Reinvigorate NCOs, junior enlisted through professional development

| June 6, 2014 | 0 Comments


Sgt. 1st Class Matthew A. Norman
Tripler Army Medical Center

As our Army continues the Bridging the Basics campaign, it is important to recognize that most Soldiers currently serving in the Army have never served in a garrison Army.

In 1998, I reported to my first unit, 1st Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment.

The motto “in times of peace, prepare for war” was powerful in itself. We were in a period of peace; yet, we fully understood we were an instrument of war.

During that time, some Army units supported Operation Desert Storm. However, most had not been in combat since the Vietnam War.

I remember being introduced to my squad leader and thinking to myself, how impressive he was simply because he had a combat patch. Remarkably, he was the only staff sergeant with a combat patch at that time. Today, just the opposite is true. A leader without a combat patch is the exception, not the rule.

Oct. 7, 2001, when we started combat operations in Afghanistan, that motto, and many others that referred to times of peace, became obsolete and have remained that way for the past 12 years. As an Army at war, we’ve trained, fought, then trained and fought some more.

Despite the opinions of some, I don’t believe that the standards of the Army have been changed. Rather, I believe the focus on what’s important has been changed. In the Army of old, you showed up to Monday work call formation in a pressed uniform, a fresh tight haircut and ultra-shined boots, just to climb on, under and through your truck performing command maintenance.

Why? It was the standard. But most importantly, the focus was on readiness and preparation for war. Soldiers had pride in their appearance and took ownership of their equipment and of the organization.

In today’s Army, we have low maintenance uniforms and no shine boots. While effective for combat operations, I feel these uniforms have left a gap with Soldiers when it comes to pride in their appearance and discipline.

We have an emphasis on training to fight, but that emphasis involves training for the ever-changing tactics, techniques and procedures of our enemies. We alter training plans to incorporate lessons learned and future operational agility to ensure maximum effectiveness and safety during combat operations.

An intense focus is placed on preparing Soldiers and their families to be apart in order to minimize disruptions while downrange.

In the days of old, we conducted training; we were proficient in theoretic combat techniques. We focused on the Soldier, the profession, the appearance and, most importantly, the overall standard of being ready.

As a leader who has been in the ranks during the transition from garrison to war and back to garrison, I assert that it is critical that we put as much energy in to training our Soldiers on the standards of the profession of arms as we do on training them in the art of war.

A practical Bridging the Basics method used in my unit includes reinvigorating the noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted professional development programs. These programs are focused on the traditions, heraldry, standards and the overall profession of arms.

To go further, we, as leaders, need to bring back programs like the command inspection program, and we need to instill discipline through drill and ceremony.

In order for the Army to return to the basics, the mindset of Soldiers has to be changed; pride in service alone is not enough. Soldiers must take ownership of their organization. They must get involved by conducting dining-ins and payday activities, spreading esprit de corps and conducting Sergeant’s Time training.

(Editor’s note: Norman is the senior clinical enlisted leader at TAMC.)

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Category: News, Standing Columns

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