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Archive for October 23rd, 2014

To an extent greater than the officer corps, the NCO lives and breathes the Army.  The officer is obliged to mix with the civilian community, and to a degree derives his prestige from it.  The NCO does not.  The public does not distinguish between senior sergeants and junior ones; to the average civilian, “if they were any good they’d be officers.”
Senior sergeants affect a cool disdain both upwards and downwards, toward the unprofessional enlisted man on the one hand, and toward the better-paid officer on the other.  An officer is respected precisely to the degree that he allows the NCO to do his job with a minimum of interference.  Gillis: “I can always tell a good officer because he walks through that door and he asks rather than tells.  My job?  My main job is to make that troop commander look like the best troop commander in the Army.”  Beyond that, it is to see that orders are carried out.  The officer commands, the subordinates obey, and the job of the sergeant is to enforce, to see to it that subordinates obey.  Because he understands the process, the adroit NCO can make it work for him precisely as a mechanic can tune an engine.  If you are the only one who understands the machine, you are very close to being the indispensable man.
The senior NCO acts as a buffer as well: he looks after “the welfare of the men: (the phrase recurred a dozen times in interviews), and expects that when the commander wants to know what the men think, the commander will come to him to find out.  The role is somewhat Miltonic: explaining the ways of God to man, and man to God.  The NCO is successful to the degree he protects his men and serves his commanding officer.  It is a job which calls for enormous objectivity, a total dedication to the rules of the institution, and a thorough knowledge of the Book, both that which is written and that which is not.
All that is required is that he understand the system; he has that, and the knowledge that the Army is run on the wits of sergeants.
  —  Ward Just
From his book:  “Military Men
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