It has been six years since I retired from active service in the U.S. Army, but quite honestly, it seems longer than that.
I can still recall waking up early, donning my light grey cotton Army physical training uniform, which included the Army hooded sweatshirt with the word “ARMY” pressed across the entire chest area and the matching sweatpants that fit tighter than Michael Jordan’s old UNC uniform.
I still recall finishing PT, making the 0900 work call formation and moving swiftly to spend the rest of the morning in the motor pool. Also, since I was in a mechanized infantry unit, which featured the soon-to-be fossilized M113 armored personnel carriers, Monday morning preventive maintenance checks and services became an all-day (and sometimes all-night) event.
I can remember as a young private with little time in the Army, having the urge to put my hands in my pockets. But I also remember the noncommissioned officers who chastised me for doing so and explained to me why it was a bad thing.
Back then, it was all about discipline.
There was no walking outside the building without headgear, unless it was a designated, “no hat, no salute” area. There was no talking on the cell phone and ignoring Retreat as it is played at 5 p.m. And, it was nearly impossible to walk down the sidewalk and not salute an officer or render the greeting of the day to a senior NCO. Back then, rendering the greeting of the day was expected. After all, it is what we learned in basic training. It was the right thing to do and we did it, no questions asked.
Even when I became an NCO and observed Soldiers taking short cuts or straddling the line between discipline and non-compliance, I realized that it was my job to make sure that they did what was right.
Recently, I actually witnessed a young NCO walking along Reilly Street, in front of Womack Army Medical Center as Retreat and To the Colors was being played. He never considered stopping, rendering a salute to pay homage to the nation that he serves.
A couple of weeks ago, during the polar vortex, I saw two NCOs, a female sergeant and a male staff sergeant crossing Jackson Street to walk along Macomb Street. The sergeant was very disciplined as she wore gloves with her cold weather gore-tex jacket. The staff sergeant at first appeared to be as well, but then, as he waited for cars to pass, he put both hands in his pockets and proceeded to walk down Macomb Street. Not a good look.
How can you discipline Soldiers for doing the wrong thing, when you’re not adhering to the standards that you are charged to enforce?
Will somebody please tell me when being an NCO gave you a pass from Army standards?
As an NCO, it is your job to know the standards and ensure that they are enforced — without fail! It does not matter whose feelings will be hurt or who will become overly sensitive to whatever your directives are. These were standards that were set by the U.S. Army, the very organization that has entrusted you with the responsibility you now have. You should realize that someone, somewhere felt that you were the right man or woman to make a difference in the Army, which upholds the freedoms that we enjoy and which establishes our country’s place in the world. So in a sense, you are a world-changer.
Take pride in that fact, enforce the standards.
Step up your game, Sergeant!