“Not on my watch.”
That’s often the feeling I get when I see young Soldiers doing things that they are not supposed to do, such as speeding through busy streets or parking while going the wrong way, blatantly ignoring other drivers or pedestrians who have the right of way. Or, talking loudly and skyping on their cell phones in the emergency room at Womack Army Medical Center.
“Not on my watch,” is my perspective and undoubtedly what my actions would say if I were still an active-duty, senior noncommissioned officer. I see a lot of things that simply, would not have been acceptable during the time I was in the Army, from 1985 through 2007.
Not that I can single-handedly police up the entire Army as if I was some kind of hero with supernatural powers. That is unthinkable. However, I was part of a team, no, a generation of NCOs who were taught as privates by other NCOs who came before us, that there are some things you will not do in “my” Army.
For instance, there is no way I would be caught walking around in uniform with my hands in my pockets. For one thing, it’s not a good look and portrays a lack of discipline. Next, I knew that it was wrong to turn left from Reilly Street onto the All American Expressway and accelerate to nearly 100 miles per hour before slowing down only to make a turn onto the Skibo Road exit. (Believe me, I saw this last week — female Soldier, Silver SUV.) Had I done that, there were NCOs, who would have followed me, taken my license plate number and reported me to my chain of command. Then, I would’ve had to deal with whatever consequences the platoon sergeant or first sergeant imposed.
As a young enlisted Soldier, I knew it was inappropriate for me to use profanity within earshot of nearby Family members, as it was offensive and did not properly represent the Army or the NCO Corps, to which I was aspiring to become a member of.
Sometimes I think the latter group doesn’t know that when they perform actions like the aforementioned, it makes them look bad as individuals and, in the eyes of the local civilian population, it make the Army look bad.
Therefore, it is important that today’s NCOs ensure that Soldiers know what wrong looks like and steer them towards doing what is right. It’s the NCO’s responsibility to enforce the standards and the best way to do this is to lead by example.
Basketball great Michael Jordan once said his father told him to take the lead and the rest of the team will follow, after his teammates failed to be productive in several playoff games during the 1991 NBA season. That fatherly advice proved beneficial as Jordan finished with a season average of 31.8 points per game and the Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers for the first of three consecutive championships.
Jordan clearly understood the “lead, follow, or get out of the way” mindset...
“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen,” he is quoted as saying.
Along with its Soldiers, Fort Bragg has some of the greatest NCOs to ever wear the uniform. There are many heroes jumping out of those planes that fly above Normandy, Sicily and Nijmegen drop zones. And for me, it is an honor to serve you as an NCO-turned-civil service employee.
So, from one former NCO to the next generation of NCOs, keep doing what you’re doing, but watch the ranks a little closer.
Set the example and lead from the front, but every now and then, check your rear view mirror to make sure your load is still intact.
The following quote best explains that analogy.
“Every leader needs to look back once in a while to make sure he has followers.” –Anonymous