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Bad Leaders Are Destroying Our Military
This week’s Army Times lead story is titled “The No. 1 reason NCOs are quitting the Army: BAD LEADERS.” Amen!
As a promotable Staff Sergeant it absolutely drives me bonkers seeing how many of my peers treat junior NCOs and how many officers treat us all. The NCO Corps has taken a back seat to leaders that want their hands in everything. Here at Fort Hood we will be shutting down operations next week for a day to address a distressing uptick in sexual assaults on post (13 IN ONE WEEKEND!). I’m told that most of these occurred in the barracks.
It is the JOB of NCOs to visit the living environments of their troops often, not just when they are told right after PT. At least in my unit I can tell you that I’ve never seen another senior NCO in the barracks in the evening on a Friday or Saturday and I’ve been here almost three years. They would be appalled at what they would see. I’m constantly stopping fights, ordering Soldiers into their rooms for the night due to intoxication, or identifying potential conflicts of interest between junior NCOs living in the barracks and their Soldiers.
NCOs should NOT be drinking with their troops AT ALL! I don’t have the facts but I think that alcohol is a leading cause of these incidents. These Soldiers get together and each buy a case of beer or a bottle of liquor and just hang out. After too much alcohol inhibitions are lowered and bad things happen. Perceptions are altered as to what someone is thinking or what is right. The next morning one party realizes what happened possibly against their will if they were sober. Alcohol is NOT an excuse for sexual assault or inappropriate relationships.
Life is difficult for juniors especially young Sergeants. Suddenly they are leaders and they must find way to deal differently with friends they now outrank. They have to set an example and enforce a standard even if it’s unpopular.
Another issue in the military that the Army Times addresses and I agree with is the fast paced promotion system. I remember when they did away with the 4-week PLDC (now WLC) requirement and went with a 2-week model. Two weeks is not enough time to create and institutionalize junior NCO leadership skills. The same goes for CPTs. Unless an officer completely screws up they WILL be promoted to CPT and possibly Major. The article says that the promotion rate to Major is “95-98%” which is absurd. Working with Captains on a daily basis I can say for a fact that there are more than 2-5% of them that don’t deserve to be promoted to Field Grade status. Unlike the NCO ranks there is no personal boarding process for young officers working their way through the junior officer ranks.
I don’t know if it’s a Corps Policy or Army policy but some very competent and knowledgable Master Sergeants (yes, I’m talking about CJ as well) are ineligible to perform duty as a First Sergeant solely because they have a permanent profile that prevents them from running with troops. These injuries were a result of combat action and now these guys and girls aren’t allowed into leadership positions. It’s not like there are is a vast pool of Master Sergeants to choose from and I’ve seen too many completely ineffective 1SG in those positions because they can run but they couldn’t lead ants to an Oreo cookie!
The military has been more focused on the “next cool thing” instead of focusing on our troops. NCOs get virtually zero opportunity to attend college the way officers do unless they are fortunate enough to attend the Sergeant Major Academy. Officers are frequently allowed to attain their Masters Degrees with promises of additional service. NCOs get no such offers, even if to attain an Associates or Bachelors degree. We promote Specialists and Corporals to Sergeant without proper training. We promote Sergeants to Staff Sergeants without ALC. We promote Staff Sergeants to Sergeant First Class without SLC. Some of these NCOs wait over a year because of deployments before they’re able to attend this training. I’m waiting to pin on my SFC rank and haven’t been to ALC yet!!
Let there be no misgivings here, though. The Army made these changes because NCOs weren’t doing their jobs and properly mentoring and counseling their Soldiers! Had we been doing our job the Army wouldn’t have taken our authority and input away from us and decided to promote automatically. We dug this hole and it’s up to us to fill it back in with sound leadership principles and return to focusing on our troops.
Finally, we need to get rid of these senior NCOs who are unapproachable. There is a high level CSM on Ft. Hood that no one feels comfortable even approaching. It’s okay to be a hardass leader but Soldiers should feel like they can approach their CSM for guidance, instruction, or just to say hi without having their heads chopped off. I’ve heard the term “toxic” applied to various leaders and this comes close. This is second hand knowledge, but I was talking to a 1SG neighbor in another unit who said that most BN and BDE CSMs are afraid to speak up during meetings because they fear his reaction. No leaders should have Soldiers that feel this way. Sort of goes against the idea of the “open door policy.”
We can reverse this trend. It just takes personal motivation and a dedication to the troops. I recognize that even leaders needs personal and family time, but our first priority as leaders should be our troops. We have to be willing to sacrifice some of that to assist our troops. It’s going to mean that a Friday or Saturday night may be spent in the barracks for a few hours just seeing what goes on after hours. I want to leave with a quote from the Army Times article from a SFC that summarizes everything I’ve said here:
“One of the things I harp on is we have tenets of leadership, leading by example, knowing your Soldiers, knowing your jobs, doing theright things and setting the example for your Soldiers. Today, those things are not done. Everybody gets the impression that leadership is a trait we all posssess. But it’s taught, and we’re not being taught properly.”
I couldn’t say it better.