The Year of the NCO has encouraged much reflection on the part of the corps of sergeants in the Army. Mostly it's a bunch of self-congratulatory back-slapping about how US Army NCOs embody the greatest mentorship, leadership, teaching ability and professionalism like some mutant combination of Socrates, Clausewitz, and Knute Rockne.
I would argue that an NCO should be, above all else, an effective teacher.
A brief analysis of the NCO Creed reveals some of the more fundamental characteristics of a good noncommissioned officer. First is competence. A competent leader is one who knows what his job is and can perform it without becoming a burden on his comrades. That's a tall order.
Compassion is needed in order to assure the welfare of subordinates.
Next is technical and tactical proficiency. In other words, knowing the warrior skills and the specific job skills.
Leadership comes next, followed by humility and magnanimity to put the needs of one's Soldiers before one's own.
Communication skills are specifically mentioned, as are respect and confidence. Loyalty, integrity, and courage round out the list of characteristics set at a very high bar.
Almost every single one of these virtues implies a good educator. In order to know one's job, for instance, one must be able to demonstrate and explain that skill to someone else. Humility and good communication are hallmarks of able teachers.
In my mind, teaching is the most important, aspect of being an effective NCO. I'm going to go ahead and assume no one has a problem with my thesis, although a few real gritty Soldiers might say that leadership or courage is more vital, but that's another post.
Given that teaching predominates the list, I thought it would be a good exercise to elaborate on sound teaching methods and philosophies. Doing so will serve several functions. First, it's a way to stay somewhat positive. Instead of complaining about poor Army training, I can offer helpful solutions. Second, it will help me further define and refine my teaching philosophy before I reintegrate with the civilian teaching sector. Third, it will provide me with an near endless supply of blog material.
(Photo by SFC Paul Wade)