During Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler’s recent visit to Fort Huachuca, several issues surfaced. The foremost issue is the Army’s lack of noncommissioned officers embodying discipline, leadership and holding Soldiers accountable for their actions.
Since combat operations began in 2001, leadership started to suffer. Current leaders say they are focused on preparing for war, but effective preparation requires strong leaders who know and understand their Soldiers. A second issue that surfaced during the sergeant major of the Army’s visit is that leaders do not know their Soldiers, even though the Army has created regulations and guidance in field manuals to assist leaders in understanding how to lead.
When a Soldier achieves the position of corporal or sergeant in the U. S. Army, he or she becomes a formal leader. A Soldier becomes an NCO, a member of a group known as “the backbone of the Army.” NCOs are the leaders with direct and daily contact with junior Soldiers, the workers who accomplish the mission.
Being an NCO is a tough, demanding, yet rewarding job. NCOs lead Soldiers at the execution level, where important day-to-day fundamental Army work is done. NCOs live and work directly with Soldiers, and NCOs are the best example Soldiers have to observe leadership in action. NCO responsibilities include identifying, teaching and using each Soldier according to their strengths while simultaneously detecting weaknesses and assisting each Soldier to overcome them. NCOs must earn the trust and confidence of their Soldiers while leading by example. NCOs must make the difficult choices and be the role model for Soldiers. As a leader, an NCO must always do what is right.
NCOs are accountable for their actions. They have duties and responsibilities, which they must execute in accordance with Army regulations. Duty is something a Soldier must do by virtue of his or her position, and it is a legal and moral obligation. A NCO’s primary duty is taking care of his or her Soldiers, which is accomplished by developing a genuine concern for their well-being. NCOs must know, and understand each Soldier well enough to train them as an individual and as a team. This knowledge and understanding does not stop at the end of the duty day. A NCO must be aware of each Soldier’s personal situation and provide guidance and assistance so the Soldier is 100-percent mission-capable at all times.
Each Soldier, especially those who have attained NCO rank, is individually responsible for his or her own personal conduct, but a NCO is also accountable for the actions of his Soldiers. As the leader, it is their responsibility to ensure Soldiers have a clear understanding of responsibilities as individuals, members of a team and as representatives of the U.S. Army. NCOs are accountable for what they or their Soldiers do or fail to do.
As a leader, it is the NCO’s responsibility to ensure commanders are aware of problems which affect the order and discipline, morale and effectiveness of the unit. Discipline is not just recommending a Soldier for punishment, but leading them and preventing incidents from happening. Methods include observing patterns of behavior and assisting Soldiers in overcoming faults, making them positive members of the team. Intervention before an incident occurs only if an NCO knows his or her Soldiers well.
The transition to becoming a NCO can be challenging and is a learning process. It is important to remember NCOs are leaders of Soldiers and must make every mission theirs. Leaders must take responsibility for their actions and those of their Soldiers. NCOs can delegate authority but not responsibility. What Soldiers do or fail to do reflects directly upon their leader. When a Soldier puts on the stripes, he or she must step up, be the leader and embody discipline, leadership and accountability.
Those with questions or concerns about NCO leadership roles should contact the Inspector General Office, 533.1144.