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Old 09-20-2003, 04:36 AM
thedrifter thedrifter is offline
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Cool What Happened to NCO Leadership?


Guest Column: What Happened to NCO Leadership?

By a Sergeant in Iraq

I have been serving in the Army for 11 years, including seven on active duty and the rest in the Army Reserve. Currently I am serving in Iraq. I am a 28-year-old staff sergeant who appreciates the NCO Corps and feels fortunate to be one. Everything I have I have earned, which has instilled pride in me, my work and my soldiers.

But I have witnessed during this deployment, many appalling acts in just my sixteen-man detachment. The pride that non-commissioned officers once had is rapidly deteriorating. I have never downplayed members of the Armed Forces for the fact that we are all volunteers and that tells me that somewhere inside each and every one of us is heart and intestinal fortitude. That alone makes me proud to be a member. I have recently decided that order needs to be restored.

My commander has been conducting himself in such a grotesque way, stating on many occasions that this is a paid vacation for him. He is just here to soak up the money. Granted, the money is not bad, however, I believe as a commander, some things are best left unsaid.

He recently returned from a trip to LSA Anaconda, in Balad. He entered the room where we enlisted soldiers live, and asked what the one thing is that would boost morale and what we would all love to eat but could not get here. We said ?pizza!? with enthusiasm. Then he went to go into detail about how good the pizza was that he ate while at Anaconda. That?s a kick in the teeth. You could hear a pin drop in the room. No one thought that was very funny, if anything it was immature and inconsiderate.

Such actions give us the impression that he is not concerned with the welfare of his soldiers. When we lived south of Baghdad during our first few months in country, he stated that he did not want the Arms Room rack with the weapons in it locked because he is sick of having to unlock it to get his weapon out. I informed him, as the unit Armorer, that AR 190-11 states that weapons will be locked at all times. It doesn?t matter if someone is in the room or not.

Angry at my response, he stated that he didn?t care and he was the commander and that I was to do as I am told. I then informed the unit that every soldier would draw his or her weapon and be responsible for it. The Army has rules and Regulations set in place to be obeyed one reason or another and it is my duty to enforce them.

We worked in teams of four and one of our missions was to travel along the Main Supply Route to ensure the flow of Army convoys and to report any ordnance or obstacles along the route. This journey usually took all day and consisted of approximately 200 to 400 miles depending on the specific route we were to patrol.

On one particular day, my team had taken the long route which takes up most of the day. We returned to our camp at 2200. Upon arrival my CO notified me that we were to continue on another 200-mile round trip to pick up some cots from our higher headquarters. I informed him that my team had been on the road all day and that it would be unsafe for us to continue.

We argued about it for ten or fifteen minutes until I decided to take volunteers for the trek. I drove to Talil and once we had arrived we had to change a starter out of our Humvee. My lieutenant decided he would drive the return trip. On our way back he hit a dog while we were both struggling to stay awake and near AD Diwaniyah he almost hit another tractor-trailer and the vehicle spun around almost throwing me out (seat belts save lives).

After that, I had decided that I would stick to my guns no matter what the repercussions if this were to ever happen again. Putting soldiers? lives in jeopardy is not part of effective leadership. Our commander does not heed advice from his NCOs or the guidance we try to give him.

I have learned that an effective leader provides three things to his or her subordinates: purpose, direction and motivation.

My commander has done none of the following. Now we are up north performing duties that do not pertain to our job. We do not know why we are doing it. All we do know is that our commander tells the NCOs what he wants and we execute. The NCOs are providing the direction to the lower enlisted soldiers and improvising what needs to be done to achieve mission accomplishment.

I understand it is hard to motivate from the rear. He needs to be out front setting the example with some energy and enthusiasm. I take part in physical conditioning with my soldiers while my commander sleeps. I have served under some of the greatest commanders in my career. Lt. Col. H.R. McMaster was one of the greatest because he always wanted to win and supported his soldiers more than what was expected from him. He would come to me as a young sergeant and talk to me and make me feel important. I wanted to be my best for him and help the team to win. Leadership is the most important attribute any commander can portray.

The awards that are being given here are another of many complaints. The battalion that my unit falls beneath has stated that everyone in the unit will receive either an Army Commendation Medal or a Bronze Star for performing their duties during this deployment. I have had to bust my tail for the two ARCOMs that I have earned and I know the fact that some individuals will receive the Bronze Star will not set well with those who have given everything for the one they have earned. I feel that those types of awards should not be given for doing your job and serving over here.

It is a soldiers job to train with 100 percent effort knowing that they may one day be asked to give their all and fight in an armed conflict or all-out war. No one wants to do it, but that is why we volunteer to enlist. These awards should not be handed out as a ?thank you for coming? pin. It really grinds my axe to know that soldiers who never get out and see what this is really all about have been recommended for the Bronze Star Medal. I remember the opening scene in ?Saving Private Ryan?. I wonder what awards they got. Granted times have change and we fight wars differently than we used to I don?t understand how the value of an award should be tarnished.

One thing about being an NCO, or lower enlisted soldier, compared to a commissioned officer is that they are like the men behind the curtain running the show. The officer receives all the praise no matter what they do or don?t do. Awards should be earned, bottom line.

You see, being an NCO is not a right. It is a privilege that is earned and has been earned during the past 200-plus years of the Army?s existence. Wearing those stripes are symbolic in a way that portray a leader, a mentor, an example, a trainer and one who is all-knowing. I earned my sergeant stripes while on Active Duty and learned the appreciation for them. They mean so much to a person who has earned them and nothing to the person who has not.

I believe that the situation in Iraq will lead to low retention. I know that most of the soldiers in my unit plan to End Time in Service upon returning home. Why would a soldier want to serve for an Army that will not take care of them?

I have counseled and spoken with my soldiers repeatedly about their careers. To be quite honest, I plan on transferring to another unit. I hate that it has come to this for most but there is just no incentive anymore for soldiers, even single soldiers with no wife or children.

When soldiers see that the division command staff is living in hardened buildings with running water and electricity at the palace, they become very disturbed and begin to wonder why not them too. Some soldiers are still living in tents with or without electricity and running water. My unit was only issued two sets of Desert Combat Uniforms, which are rapidly deteriorating. It just makes a soldier feel like no one cares. It should not be this way. Why should a soldier reenlist to be treated like this?


SSgt. Roger A.
One Proud Marine
Once A Marine............Always A Marine.............
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