1SG FireBreather: “What’s the Definition of a NCO?
SPC Kickstand: “A Leader, 1SG!”
If you’re reading this blog, I’d like to thank you on a personal level. The ability to share what I’ve learned and hopefully teach others is a blessing and a humbling experience. Let this knowledge not be wasted.
It’s also very likely that you’re the Leader, in one way or another, of your prospective group, be it in an embryonic phase or if you have your teams up and running. Whether you’re simply a casual reader or a fire-hardened Vet fed up with the direction things are going, there’s going to come a day where you find yourself in that moment. You don’t get to choose- when the fates decide it’s go time, you do or die, not to reason why.
The NCO is the backbone of any element- he’s that connection between Joe Snuffy and LT Butterbar- and he reels both of them in when needed. He’s experienced and leads by personal example; to everyone around him, he’s a book of knowledge and a solid rock in the tempest.
He’s not an excuse maker or a Walter Mitty, and he’s not one to deal in anything other than reality. Anything less is a disservice to his reason for existence- his men.
In his book Hunting the Jackal, SGM Billy Waugh remarks on the incompetence of the Libyan Army, whom he was advising at the time, citing their lack of ability to comprehend the role of the NCO. In my experience, every military or insurgent force, whether allied or OPFOR, was defined by the capabilities of their intermediate Leaders; the NCO. One man dictating to everyone everything produces weak minded followers and an overburdened central Leader- and thus, a strong NCO makes higher echelon leaders all that much better and creates great followers groomed to take his place when the need arises. Once he’s dead or out of the fight that’s it; and it will inevitably will happen at some point.
Complaints with No Solution
One of my largest pet peeves, and a strong sign of a weak or otherwise incapable Leader, is complaints with no plan of solution. NCOs recognize and solve deficiencies. Case in point:
- At the local radio club meeting, an issue arose regarding ARES interfacing with the local EMCOM hierarchy. There’s always that one guy, who thinks his opinion is the only one that matters because he’s been licensed since 1954, and lets everyone know it at every chance, and berates the ARES representatives in every way short of profanity. Wrong answer.
I use this example because it’s fresh in my mind and demonstrates an example outside of the military spectrum. The gentleman question could’ve stepped up and said, “hey, I know ARES is voluntary. I know most of you have day jobs and families, and I’m retired. I have many years of experience. I see a problem and have a way to fix it, who do I need to talk to?” Instead, we were served with a diatribe on how much we suck, how great he is, and how he simply doesn’t care.
Well, I guess that’s one approach. Did it solve anything? Nope. It just urinated in everyone’s cornflakes. Were it up to me, I’d kindly let him know his presence is no longer wanted. It’s not however; but the important takeaway here is that when you identify a problem or deficiency, finger pointing does zero good to anyone; just fix it and move on. Period. If you have a skill that you bring to the table, and everyone does, use it. Work to make your group’s situation better.
Be an asset, not a detriment, and you’ll succeed.
Recognize Strengths in Your Team
You are not anything without your team. While one man can make a difference, the Team wins. Your job, as a Leader, is to recognize the strengths of each of your teammates, appeal to them, cultivate them, and show them through successes that they work well. Going to the field is great for units not just because it’s training, but it build unit cohesion. It shows that Ricky the RTO works really well with Mac the SSO, and Jeff the TL really does know his stuff and doesn’t lose it when he hasn’t slept on his comfy king size mattress. You as a key leader have to cultivate this; simply talking about it won’t get it done.
Recognize Weaknesses in Your Team
On the other side of the coin, you’re only as capable as your faults will allow you to be. As with recognition of your strengths, finding and resolving weaknesses is the critical point in creating success. In perspective, the best Quarterbacks out there are not the ones who are most accurate or who can pass the furthest, it’s the ones who create plays out of bad situations. Recognize what your team is weak on; get better at it, no matter what it is. Sit down and create a plan of action, with clear and realistic goals, and get there.
Find a way to Win, no matter what
Stay positive. If you’re the key Leader, and you’re down in the dumps or always bringing up the latest conspiracy theory, no professional is going to take you seriously and eventually your team mates won’t either. The situation is never hopeless. Find a way to win, no matter what, every time. Yeah, it’s harder in real life than on paper, but do it. If your guys can’t believe in you, you are no longer an effective Leader.
Do not ever forget that you also are part of your Team
Leaders step in and work alongside their men; you’re just as much a part of this as they are. Nobody likes a Dictator, and while at times you must give clear direction, you are a part of the Team. You carry the weight just like they do. All of this goes along with Leading From The Front.
It takes Leaders, and it’s going to take incredibly strong Leaders to bear the burden of what appears to be on the horizon. If you don’t see a Leader, become the Leader. It’s that simple. I ask of you to take this to heart, and begin developing your Teams.
Lead from the Front.