Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

The Enlisted Force and Profession of Arms

Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

The Enlisted Force and Profession of Arms

Article excerpt


What is it that makes membership in the U.S. profession of arms similar rather than different from other professions? While we all understand the need for professional segregation throughout ranks, specifically between the officer and enlisted corps, this segregation should be driven by virtue of rank structure, placement in professional military education, housing assignments, pay scale, and so forth--not driven by one group labeled professional and the other group labeled something other than professional. What makes us similar is that no matter what our rank, specialty, or discipline, we join, enlist, and enter into the same professional organization as bona fide members to perform specialized functions and missions in supporting something greater than ourselves--we becomes members of an organization that society believes is nothing short of a collective group of professionals.

There are those few who still argue that the only members in our uniformed profession are between the ranks of ensign and general. I stand with the majority of those who view such thinking as dated. This kind of thinking certainly held a bit more relevance many years ago when our enlisted personnel were less educated and less empowered--and, moreover, during a period when our military was not the all-volunteer force that it is today. I do not mean this statement in a condescending manner, but rather with the greatest respect for our former enlisted Servicemembers who served in times of greater challenge and with the utmost patriotism.

I am confident that the majority of our military leaders will concur that our noncommissioned officer (NCO)/petty officer corps easily fall within the realm of what we recognize today as a professional and authentic member in the profession of arms. To emphasize this point, it seems utterly contradictory for then-Marine Corps Commandant General Charles Krulak to organize, develop, and implement the "strategic corporal" and at the same time consider that same NCO something other than professional or a member of the profession.

My challenge as an enlisted voice will be to articulate to some why the Specialist, Seaman, Private First Class, and Airman are also members of this profession, and thereby should be considered, treated, and held accountable as professionals. These warriors may operate and execute at a different level than that of their senior enlisted and officer corps, but nonetheless, we all play in the same league.

I am not speaking alone as I assert that all Servicemembers are professionals. We hold that a young man or woman who chooses to serve the Nation in this organization matters. Doing so equates a minute percentage of society's youth who even meet the criteria to become a uniformed member in the first place. However, that alone cannot be the credential. The licensing validates itself when a Servicemember graduates from basic training. Tried and tested, that transformation marks an official commencement and membership in this profession of arms.

Are the police officers who graduate from the police academy and then walk their first beat as rookie cops professional? Yes. Do they belong to a professional organization? Yes. Perhaps they do not match the experience of a police lieutenant with 25 years of experience on the force, but they are professionals nonetheless. The same analogy applies to an athlete brought onto a professional football team as a rookie quarterback. He does not equal the experience, stature, pay, responsibilities, popularity, or lucrative endorsement opportunities of the veteran quarterback, yet neither is less professional than the other--and both are accredited members in their profession. …

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