The Year of the NCO  

6/1/2009 

 

Regarding the “Year of the NCO,” I would like to offer 6 points for your consideration and discussion:    

1.                 The Noncommissioned Officer Corps, as professionals,  should have a professional oath of office; a code of ethics, professional responsibility, and disciplinary rules much like those for lawyers, physicians, or for that matter, police officers.  This is not the same as the Oath of Enlistment, NCO/Soldier Creeds, Warrior Ethos, or Charge to the Newly Promoted Noncommissioned Officer.

Recommend that each noncommissioned officer, upon entering the NCO ranks be required to take this life-changing oath. The senior NCO in the unit, (1SG/CSM) should be held responsible for upholding standards and ensuring adherence to the oath. The unit senior NCO must also be given

The Year of the NCO Website

 the authority to take corrective action if and when NCOs don’t meet the standard.

2.                Along with the oath, we need an educational requirement, both military and civilian. A major difference between the NCO Corps and other professional groups is the requisite civilian educational requirement.  Without an educational requirement for the noncommissioned officers, we will not reach a true and universally recognized professional level. 

Recommend that we phase in the requirement that senior NCOs have a degree.  A starting point could be that a sergeant first class must have a two-year degree and a sergeant major would be required to have a four-year degree.  The chain of command would be held responsible for ensuring the Soldier meets the educational goals throughout the Soldier’s career with NCOES supporting this requirement. 

3.                   NCO Hall of Fame: The importance of the noncommissioned officer to the success of America’s Army is well understood by the Army leadership, so much so as to earn the NCO corps the title of “the backbone of the Army”.  This appreciation of the NCOs’ contributions to the Army and the nation has been for the most part, lost to history.

                   We have in the past, made an attempt at the Sergeants Major Academy to recognize NCOs.  Many years ago when I was a student at the Sergeants Major Academy, a wall of honor was located in the hallway just outside my classroom.  I remember looking at the photos and wondering what they had accomplished to be so honored.

            In later years when I have returned to the academy, I see new photos on the wall, but the old one are gone.  The question is why keep changing.

Recommend that we establish a permanent system for honoring the contributions of Noncommissioned Officers, active, guard and reserve, not the Soldier and NCO or Drill Sergeants of the Year or Medal of Honor recipients. This is to recognize a lifetime of selfless service to the Army NCO Corps. Suggest we call it the Army NCO Hall of Fame (This is a universally recognized term). And it should be under the control of the Office of the Sergeant Major of the Army.  We could list the names at an NCO “Hall of Honor” in the Pentagon and the NCO Museum with photos and bios posted on the Army web site.  This would give America access to and an appreciation of the contributions of the NCO Corps. 

4.                   We should make an effort to record our rich history and legacy that seems to be lost to following generations of noncommissioned officers. We should at long last start recording the deeds and names of our great past Noncommissioned Officers.

                   Just outside Fort Lewis, Wash., next to a statue of CPT Meriwether Lewis stands a statue of 1SG John Ordway, the senior noncommissioned officer with the Lewis and Clark expedition. The statue was erected and paid for by the Fort Lewis chapter of AUSA. In our Army’s over 230 years of service to the nation, this is the first time we have recognized a specific noncommissioned officer. 

Recommend that we begin naming things for Noncommissioned Officers (i.e. buildings, roads, awards, and Army programs).  We should make space on the Army website for NCO history.  And teach NCO history during NCOES.  How about a college course/major in NCO history?

Recommend that we ban the term “enlisted” once and for all in Army correspondence, publications, etc.  And I think if we do this the other services will follow our lead. 

5.                   America’s Army is blessed with a large group of retired noncommissioned officers who can and should be considered a resource.  This group is knowledgeable, experienced and underutilized and should be a major player in the NCO professional/social model.  They could be combat multipliers for the NCO Corps.

Recommend that the office of the Sergeant Major of the Army form a formal advisory group of retired noncommissioned officers (graybeards) to take advantage of their experience and historical perspective. This could be organized along the lines of the Chief of Staff of the Army’s Retiree Council and the Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army Program.  And we should from the division level and above, form a team of retired NCO advisors and mentors that would assist the command sergeant major facing ever more complex and increasing responsibilities. 

6.                   The Face of the Army:  What the American public sees; the Army’s interaction with America is traditionally a unit briefing officer/Army spokesperson. And that means in most cases public affairs officers and unit commanders at all levels.

Recommend that we, whenever possible place noncommissioned officers in this role exposing the nation to some of our great noncommissioned officers, thereby helping change the face of the Army.

We need to do more than set aside a year to recognize the accomplishments of the Army’s noncommissioned officers.  We need to institutionalize their professionalism, demonstrate to soldiers of the future and the American public what noncommissioned officers have done throughout our nation’s history and to  honor their legacy.