By Mr. Keith Pannell (TRADOC)March 5, 2009
Good noncommissioned officers should know their Soldiers.
Knowing their Soldiers and therefore being able to properly lead them, is essential to completing any mission, according to Col. Peter Baker, 214th Fires Brigade commander at Fort Sill.
Baker said his first impressions of good NCOs hit him when he first came into the Army in 1983 as a young lieutenant.
"I was very impressed that my section chief knew his Soldiers," Baker said. "He knew their clothes size, their boot size. He knew their strengths and weaknesses. That always impressed me and that has always stayed with me."
During his most recent deployment as the commander of the 214th FiB, Baker said he spent much of his time as "mayor" of the area where his forward operating base was located. He said he depended on his junior officers who, in turn, depended on NCOs, to make sure the deployed Soldiers were ready for any contingency.
He said that's a trait he learned from NCOs in the early part of his career.
"I've told lieutenants and captains to get to know their first sergeants and sergeants major," Baker said. "I was fortunate and I had a good first sergeant when I was a lieutenant, and he's always been the standard for me. He mentored me as much as any officer has mentored me."
Baker said young officers must seek out relationships with their first sergeants and NCOs.
He said it's very important for an officer to understand the value of an NCO and to appreciate it and to cultivate the relationships.
Baker said when the brigade headquarters hit the ground at Forward Operating Base Delta in Iraq, their mission changed completely. He said they were handed a mission that none of them had trained for, but the officers and NCOs assessed the situation, came up with a plan and executed the plan.
"It was amazing to see how they could adapt and overcome obstacles without being trained," Baker said. "That a testimony to our education process and to how we train our Soldiers and our NCOs."
Baker said, while at FOB Delta, the 214th FiB worked with six coalition partners. He said the American NCOs shined when compared to the NCO corps of the six other countries.
"It made me appreciate our NCOs and what they do. There are stark differences when you compare them to other armies," he said. "The NCOs truly are the strength of our Army. The term 'backbone' is used pretty easily, but to me it has much more value since I've worked with six other coalition armies, and they don't have what we have."
Many roles to leadership
Baker said the NCOs are teachers and mentors and task masters and disciplinarians, but most of all, they are leaders, and they must live the NCO Creed.
"If they will live those words, they will be very, very effective," Baker said. "The creed is perfect in guidance of how to be an NCO. They will be affective in supporting their commander and they will learn how to serve and lead their Soldiers if they believe in that creed."