"A. Grumpy Sergeant"
Defense guest grouch
Thanks for asking me as an NCO
how things are going and how we can improve.
Overall I think we're doing okay
in the section. It's good that you introduced yourself to everyone, told us a
bit about yourself, and let us know what your standards and goals for the
section are. I think the most important reason for a successful section or unit
is a healthy NCO-Officer relationship. We both need to know what our respective
roles are and maintain standards (tactical, technical and ethical), and we need
to help each other succeed.
How was my last deployment? If I
may be candid, sir, my last deployment was frustrating. We had a toxic
NCO-Officer situation; as a result the section overall was miserable. Most of
the soldiers left the unit as soon as we returned home and a few left the
military altogether. On the officer's part, he was not very competent in his
branch. And worse, rather than spend time getting up to speed and talking with
his NCOs and lieutenants (most of whom had deployed before and knew some useful
stuff), he avoided interacting with most section members. And because he was
insecure, he didn't hold his NCO to a good standard. I gotta tell you sir: That
was a time I really felt an officer needed to be relieved. And he was a major.
Ultimately I blame his leaders for
tolerating him. Guess they put loyalty over competency, I don't know. Maybe that's
a larger issue with our Army's personnel manning system. Clunky. In World War
II all sorts of officers were relieved.
He also had a bad attitude
towards women and minorities. It's not like he had a poster of Nathan Bedford
Forrest on his wall; it was a subtle (and occasionally nasty) attitude that
affected the way he treated some members of the team. I am tired of having to
give equal opportunity and sexual assault/harassment classes, but the problem
is not just with privates. Anyway, the kicker was, our platoon sergeant had all
the same problems, so it was a perfect storm of toxicity.
To my eternal shame and regret, I
criticized them in the presence of subordinates. Complain upwards, not
downwards, I was taught, and I failed to uphold that standard of
Sir, let me stress the major was
the exception, not the rule. I have served under many good officers -- West
Pointers, former infantry NCOs, ROTC, National Guard, and direct commissions. I
don't assume one category is any worse or better than the other, like some NCOs
do. We have a lot of smart officers who genuinely care about soldiers.
I do think the NCO-Officer
relationship needs to be explained at all levels of leadership. These days it
seems like we learn it in a school for an hour, and then that's it. Of course,
with all the deployments there wasn't much time, but now that they're are
winding down a bit, it's time to do some basics. The NCO-Officer thing needs to
be explained and discussed at all levels -- squad leader, platoon sergeant,
first sergeant, sergeant major, and the same for the Officers Corps.
Sir, I will treat you with
respect, loyalty and integrity. I want our mission and you to succeed, not just
take care of soldiers. I will never again criticize a leader in the presence of
subordinates. I will keep and maintain a leader's book, counsel soldiers in a
timely manner, and know what they're up to, unlike my last platoon sergeant. By
the way, sir, did you know Specialist Jones has a Master's degree in political
science? Yeah, she was a teacher. If we go back to Afghanistan, Sergeant Smith
was a police officer who was born in Turkmenistan. He's a good troop and can
get up to speed quickly on Dari.
Anyway, I don't need
micromanaging, just give me adequate time and resources for a task. By all
means, ask me what's going on, I'll be candid with you and won't give you the
"stay in your lane" comment. Some NCOs misuse that.
And sir, here's that PowerPoint
presentation you asked for. If I may ask a favor, sir, could you not let anyone
else know I know PowerPoint? Thank you, sir.
A "Grumpy Sergeant" is
just that. Grumpy served in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard for 12
years. Grumpy did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an NCO and later went back
there as a civilian contractor, which made Grumpy grumpier. These opinions are
Grumpy's alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S Army, the U.S. Army National Guard, the Defense Department, or the U.S.