Small Wars Journal

NCOs Are the Heart of a Great Army

NCOs Are the Heart of a Great Army - Letter to the Editor, Wall Street Journal, by Adam Kurland.  Read it at the link.



Sun, 09/25/2011 - 12:50am

In reply to by Dave Maxwell

The current group of service members - speaking about the ones that can actually fight wars, not just the ones that run garrison and look pretty - need persistent conflict. Deployments and combat have become familiar for many and it's the arena they function best within. Just my opinion.

If the conflicts end, we will gut the military. Our nation has done that since its inception. When we gut the military the officer ranks are going to take a major, huge hit. Zero-defects will shape the officer corps in horrible ways. The NCO corps will either follow suit and emulate the officer side or it will return to its roots. Right now we do still have some great NCOs but we also have seen a culture shift within the military, on the enlisted side.

When I first entered the military in the early 90s, I never heard a senior NCO speak about college education or announce his or her educational credentials. In the past few years I can't see a senior NCO introduce him or herself to a new boss or new Soldiers without talking about his or her educational accomplishments. I think it's because the NCO corps has, for some reason, taken the lead of the officer corps regarding the importance of education, getting a masters and beyond, etc etc etc.

If the NCOs return to their roots as professionals and leaders, our military will make it through the coming changes, albeit with some speed bumps along the way. If the NCO community begins managing itself in line with how the officers are doing it (and will soon be doing it) then we're in for serious trouble.

The officer corps is probably doomed. Sycophants with zero defects readily apparent will be the norm and the rule. Phony leadership and false metrics will be in full force. It will take prolonged conflict to fix that ailment if it manifests itself. The NCO corps will have the ability to steer itself with more flexibility in my opinion. Hopefully we create an environment whereby SGT Meyer and those like him decide to stay on the enlisted side, and are glad they did.

Dave Maxwell

Sat, 09/24/2011 - 6:43pm

You rarely read such an important letter to the editor and one that most people outside the military cannot really fathom.  The backbone of the military is not just a platitude or something to say off the cuff.  It is real, meaningful, and important to our nation.

And this is the key:

"...highly trained and empowered noncommissioned officer corps."

I fear that with the budget cuts we are not going to invest in our people (e.g., to be highly trained) and we may again adopt a zero defects mentality and one of micro-management that will lead to having none of our subordinate leaders properly empowered and thus ready for the next conflict.  This letter needs to go to the House and Senate armed services and appropriations committees and needs to be read each time someone wants to cut the O&M budget or reduce training time and resources for individuals and units.  And with this kind of insight and respect for NCOs, I doubt Mr. Kurland was a mediocre platoon leader.