Tried to post last night; kept getting interal server errors…
Whew - where to start. Everyone probably knows I am a Army doc & Major. But… before med school I did 4 years of ROTC & 4 years as a lab officer (Supervising the Chemistry section of a hospital lab).
First, the fact that one officer couldn’t run the Xerox machine is no different from a managerial-level corporate employee, or many other professional persons. I’m sure, however, you can think of many more examples if pushed…
Secondly, the main difference between the college education officers have & that that enlisted service members need to obtain to advance is the leadership training. Pathways to become officers include West Point, ROTC, and regular college + several weeks Officer Candidate School (An Officer & a Gentleman). That’s the party line, anyway. Actually, enlisted service members get plently of leadership training along the way. By design, the emphasis is different - the officer’s focus is on mission accomplishment & motivating subordinate leaders to push all out all the time. The NCOs focus is on taking care of the soldiers so they can/want to drive hard & accomplish the mission & exceed expectations. Officers generally put mission first, people second if it comes to a crunch; NCOs have the responsibility to temper that, while still accomplishing the job. (NOTE: There are a thousand ways to define what is officer business, and what is NCO business - this is one of the fundamental differences, but a gross oversimplification in a futile attempt at brevity )
Nowhere is this tension more apparent when very junior officers work with junior NCOs. Lieutenants often have no clue how to run a motor pool, or organize the training for a batallion, or decide how to best use a tank in a simulated battle. They don’t know what their own , let alone their platoon/unit’s, capabilities really are, and with stars in their eyes, try to do some really, really funny things. The sergeant (E-5), on the other hand, remembers very clearly what it is like to be a peon, and are often less than fully confident in their ability to motivate/push the soldiers below them for a good cause, let alone for the crazy-ass scheme the wet-behind-the-ears lieutenant just ordered. This too, is by design, and both LT & SGT learn a lot fast if they’re going to succeed in their new roles.
Junior officers are often thrown into situations in which they know nothing about the day-to-day tasks performed by the people under them. If there are good people under them THEY DON’T NEED TO. If they try to learn all the nitty-gritty about repairing a deuce and a half (big truck), that takes away from the soldier whose job it is to know how to do that, and prevents him from planning the training that will keep the soldiers up to speed in all aspects of their job.
When I look at the senior NCOs I work with today, I see a group who have clawed their way through college on a lot tougher schedule than I ever had, even taking 18 hours 1 semester. By & large, I think the difference between them & the officers they work with is that they hed lower expectations of themselves and/or less means at the time they left they left home & high school. They are bright, well-educated, and highly professional. The lines between officers & NCOs really are blurring. The responsibilities of a mid-level NCO is similar to that of a junior officer, as are the responsibilities of senior NCOs & mid-level officers. There is a wide gulf in pay, however, and in the respect accorded them from the civilian sector. It is time for some changes.
Sue from El Paso