Well, they're not as happy as everyone else in the Army, according to the Center for Army Leadership's 2011 annual survey of Army leaders. (It was released in May but I just got around to reading it last weekend.)
There is quite a lot of good news in the report, which analyzes the responses of 16,800 soldiers. For example, two-thirds of Army leaders hold favorable views of their superiors and peers as leaders. I don't think the average civilian company would score as well.
But again and again, junior NCOs (that is, sergeants and staff sergeants) report being less satisfied than other groups (that is, senior NCOs, warrant officers, junior officers, and senior officers). About half of active-duty junior sergeants say that the Army asks for more than it gives. Forty percent report that, "There is a discipline problem in my unit or organization." (Of course, as the report notes, if the system is working, they are the people who should be handling most disciplinary issues.)
My question: I remember that cracking the NCO corps was one of the signs of the Army's distress in the mid-1970s. I don't think we are anywhere near that now. But are we heading that way? If so, at what point do we start worrying?
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.