A talk given by a Senior NCO on the eve of the commissioning of US Army officers
“I feel a tinge of regret that I am not young enough to be sitting out there as some of you. You have so many years of challenge and adventure to look forward to. So many of these years are behind me.
Soon you meet your platoon sergeants, your first sergeants, your sergeants major, your other non commissioned officers and your troops. What do we expect from you as officers, commanders, leaders ?
We expect of you unassailable personal integrity and highest of words. We expect you to maintain the highest state of personal appearance; we expect you to be fair - to be consistent - to have dignity but not aloofness, to have compassion and understanding - to treat each soldier as an individual, with individual problems.
And we expect you to have courage - the courage of your convictions - the courage to stand up and be counted – to defend your men when they follow your orders, even when your orders are in error - to assume the blame when you are wrong.
We expect you to stick out your chin and say, “This man is worthy of promotion and I want him promoted”. And we expect, you have even greater courage and say “This man is not qualified and he will be promoted over my dead body”. Gentlemen, I implore you do not promote a man because he is a nice guy, because he has a wife and five kids, because he has money problems, because he has a bar bill. If he is not capable of performing the duties of his grade, do not do him and us the injustice of advancing him in grade. When he leaves you, or you leave him, he becomes someone else’s problem. This will only shake their confidence in your judgment.
Now Gentlemen, you know what we expect from you.
What can you expect from us ?
From a few of us, you can expect antagonism, a “Prove yourself” attitude. From a few of us who had the opportunity to be officers and didn’t have the guts and motivation to accept the challenge, you can expect resentment. From a few of us old timers, you can expect tolerance.
But from most of us you can expect loyalty to your position, devotion to our cause, admiration for your honest effort - courage to match your courage, guts to match your guts, to match – esprit to match your esprit - a desire for achievement to match your desire for achievement.
You can expect a love of God, a love of country, and a love of duty to match your love of God, your love of country and your love of duty. We won’t mind the heat if you sweat with us. We won’t mind the cold if you shiver with us and when our cigarettes are gone, we won’t mind quitting smoking after your cigarettes are gone.
And if the mission required, we will storm the very gates of hell, right behind you.
Gentlemen, you don’t accept us; we were here first. We accept you, and when we do , you’ll know. We won’t beat drums, or carry you off the drill field on our shoulders. But may be at a company party, we’ll raise a canteen cup of beer and say, “Lieutenant, you’re O.K.” just like that.
Remember one thing. Very few non commissioned officers were awarded stripes without showing somebody something, sometime, somewhere. If your platoon sergeant is mediocre, if he is slow to assume responsibility, if he shies away from you, may be some time not too long ago someone refused to trust him, someone failed to support his decisions, someone shot him down when he was right. Internal wounds heal slowly; Internal scars fade more slowly.
Your careers appointing you as officers in the United States Army appointed you to command. No orders, no letters, no insignia of rank can appoint you as leaders. Leadership is an intangible thing; leaders are made, they are not born. Leadership is developed within yourselves.
You do not wear leadership on your sleeves, on your shoulders, on your caps or on your calling cards. Be you lieutenants or generals, we’re the guys you've got to convince and we’ll meet you more than halfway.
You are leaders in the Army in which we have served for so many years, and you will help us defend the country we have loved for so many years.
I wish you happiness, luck and success in the exciting and challenging years that lie ahead. May God bless you all!”