Expect From Me as an NCO."11 Aug 2009