For all of us who are commissioned officers, every single one of us has a sergeant. That sergeant has created us, has set standards, trained us and made us who were are," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley said.
"There’s none of us who’ve come in the Army as second lieutenants, and cannot remember our first sergeant," he said.
Milley spoke during an Oct. 15 dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony during which a portion of the Pentagon’s more than 17 miles of hallway was dedicated to the Office of the Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA), a position that was first held by William O. Wooldridge in 1966.
Similar dedications and displays to various aspects of military culture, and personnel, are found throughout the Department of Defense headquarters.
"I’m very proud of our sergeants writ-large, not just the sergeant major of the Army but the entire noncommissioned officer corps," Milley said.
"This is a big deal," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, the 15th noncommissioned officer to hold this position, before the ribbon cutting.
Adding, "For over 240 years, our noncommissioned officers have been by our officers’ side. And their duties and responsibilities have expanded over those 240 years."
In 1775, NCOs had basically two tasks, he said: care of the troops and drill. Today, NCOs, in accordance with various manuals, have more than 50,000 critical tasks to achieve in support of missions on the battlefield.
Dailey pointed out that this dedication not only represents the SMAs, but "every noncommissioned officer throughout time."
Joining Milley and Dailey at the event were acting Undersecretary of the Army Eric Fanning; retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Jack Tilley; retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston; and Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, who serves as the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Staff Sgt. Barry Homberg, who was wounded twice in Iraq and who is still serving on active duty, also helped with the ribbon cutting and was given special recognition by Milley.
NCO leadership goes way back
In July 1966, during the time of the Vietnam War, the Army created the position of sergeant major of the Army.
But even before then, before the Battle of Bunker Hill, back to the militias of the American colonies, Army officers knew the importance of NCO leadership, Milley said.
The U.S. NCO Corps comes out of the British tradition, Milley said, which includes some of the Commonwealth nations. Other armies, with those exceptions, have sergeants, but they’re sergeants in name only, he said.
Milley said in that way, the effectiveness of the U.S. Army’s noncommissioned officer corps distinguishes it from most other armies in the world.
"Other armies have officers who basically do what our sergeants do on a day-to-day basis," he said. "Our NCOs are the backbone of our military, the spine that makes us go every single day."
Dailey noted that 10 of the 15 SMAs are still living and five of them had recently met with him to provide advice.
Milley said both his parents were NCOs. His father served in the Marines and his mother in the Navy during World War II.
He said that when he was commissioned as a second lieutenant, his father gave him two pieces of advice:
"’Never lie to the troops,’ was his first piece of advice," Milley said, noting that his father said they were continually lied to by their leaders about the effectiveness of the Japanese troops they would encounter in the Pacific campaign.
Secondly, "He reminded me continually, right up until the day he died a few months ago, that one of my jobs was to ‘give voice to those who have no voice.’ The way I get that counsel – and I have since I was a lieutenant – is through my sergeant who is now represented by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dailey."
Army News Service