Our Army recently undertook an exhaustive review of our status as Professionals and what that term means for our Soldiers and leaders. It is no coincidence that this review comes at a time of great transition in our Army, where decreases in budgets, personnel, and operational tempo will present both challenges and opportunities for our force. While difficult, this era of transition will offer us a chance to build an Army solidified in our core professional values of Competence, Character, and Commitment. It will offer us an opportunity to re-focus our NCOs on education and training (Competence), standards and discipline (Character), and strengthening the bond of trust within our NCO Corps and our Army (Commitment). To guide us through this transition, we need only to look to the NCO Creed.
“Competence is my watchword.” This phrase was written into our creed and instilled within our Corps following a similar transition from combat in Vietnam. It is a source of pride for our NCOs and a standard by which we measure ourselves. Our young NCOs are some of the most combat-tested and proficient leaders in our Army’s history. They have grown up on the streets of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan and have sacrificed a tremendous amount for their fellow Soldiers, their units, and their Nation. We have taken necessary risks in our traditional education and training programs to meet our operational mission requirements in the past decade. But our status as a Professional NCO Corps requires that we now prioritize these programs–to refocus ourselves on our NCOES, NCOPD and other professional development and training programs–to provide our young NCOs with the necessary context for their combat experience. Beyond that, a renewed focus on the Competency of our NCO Corps further instills within us a clearer understanding of what it means to be a Professional NCO in our Army.
As NCOs, the Army looks to us to take the lead on the enforcement of standards and discipline to solidify the Character of the Profession. Our Soldiers expect it and our Officers demand it. We are a self-policing profession, capable of taking care of our own on both the battlefield and within garrison. However, as op-tempo has increased and our force has been focused on meeting the mission, there has been erosion to some standards of professional discipline. Where discipline has been worn away and standards have become unclear, our role as professional non-commissioned officers is to reaffirm a single standard of discipline and enforce it equally across the Army. This begins with us and our affirmation to “at all times conduct myself so as to bring credit upon the Corps, the military service and my country.”
We have emerged from a decade of conflict as a force committed to each other, our Army, and our Nation. Our Soldiers have developed bonds of trust in combat that will last a lifetime. It is important that we transition this trust from the battlefield to the home station. This will require a renewed effort on the part of our NCO Corps to care for our Soldiers and their families. We are uniquely suited for this role, and it is embedded in our creed, “I will know my Soldiers and I will always place their needs before my own.” This comes through informed counseling, increased focus on the health and welfare of our Soldiers, and a demanding training program that instills both pride and esprit de corps in our Soldiers. By re-committing ourselves to these time-tested principles, we will solidify the trust necessary to produce a Professional force.
As our Army re-focuses itself on developing its Professional attributes, let us not forget that, as NCOs, we have a roadmap by which to guide us in our Professional conduct: the NCO Creed. This creed has been a source of inspiration to our NCO Corps through other similar periods of transition. With it, we will increase our Competence by focusing on the education and training of our Soldiers; we will reinforce our professional Character through increased awareness and enforcement of our standards and discipline; and we will re-energize our Commitment to our Army by continuing the strong bond of trust among our Soldiers and within the NCO Corps. I look forward to a renewed emphasis on the Professionalization of our Army and welcome your thoughts on the subject.
CSM Christopher Greca