Command Sgt. Maj. Mary Brown
Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, U.S. Army-Pacific
Since 9/11, we have focused on producing noncommissioned officers who are skilled warfighters.
However, in producing warfighters, we have lost some of the skills that have, for generations, defined us as NCOs.
The skills I am referring to are not necessarily those involving combat, but those skills that define who we are.
To name a few, they are how to conduct in-ranks inspections and drill and ceremonies, and how to give a formal block of instruction, room inspections, close-order drill and on-the-spot corrections.
We are lacking in the skills that have been the foundation of our Army since its founding.
Close-order drill is almost nonexistent in today’s Army. Visit any initial entry location and you will not see any troops marching.
Marching, however, is not just to move troops from point A to point B; it is also about leader development. Allowing the NCO to conduct drill and to give orders in a clear, authoritative manner also develops the leader’s confidence.
We also no longer make on-the-spot corrections. Why is that? Is it because NCOs don’t know what right looks like?
Prior to 9/11, there was a bond between NCOs and their Soldiers. The NCOs felt a sense of responsibility for Soldiers, something like parents feel for their child. However, somewhere during the last decade, that mentality has shifted. It seems as if a leader’s responsibilities are different during war than at peacetime.
How do we fix this? To fix anything, you must first recognize the problem. I would like to offer some suggestions. These lessons are strictly from Brown 101.
•Conduct an in-depth study of our institutional training. Where and at what level can we re-establish traditional leadership skills? Is basic training providing the “basic” foundation that the Soldiers need? Is the Warrior Leadership Course providing the leadership skills needed to develop NCOs into good leaders?
•Re-energize NCO development programs and make attendance mandatory.
•Develop an effective NCO mentorship program.
•Create opportunities for hip-pocket training to reinforce back to basics.
We did not get to this point overnight, and we won’t fix it overnight. Back to basics, though, is a step in the right direction.
We have a responsibility to strengthen the foundation of the greatest Army in the world.