Not me. The United States Army. Established by an act of the Continental Congress on 14 June 1775, the Army was initially composed of six companies of infantry, and was to act as the umbrella under which the various militias would serve to fight the British Army during the Revolutionary War.
Since that time, the Army’s strength has waxed and waned several times. Historically, the people of the United States had an aversion to a strong standing Army. It wasn’t until after WWII, at the beginning of the Cold War, that the Army maintained a large peacetime force. Since then, the Army has been at war several times, while arguably, the Republic has not.
Today, the Army is one of the most trusted institutions in American life. Soldiers enjoy a public approval greater than almost any other period in the history of the Army.
Each year, the Secretary of the Army selects a theme to emphasize during the year. This year is the Year of the NCO. The NCO corps, Corporals through Sergeant Majors, is the backbone of the Army. They are the middle management. They get things done. They are the folks who train soldiers. They provide purpose, direction and motivation to their teams. If you want to learn about leadership, learn about NCOs. As you’ll see below, you can’t recruit NCOs from another industry. You have to grow your own.
We are extremely proud of our service as a Noncommissioned Officer. While much of what was fun in the Army consisted of shooting things and blowing stuff up, what was rewarding was leading, training, and mentoring younger soldiers. Even some aspects of recruiting duty were similarly rewarding. I met a lot of young folks that just weren’t going to join the Army. But I still had a blast talking with them about their plans for the future. Some were obviously on the right path. To them, I said, more power to you. Others hadn’t figured out their path in life. I hope I was able to give a little substanative guidance to some of them.
Today’s NCO is entrusted with a level of responsibility that I could only dream of. They still have to execute their core competencies of leading and training soldiers. But they are also in many ways the face of America in lands far from home. When the average Iraqi or Afghani sees an American, it is a damn good chance that he’s seeing a Sergeant in the US Army. His perceptions of America and her people are formed by how that meeting goes. There’s a concept put out by a former Commandant of the Marine Corps called “The Strategic Corporal”- the actions of a junior NCO can have immense impact on how our foreign policy is shaped and executed. The NCOs of today’s Army have embraced that and realize they have a heavy burden.
NCOs also have a burden to make sure that none of their soldiers are killed or wounded because they weren’t well trained. Training never stops. No, not even in war. Before missions, briefings and rehearsals. After missions, and After Action Review to see what worked and what didn’t.
We personally aren’t big fans of leadership by slogan. We weren’t a big fan of fads. We tried to stick with what had worked over 200 years of experience. From time to time, the Army comes up with things like various creeds and mottos. We don’t spend a lot of time memorizing them. But there are seven core values that the Army has promoted. It’s kinda cheezy, sure, but the fact is, we support and endorse these values. They put into words what NCOs put into action.
- Loyalty – Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit, and fellow Soldiers.
- Duty – Fulfill your obligations.
- Respect – Treat others as they should be treated.
- Selfless Service – Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.
- Honor – Live the Army Values.
- Integrity – Do what’s right, both legally and morally.
- Personal Courage – Face fear, danger, or adversity, both physical and moral.
If you look, the first letter of each value forms the an acronym, LDRSHIP. Leadership. It’s what NCOs are all about.
And let’s not forget that today is also Flag Day. Long may she wave.