So… I have been doing a lot of thinking.. and going back to days past. In alot of ways, on a professional level, my time as a Drill Sergeant was the apex of my career.
Everyone knows I hated dealing with the bureaucracy. Dealing with Officers and some Senior NCO’s that thought they knew how to train civilians and turn them into Soldiers. But this post is not about that. This is about the good things of being a Drill Sergeant.
During my entire time in the military, I have witnessed the slow erosion of the NCO corps into what it is today. Only the oldest of the NCO’s remember back when “The Backbone of the Army” still had backbone. Some of the finest NCO’s I ever worked with, was back when I was a Private. I remember watching the best CSM I have ever witnessed, let alone work for (CSM Sneed) lock up a Major who came into this office with the wrong attitude. I cant remember if it was SFC Hxxxx-Pxxx or SFC (Darth Vader) Rxxx who told one our Platoon Leaders “sir this is my platoon, you are here to learn what the capabilities are of this unit and sign paperwork. So.. there is your desk, go have a seat, watch, and learn. Let me deal with the training.” Now maybe my brain is getting fuddled in my old age but I also recall a young SSG Troy Sxxxxxx, during the endless weeks of JRTC of not doing much, but staring at the grass and getting no fire missions, taking the senior SPC’s into the Fire Direction Center (FDC) truck and giving them FDC classes, utilizing the Mortar Ballistic Computer (MBC), and the M16 plotting board.
Back when I first started, anything to do with the welfare and training of Soldiers was NCO business. Officers stayed out of it. “Beans and Bullets” (was what is was all about). Well, since that time NCO’s have become broken. A combination of major very publicized poor decision’s, complacency, and outright laziness have besieged my beloved corps. And the Officers either chose to start accomplishing the NCO tasks out of need or because the NCO was weak enough to allow it.
So it is my belief and many of my peer’s that the NCO corps is broken. But I also believe it is healable.
How do we heal it? Well lets look at what made the NCO corps great back in the day (if you had to boil it down to the core reason), I would say it was “technical expertise”. Without the technical expertise the NCO had nothing on the Officer. The technical expertise applied to a couple areas. How to relate to the junior enlisted and actually teach, not just read power point slides, It applied to knowledge of how the Army actually runs.. not necessarily how the books say it should run, and of course the Technical Expertise of your individual MOS.
In order to heal it we have to give the “Backbone” what it was lacking to begin with. This is Education, both Formal and Informal. It goes back to the Adage. “Knowledge is Power”. This all starts at the very beginning.
When I first went to the “United States Army Drill Sergeant School” I was overwhelmed. It seemed that you had to be perfect to be a good Drill Sergeant. I was going to be expected to stand in front of damned near 210 civilians to give classes and demonstrations. During my first time on the little stage at Echo 1-34 giving a class, yet another “Death by Power Point” presentation, I could see it in the eyes of those Soldiers still awake. They were receiving the information, but it was not being learned… and I snapped.
All of a sudden I became a different person. I was up on that stage pacing back and forth, changing the tone in my voice from loud, and harsh, to soft spoken. I was relating the information to either personal experiences, or movies, or video games, and all of a sudden the Soldiers were sitting up.. eyes wide open. Information was being processed. I would say outrageous, often times “illegal” things (things that some officer deemed as inappropriate) to keep the Privates involved in the lecture. I developed a case of tourette syndrome . Foaming at the mouth. The number of Soldiers unable to stay awake dropped off dramatically.
This is when it occurred to me. Only an NCO can break that PowerPoint slide down “Barney style” so that the Soldier actually digests what the information means. Then it also occurred to me the awesome amount of power a Drill Sergeant really has. And I was instantly addicted to this part of that job.
The REAL power a Drill Sergeant has (and really ANY NCO HAS) is not in the amount of pain, or smoke sessions they can give (although smoke sessions are great training aides). It is in their ability to teach, and in the legacy they can leave behind. As a Drill Sergeant, I had the best opportunity to date to actually do what I felt is important in fixing my beloved Corps. I could mass produce “Mini- Macs” and set them forth into the military. It is often said there are three names you will never forget in your life. Your Mom, your Dad, and your Drill Sergeant. I put everything I had into those classes. I provided the best training myself and my battle buddies could come up with. Sometimes, even on the edge of what some officer said was legal. A couple times I even went to the other side of what was “legal”. I did this because I decided that the amount of power that was entrusted into me by the mothers and fathers of the Soldiers I was training, far outweighed the amount of butt chewing I would get. These Soldiers deserved outstanding leadership, and the best training that I could give them.
I am Proud of what I have done as a Drill Sergeant. I am proud of what every one of my battle buddies has, (past and present) , or will do. And now all I have to do is pray to the big man upstairs, that I set forth enough motivated Soldiers that a few of them will attempt to become a better NCO than I, and therefore fix my beloved Corps. God Bless you guys!