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NCO History


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A short history of the Non Commissioned Officer Corps of the United States Army. This presentation was the basis of a professional development program for Soldiers in my platoon with the idea I could hand it to anyone else to present. Many of the slides fail to comply with text limitations and font size established by any reasonable presentation development program, however I knew the groups would be small and the screen large.

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NCO History

  1. 1. History of the NCO For more information about Non-comms across the military, check out Backbone of the Armed Forces on v.1.1
  2. 2. Information about this PresentationInformation about this Presentation ● I prepared this presentation for the NCOs assigned to my platoon during OND to emphasize the importance of good leadership at the NCO level. ● Our unit was conducting squad size missions deep in Iraq while the main body was stationed in Kuwait. Some of the material references what was current events during our deployment. ● I am continually editing and improving the presentation. Early versions had stronger biases. There really is TOO much text on each page but that is one of the things I am fixing with each update. ● Please contact me with your professional questions and comments by email: christopher.saint.cyr<at>
  3. 3. Introduction ● Discuss how studying historical people and events help make us better leaders ● Discuss the role of the NCO from the earliest days of US Army ● Discuss how the NCO has become the Backbone of the Army by reviewing their role in various historical eras and situations ● Discuss the evolution of the NCO from disciplinarian to professional leader ● Discuss the importance of historical studies to professional development
  4. 4. Studying History ● Old saying, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” ● NCODP about the attack on the 507th Maintenance Co. at Nasiryah during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. ● What FOB is Nasiryah near? ● Why is it was important to remember the lessons of that battle? Alberto Azzalini. CC License
  5. 5. Studying History ● Army was formed 14 Jun 1775 ● National Guard units trace their history farther back – Rogers Rangers were a New Hampshire MilitiaRogers Rangers were a New Hampshire Militia Company during the French & Indian War. TheCompany during the French & Indian War. The Rangers in the regular Army lay claim to ourRangers in the regular Army lay claim to our heritage.heritage. – Gov Cutt established the NH Provisional Rgt inGov Cutt established the NH Provisional Rgt in March 1680March 1680 ● How can studying the rebellion against the king in 1775 through 1781 help us understand how current insurgents operate? By Thomas Hart (publisher); Johann Martin Will (artist)
  6. 6. The Early Days of the NCO
  7. 7. American Revolution ● NCO role originally from British military ● Infantry company had four Sergeants and four Corporals ● The First Sergeant was selected by the CDR from the four Company Sergeants ● No clearly defined duties ● In 1778, GEN Washington recruited Friedrich von Stuben ● von Stuben entered the United Stated through Portsmouth Harbor. ● Back in the day, 3BN HQ was in the Portsmouth Armory ●
  8. 8. American Revolution ● von Stuben wrote the Blue Book. ● Established standardized duties and responsibilities for NCOs ● Each company was assigned four Corporals, three Sergeants and one First Sergeant ● The First Sergeant kept the company book ● Sergeants and Corporals ● Maintained discipline and order ● Ensured Private Soldiers maintained uniform arms and equipment ● The Blue Book served the Army for 30 years.
  9. 9. Discussion ● What are some examples of things NCOs do today that are the same during the Revolution? ● What document that many military leaders use today was first established by von Stuben?
  10. 10. Before the Civil War ● NCO's maintained soldier discipline at remote outposts ● Native attacks required the Army be prepared to defend traders and settlers ● The regular Army remained small as State Militias provided bulk of the nation's fighting force. ● In 1821, the first chevrons were worn ● Non-comms served at the pleasure Regimental Commanders ● First NCO development programs instructed for SGM and 1SGs by commanders. ● SGM and 1SGs trained new corporals and sergeants ● How does our modern promotion system mirror that of the early 1800s?
  11. 11. The Civil War ● Sergeants led lines of skirmishers providing early warnings of attacks. ● President McKinley recognized for gallantry during the Battle of Antietam as a Mess Sergeant ● Sergeants were assigned to lead individual pieces of artillery. ● Sergeants supervised signal outposts ● The Army's Artillery School and Signal Corps began training Sergeants to operate gun and signal systems
  12. 12. Discussion ● In what ways did Redleg and Signal Corp NCOs lay foundations for future, formal NCO education? ● What were the effects and implications of assigning NCOs to supervise picket lines, guns and signal outposts?
  13. 13. NCOs During Industrialization (Civil War – WWI)
  14. 14. The Frontier ● Much of the time between the Civil War and WWI were spent on the frontier fighting Indian Tribes ● The battles againt Chief Victorio of the Chiricahuas tribe. ● Sergeant George Jordan of K Co. 9th Cav ● In 1885, Congress authorized retirement pay after 30 years for enlisted soldiers at 75% of their entitlements
  15. 15. Spanish American War ● Before the Spanish American War, the regular Army stood at about 26,000 men. ● Congress doubled the size of the regular Army and mobilized over 200,000 more troops from State Militias. ● 1 July 1898: The Battles of El Caney and San Juan Heights ● Corporal Warren J. Shepherd of D C., 17th Inf Reg at El Caney ● Heavy Spanish resistance ● He and his men halted and assessed the situation ● Shepherd crawled through open fields with his men continuing the attack ● The King of Battle opened fire on the Spanish main defensive position, a blockhouse ● Shepherd captured the blockhouse and held it through the afternoon ● When the Spanish began to realized they lost their defensive stronghold, they abandoned the defense bringing relief and victory to Shepard and his troopers
  16. 16. Discussion ● In what ways were the battles during the Indian Wars similar to the Counter-insurgency battles modern soldiers are fighting? ● What lessons can we learn form the Indian Wars that help today's leaders? ● Why did SGT Shepard's men follow him through the open fields under fire? ● How can we apply those lessons to our own leadership styles? ● How did enlisted retirement influence NCOs?
  17. 17. WWI ● As in past wars, the regular Army found itself undermanned for the battles in Europe ● As the ranks swelled, NCOs were called upon to conduct basic combat training of new soldiers ● GEN Pershing noticed American Corporals and Sergeants were superior leaders compared to their allied counterparts ● He developed an Academy for Sergeants
  18. 18. Sergeant York ● On 8 Oct 1918, CPL York's unit was attacking in the Argonne Forest ● The attack halted when defenders opened up with machine guns ● York's platoon was reduced to 16 men ● York led a flanking action against the machine gun positions ● York use his expert marksman skills to pick off the German machine gunners ● As they advanced, York found he was the remaining unharmed leader in the platoon
  19. 19. SGT York (continued) ● Approached the final German position with only six other soldiers he continued to pick off any German who raised his head ● Six defenders charged York's position with fixed bayonets. ● He attacked the last man in line and worked his way to the front, killing all six, using his 45 because according to legend, that was all he had left ● York talked a Battalion CDR and over 30 men to surrender ● Marched his prisoners to American lines he convinced more German's to surrender, 132 Germans ● He destroyed 35 machine guns positions ● He was promoted to Sergeant and awarded the CMH.
  20. 20. Discussion ● In what ways did the NCO benefit from their professional behavior in the days leading up to American participation in WWI? ● How does SGT York's actions demonstrate the importance of NCOs living the Army Values?
  21. 21. The Period Before, During and After WWII
  22. 22. Pre WWII ● Restructured NCO ranks ● Added Master Sergeant, Technical Sergeant and Staff Sergeant ● Force reductions resulted in many soldiers' demotions ● Increased importance Tech Sergeants ● Tech SGTs were considered highly paid Privates with specific technical training ● Hard stripe Sergeants supervised soldiers & considered combat leaders distinguished by green tabs on their epaulets.
  23. 23. WWII ● The Army turned to the NCO Corps to conduct initial basic training and their basic military occupation specialties. ● Corporals lost their role as squad leader as the infantry adopted the fire team concept ● Stories are plentiful of NCOs stepping up to leadership challenges under fire, overcoming those obstacles the bringing victory to their small units ● It was also during this time that some NCOs learned to used the system to benefit themselves in less than honorable ways
  24. 24. Post WWII ● First NCO academies in Europe ● NCO leadership increased in importance ● Academies focused on the importance of training and education for career soldiers ● The Army downsized after conflict ● NCOs would be called upon to build the force in the next war
  25. 25. Discussion ● How do SGT York's actions in the Argonne Forrest demonstrate his following of Army Values? ● Why would soldiers follow York when they faced overwhelming odds of survival? ● What are some of the benefits we have today because of demonstrated NCO leadership during this era?
  26. 26. Korea through TodayKorea through Today
  27. 27. Korea ● When the North invaded the South, the Army was weak and caught off guard ● Early battles were nothing more than holding actions ● Small unit actions supervised by squad and team leaders due to arduous terrain ● NCOs met the challenges, improvised and eventually pushed the Communist forces back to the 38th Parallel (on the verge of victory, the Army pushed too far and caused China to enter the war changing the balance of power)
  28. 28. Vietnam ● Unstable period of American history ● The war became increasingly unpopular, yet NCOs strived to keep their soldiers disciplined and alive ● Small unit tactics renewing the call for qualified, experienced NCOs ● The Army established an NCO Candidate Course ● The first Sergeant Major of the Army was appointed during the period ● The NCO Educational System was established
  29. 29. Post-Vietnam ● The 1970s and 80s required strong leadership from NCOs ● Attendance at NCO schools became mandatory for promotion ● Establishment of the NCO Battle Staff course and the First Sergeant's course ● The NCO Historical Museum was established at the Sergeants Major Academy ● In 1991, the Sergeants Major Academy published the first edition of the NCO Journal ● The Journal recognized the need for a professional publication for enlisted leaders ● Roles of senior NCO and junior officer reversed. ● PSGs & 1SGs are as responsible for teaching officers leadership as officers were for teaching NCOs 100 years ago ● NCO success stories abound during military engagements in Kosovo, Grenada, Haiti, Panama, Somalia, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq. ● NCOs have important roles in the downsizing and realignments after the Cold War ● NCOs lead large units on the battlefield without officers because of their demonstrated leadership and professionalism
  30. 30. Discussion ● How has the role of the NCO evolved from the days of the Revolution until today? ● In other parts of the world, NCOs do not receive the same respect as American NCOs. How does that impact both operation conducted with other military units and American military units? ● Why is it necessary to provide leadership training for future enlisted leaders? ● How has the relationship between officer and enlisted by the growing professionalism and leadership abilities of NCOs? ● Why is the NCO called the 'Backbone of the Army'?
  31. 31. Questions or Additional Discussion
  32. 32. References Arms, L. R. (2007). A history of the nco. Briggs Army Airbase, TX. U.S. Army Museum of the Noncommissioned Officer, U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy. Dyal, Donald H. (1996) Historical dictionary of the spanish american war. Westport, CT. Greenwood Press. Graves, Ronald K. (2011). The importance of history to the military leader. NCO Journal, March 2011.40-43. Schoomaker, Peter J. (ed.) (2006). Army leadership; Competent, confident, and agile (FM 6-22). Washington, D.C. Department of the Army Tilley, Jack L. & Shinseki, Eric K. (eds.) (2002). The army noncommissioned officer guide (FM 7-22.7). Washington, D.C. Department of the Army Wikipedia. Battle of fort tularosa. Retreived April 25, 2011. Wikipedia. Spanish-american war. Retrieved: April 25, 2011
  33. 33. Photo Credits ● A work in progress. Many of the pictures I found on various military websites. Several were used with permission from friends or taken by me. ● York painting by Frank Schoonover public domain. York picture in US Archieves.