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A Foundation For Leadership
by Army Staff Sgt. David Bruce - April 9, 2012

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EDINBURGH, Ind. (4/3/2012) — The sum of the whole is greater than its parts. Taken in manageable pieces to enable memorization, this is the introduction to the Creed of the Non-commissioned Officer that most soldiers receive at their Warrior Leadership Course. Put it all together, and it is a guide to how to conduct the primary duties of an NCO, regardless of career field in the Army; a lengthy job description, as it were. Or rather a blueprint, a set of guidelines that set out, in macro scale, what NCOs are and do.

First Sgt. Steven Hampton, of Indianapolis, with the 38th Infantry Division, spots targets for Spc. Ana Tyree, of Indianapolis, with the 38th Infantry Division, at an M4 carbine range during the Indiana Army National Guard’s Soldier of the Year competition held at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind., March 31, 2012. Training soldiers seeing to their welfare is one of the many responsibilities non-commissioned officers fulfill. Photo by Army Staff Sgt. David Bruce
First Sgt. Steven Hampton, of Indianapolis, with the 38th Infantry Division, spots targets for Spc. Ana Tyree, of Indianapolis, with the 38th Infantry Division, at an M4 carbine range during the Indiana Army National Guard's Soldier of the Year competition held at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind., March 31, 2012. Training soldiers seeing to their welfare is one of the many responsibilities non-commissioned officers fulfill. Photo by Army Staff Sgt. David Bruce

“The Creed of the Non-commissioned Officer is a bunch of phrases that when put together, makes perfect sense,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Smith, of Plainfield, Ind., an infantry squad leader with B Company 1st Battalion, 151st Infantry. “And it's not until you become a senior NCO, that you really understand it. A young sergeant recites it because someone told him to, but sometimes I don't think they really listen to what it is. It's our creed; it's what we live by.”

Once the rote memorization is over, implementation of the creed occurs, according to Command Sgt. Maj. John Watson, of Indianapolis, command sergeant major for 38th Infantry Division.

“It starts to mean something and you can see how you're applying what the words of the creed really mean as far as taking care of your soldiers and the people you work with and accomplishing the mission; doing your job so the officers don't have to, leaving them to their planning and preparation while we're executing the mission with the soldiers,” said Watson. “That's what it's all about.”

According to Smith, everything that an NCO should be and do is mentioned in the creed and it should be a guide to being a leader and taking care of soldiers. It can be seen in simple things that leaders do, like knowing the facets of a soldiers life. Or, as stated in the creed: I know my soldiers and will always place their needs above my own.

“It's important to know, as a leader, everything about your soldiers,” said Smith. “Everything, from how many kids they have, to where they live, where they work; a leader is supposed to know that. If he doesn't, he's going to miss something, somewhere.”

While leadership can be learned, help along the way from those that came before helps create good leaders, said Smith.

“In order to become a good leader, you have to have good mentors,” he said. “Even if you have bad leaders, you learn from them as well, what not to do as a leader. So any way you go, you're setting yourself up for success if you just pay attention.”

Smith said he had the benefit outstanding leadership that helped shape his leadership style, and when finally put in a leadership position, he wanted to excel and take care of his soldiers.

“I had some great mentorship throughout my career,” he said. “I've worked for brigade sergeants major; I've had great readiness NCOs and platoon sergeants. I saw my first team leader from when I was a private, even today I still think about his leadership style and some of the great things he did. He was a very hard team leader, but I learned so much. Having great leadership will make a big difference in your career as you come up in the NCO corps.”

The Army is in a state of flux. Mandated reductions, policy changes and budgeting conspire to create a sometimes uncertain future. A few of these changes are reflected in revised evaluation and education system for NCOs.

Regardless of changes to the evaluation and education system for non-commissioned officers, NCOs will continue to lead and train soldiers, said Watson.

“It still boils down to basic leadership skills where the first line leader has to be engaged with their soldiers, and has to look them in the eye when they are together, whether it's on a drill weekend or during mobilization, and talk to them directly and frankly as to what the expectations are, what the goals are, what the mission is and how to achieve it,” said Watson. “The NCOs are always going to be there and have to keep motivating the soldiers to achieve the mission and take care of each other.”

According to Watson, it will always go back to those basic things that NCOs have always done.

The actions of NCOs are noted by the soldiers they lead and they matter, according to Justin Garrett, of Martinsville, Ind., with B Company 1st Battalion, 151st Infantry, who will be deploying to Afghanistan with Smith later this year.

“I wouldn't want to deploy with any other squad leader, said Garrett. “He cares about soldiers, they come first and he'll do anything in his power to help you out. He has standards and abides by them and no one gets special treatment. I like those leadership abilities in an NCO.”

It has been said that we train our replacements as NCOs. Today's private may eventually become a sergeant in a few years and leadership provided early in that private's career will shape the future NCO he or she will become.

“I take all good things NCOs give me and make the most of it. I try to apply it in my own way,” he said.

As leaders of soldiers, NCOs are watched by supervisors, peers and the soldiers, said Garrett.

“Warrior Leadership Course got me spun up on the standards and lets us know that we are looked at, at all times no matter what you're doing. People don't realize how much it is a two-way street, every single move you do is watched. With every move being watched is where integrity comes in. Being a good NCO is having that integrity.

While the Creed of the NCO is not necessarily an all inclusive treatise on leadership in and of itself, it serves a foundation that guides the Corps of NCOs as we execute our duties, accomplish the mission and see to the welfare of soldiers.

By Army Staff Sgt. David Bruce
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2012

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