Academic journal article Military Review

DEVELOPING NCO LEADERS for the 21st Century

Academic journal article Military Review

DEVELOPING NCO LEADERS for the 21st Century

Article excerpt

Soldiers actually tend to be pretty skilled at this kind of work. A huge fraction of military officers were captains of their soccer teams, scout leaders, student government officers, whatever. They understand leadership. Even at the enlisted level, the basic essence of being a good sergeant is to be a quick study of character, a master of motivation, and a strong communicator, someone who really understands human nature. A lot of basic military work is inherently 'sociological,' and this has helped us in our crash effort to building up a working society here.1

-Captain Ken Burgess, 2d Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Baghdad, Iraq, 2004

The key to the Army's success is our flexibility and willingness to change, to meet the world as it is-without altering the core competencies that make the Army the best fighting force in the world.2

-Field Manual (FM) 22-7.7

AT THE CENTER of Army transformation efforts stands the noncommissioned officer. He leads our Soldiers into 21st-century battle.3 He cares for, trains, and directs our Soldiers in peace and in war. He is the primary implementer of our new doctrine and concepts. He commands the small units maneuvering our new platforms and engaging the enemy with our new weapons systems. He is the face of the American people as he interacts with indigenous people on counterinsurgency battlefields. An effective leadership development model for the U.S. Army noncommissioned officer waging 21st-century warfare must define the threat correctly, develop leaders of character, and implement knowledge management strategies for disseminating current and emerging doctrine.

In today's security environment, change is the norm. The 360-degree fight among indigenous populations is probably here to stay.4 Our capstone doctrine in FM 3-0, Operations explains that-

Army doctrine now equally weights tasks dealing with the population- stability or civil support-with those related to offensive and defensive operations. This parity is critical; it recognizes that 21st-century conflict involves more than combat between armed opponents. While defeating the enemy with offensive and defensive operations, Army forces simultaneously shape the broader situation through nonlethal actions to restore security and normalcy to the local populace.

Soldiers operate among populations, not adjacent to them or above them. They often face the enemy among noncombatants, with little to distinguish one from the other until combat erupts. Killing or capturing the enemy in proximity to noncombatants complicates land operations exponentially. Winning battles and engagements is important but alone is not sufficient. Shaping the civil situation is just as important to success.5

The greater part of the panorama of change affecting contemporary operations is the dramatically increased involvement of the American Soldier with indigenous peoples. While changes in weaponry, equipment, force design, communications, technology, information exchange, and an exhaustive menu of threats deluge our Army at war, the human dimension profoundly begs the attention of transformation efforts.6 Our NCO leader stands at the heart of this transformation as its primary agent of delivery.

Irregular Warfare

The Army will conduct full spectrum operations among the people. Whole-of-government approaches will include soft power, non-lethal engagements, and effective messaging in information operations. At the blink of an eye, however, situations can and do turn explosively lethal and require disciplined application of combined arms maneuver. In this environment, the shaping of attitudes and values is as important as fire control, economy of force, and rules of engagement. Irregular warfare is about people, not platforms.7 Platforms, technology, weaponry, and information superiority are all mission-essential components of successful land combat operations in 21st-century warfare. However, without a thorough understanding of the human dimension, a wily and cunning enemy adept at cultural exploitation may actually leverage military superiority against the Army's campaign objectives. …

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