The average civilian or recruit coming into the Army often misunderstands the meaning of the words military discipline. He thinks of them as being connected with punishments or reprimands which may result from the violation of some military law or regulation. Actually, discipline should not be something new to you for you have been disciplined all of your life. You were being disciplined at home and in school when you were taught obedience to your parents and teachers, and respect for the rights of others.
On your baseball or other athletic team you were disciplining yourself when you turned down the chance to be a star performer in order that the team might win; you were acquiring discipline in the shop, or other business when your loyalty to your employer and your fellow employees was greater than your desire to secure your own advancement. All of this was merely the spirit of team play; that is, you were putting the interests of the “team” above your own in order that the “team” might win.
The word “company,” or “troop,” or “battery” is merely the name for a team, and military discipline is nothing more than this same spirit of team play. It is the most important thing in the Army. In civil life lack of discipline in a young man may result in his getting into trouble which will cause his parents and teachers regret or sorrow; it may cause a member of an athletic team to be “sent to the bench,” or cause an employee to lose his job. In the Army it is far more serious.
Here lack of discipline in a soldier may not only cost him is life and the life of his comrades, but cause a military undertaking to fail and his team to be defeated. On the other hand a team of a few well-disciplined solders is worth many times a much larger number of undisciplined individuals who are nothing more than an armed mob. History repeatedly shows that without discipline, no body of troops can hold its own against a well-disciplined and well-directed enemy. In your work in the Army you may wonder why the officers and noncommissioned officers insist on perfection in what appears to be minor details.
Why do rifles have to be carried at just the same angle; why do you have to keep accurately in line; why must your bed be made in a certain way; why must your uniform and equipment be in a prescribed order at all times; why must all officers be saluted with snap and precision? These things are a part of your disciplinary training. Their purpose is to teach you obedience, loyalty, team play, personal pride, pride in your organization, respect for the rights of others, love of the flag, and the will to win. So you see that being disciplined does not mean that you are being punished.
It means that you are learning to place the task of your unit – your team – above your personal welfare; that you are learning to obey promptly and cheerfully the orders of your officers and NCOs so that even when they are not present you will carry out their orders to the very best of your ability. When you have learned these things and prompt and cheerful obedience has become second nature to you, then you have acquired military discipline – the kind of discipline which will save lives and win battles. In addition to rank, courtesies and customs visibly distinguish the military from academic, medical, and other professions.
When officers and Soldiers display military customs and courtesies, they demonstrate to themselves and others their commitment to duty, to their country and colleagues, and their tradition of service to others. Military courtesies are extended to a person or thing that is due recognition and honor. The most basic of military courtesies is the salute. A custom is a traditional social convention. Military rank, as a visible mark of responsibility and leadership, is due recognition and respect. The customary way of recognizing an officer of superior rank is by saluting him or her.
First, a Noncommissioned officer is an officer which has not been commissioned by the President of the United States. Second, a Noncommissioned officer has through his or hers experience, been placed in a position to lead, supervise and train soldiers. Third, the Noncommissioned Officer Corp is the backbone of a professional army. Through real “hands on” experiences, and progression through the enlisted ranks, the NCO should be in a position of self confidence and esteem, that their position alone should demand respect from both enlisted soldiers and our officers.
Fourth, The Noncommissioned Officer represents the United States Army (Marine Corps, Navy, AirForce). There very existence allows the officers to plan, organize, lead, and direct combat operations. The NCO responsible for the preperation, training, and readiness of our soldiers. This is a NCO leadership role, not an officers. Fifth, basic soldier skills (rifle marksmanship, first aid, navigation, law of land warfare, small unit tactics, NBC) are thoose skills mastered by the Noncommissioned Officers. Sixth, they have proven themselves in combat since the Revolutionary War.
In the absence of commissioned officers, NCOs have been commissioned on the battlefield to continue the mission, and lead our soldiers. Remember, it is not necessarily the man or woman wearing stripes that you are respecting (BUT IT SHOULD BE) but the magnificent history that has been contributed to the Noncommssioned Officers. “Follow Me” should be the creed of every NCO NCOs do it all. These leaders have their hands in every aspect of the Army from the simplest daily activities to the most complicated strategic planning. Let’s get reacquainted with the “backbone of the Army.
“NCOs are responsible for the daily activities of the Army. These sergeants are the first-line supervisors for the majority of the work completed by Soldiers. These actions can be as simple as physical training or motor pool maintenance on vehicles or as complicated as leading a combat patrol in war. Chances are high that every activity from processing pay documents to medical services at the hospital are being executed and supervised by sergeants. They touch every aspect of our Soldiers and our Families’ lives. Need an MP for an emergency? Here comes a sergeant.
Who is teaching at the Warrior Leader Course? A sergeant is instructing right now. Our sergeants find us before we are in the Army: recruiters. NCOs — drill sergeants — mold us from civilians into Soldiers. Career counselor NCOs keep us in the Army. Sergeants teach us at advance individual training, airborne course, Ranger course and other specialty courses. It is sergeants who develop the future NCOs in the Noncommissioned Officer Educational System. From WLC to the Sergeant Major course, NCOs are developing the next generation. And guess who executes large portions of Officer Candidate School?
NCOs do! Sergeants enforce the rules, regulations, and policies of the Army. NCOs don’t make policy, they enforce them. Many have heard me say, “I don’t make the rules; I get paid handsomely to enforce them! ” The Army says what is proper and then empowers sergeants to enforce it. So the key aspect to this notion is not the rule, but rather the discipline to enforce the standard. NCOs have the discipline to do the right thing and set the example. So, Sergeant Major, what is the big deal about wearing my patrol cap to the PX? It is quite simple. A commissioned officer wrote the rule making.
it a legal order — a simple and minor one some could argue. I support the officers, therefore I support their rules and sergeants enforce both simple and complicated ones. Convenience and comfort have never been military priorities. If a Soldier or leader cannot enforce the simple rules, how will they tackle the complicated ones? It is a slippery slope of selective enforcement when individuals only correct the regulations they agree with. What makes our Army different from others? The NCO! Armies from around the world send their officers to visit the United States to see how we run our Army.
No one argues the commissioned officers are in charge. A recurring theme comes up, though, when foreign officers see our NCOs doing so much. The comments sound something like this, “How can you trust these sergeants to do so much? ” Or, “only our officers do that! ” And it is this decentralized implicit trust of our NCOs that creates a huge advantage over other Armies. Decisions and therefore actions take place where no officer is present. NCOs are combat multipliers. Our Army learned years ago that NCOs can be trusted to execute tasks that might have been historically linked to officers. And historically, NCOs are officers.
Sergeants are officers without a commission. There are several sources to refer to this topic and I won’t give a history lesson here. Read “Guardians of the Republic” by Earnest F. Fisher Jr. for a detailed narrative on the history of the NCO. For here and now, we need to know that the NCO is more “bang for the buck” for our Army than anyone else. Sergeants train individuals, teams and crews. NCOs focus on all the single and small unit requirements that support the collective tasks of platoons and companies. Sergeants ensure Soldiers are physically fit to arrive at the leading edge of battle.
These same sergeants teach Soldiers how to shoot their weapons effectively. NCOs teach our Soldiers when not to shoot, which is sometimes more important than shooting. Sergeants take the theory of being a Soldier and apply it to people to make them Soldiers. NCOs advise and mentor officers. Starting at the platoon level, our Army “marries” an officer and a seasoned NCO to accomplish missions. And it works. The combination of commission and noncommissioned officer is powerful and a critical difference in our Army. Senior NCOs advise senior officers about all enlisted issues and concerns.
Officers count on NCOs for recommendations on their most critical decisions. Want the truth, ask an NCO. NCOs preserve the traditions, customs and courtesies of the Army. From standing at attention or parade rest to drill and ceremonies, NCOs must preserve these “lost arts” of a war-time Army. Respecting the flag at retreat is an NCO function. Politeness, respect and courtesy are historic indicators of discipline in our service. Who is preserving this tradition of the Army? The NCO must! When an NCO sees an infraction and makes no correction, a new standard has been set. So if NCOs follow their creed, they will do two things.
Sergeants will accomplish their mission. Not only the ones they choose, but the ones the Army gives them. NCOs enforce all of them. And they must ensure the welfare of their Soldiers. Soldiers are a valuable commodity to be protected. To send untrained, undisciplined Soldiers to war is to kill them. NCOs save lives! They do all the dirty work and are quiet professionals who seek no reward other than the satisfaction of making a difference. They are the working class of the Army and the unsung heroes of our nation. In this year of the NCO, have you thanked a sergeant today?