Monday, August 30, 2010

The NCO Creed

This is the next in my series of posts that deal with the military.

The Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Creed was something that I first began hearing about two hours after I got to Basic Training.  It was also one of the last things I read before I signed my discharge papers.  If you want a mission statement for my life, both now and when I was in the Army, this is it.  It serves as a reminder of the standard to which a leader should hold himself. 

No one is more professional than I.   I am a Non-Commissioned Officer, a leader of soldiers. 
As a Non-Commissioned Officer, I realize that I am a member of a time honored corps, which is known as “The Backbone of the Army.”

This is what I am, not what I do.  I will never allow myself to be less of a professional than anyone else.  I set high standards, and strive to achieve and surpass them.

I realize that I am a member of a group that has a distinct mission and role in our society.  I am an individual, but my importance as an individual is surpassed by the importance of my group.

I am proud of the Corps of Non-Commissioned Officers and will at all times conduct myself so as to bring credit upon the Corps, the Military Service, and my country regardless of the situation in which I find myself.

I am proud of my ability to call myself a leader and the accomplishments that other members of my organization have achieved.  I will never bring discredit on them or myself through my actions.  There are no excuses for compromising my integrity or morals.

I will not use my grade or position to attain pleasure, profit, or personal safety.

My needs are not as important as the needs of my subordinates.  If they work late, I work later.  If the workload is heavy for them, it’s heavier for me.  If they’re working in crappy conditions, I have no business working in a nice comfortable office.  Rank does not have its privileges.

Competence is my watch-word.  My two basic responsibilities will always be uppermost in my mind – accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my soldiers.  I will strive to remain tactically and technically proficient.

I must always be able to not only do my job, but the jobs of my subordinates and immediate superiors.  I cannot expect my people to do their jobs right the first time if I can’t do it.  I must understand the job of my boss so that I know how best to support him.  My basic jobs are to get the job done and take care of my people, in that order.  Sometimes these come into conflict.  I must have the ability to find a path that satisfies both goals.  Being technically proficient means that I have the skills and knowledge inherent in my job.  Being tactically proficient is to be able to apply these skills in a real-world setting.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a genius if you don’t get the job done, but you can’t get the job done if you don’t have the skills.

I am aware of my role as a Non-Commissioned Officer.  I will fulfill my responsibilities inherent in that role. 

Again, I know to which standard I am held, both by myself and by society.  I will meet and surpass that standard.

All soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership;  I will provide that leadership.

All people deserve to be led by a professional.  People don’t crave management, they crave leadership.  Sometimes a leader has to give express instructions that cover all the details.  Most times it’s only necessary to make sure people know what needs to be done, with what resources, and when it needs to be done by.  A leader has to be able to provide both kinds of leadership, and knows when to apply them.

I know my soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own.

In order to lead someone, you have to know and understand them.  If you can’t be bothered to remember details about your people like their backgrounds, education, experiences, and families, how can you expect them to trust you?  If you can’t keep it all in your head, keep a leader book.  Your personal needs, when compared to the needs of your subordinates, come somewhere between whale scum and the bottom of the sea.  If people know and understand that you put them first, they will walk over hot glass for you.

I will communicate consistently with my soldiers and never leave them uninformed.

Keep your people informed.  Even if people don’t like the truth, they hate falsehoods and cover-ups.  Don’t be cruelly honest, but don’t pull punches either.  If they know they can trust your word, they’re less likely to doubt your motives when told to do something.

I will be fair and impartial when recommending both rewards and punishment.

Nothing destroys a group like favoritism and/or bullying.  If someone deserves a raise, promotion, or pat-on-the-back, give it to them.  If they deserve a reprimand or worse, give it.  Some of the people who I have the greatest respect for weren’t afraid to chew my ass the day after recommending me for an award.

Officers of my unit will have maximum time to accomplish their duties; they will not have to accomplish mine. I will earn their respect and confidence as well as that of my soldiers.

I will do my job in such a manner as to give my boss the greatest chance of success in doing his job.  I will never neglect my responsibilities so that my boss will have to fulfill them personally.  My superiors will know that when I am assigned a task, I will carry it out to the best of my abilities, and if I ask for help, I really need it.

I will be loyal to those with whom I serve; seniors, peers, and subordinates alike.

Loyalty is not lock-step acceptance of orders.  Loyalty is letting your boss know when you think he’s wrong.  Loyalty is also keeping this to yourself when you’re speaking to or around people from outside your group.  Support those around you, and make sure they know they can come to you with a  problem in confidence.  Never complain about the boss in front of your people.  If he’s an idiot, they’ll figure it out on their own, but don’t confirm it.  Never sell your people out, no matter what. 

I will exercise initiative by taking appropriate action in the absence of orders. 

Most times, you will be on your own.  You may not have been given the authority to do what you think needs to be done, but you still have to do it.  It’s easier to ask forgiveness for getting the job done by going beyond your orders than it is to fix a problem that’s become worse while you wait for someone to tell you what to do.  Train your subordinates to think, and your job will be easier. But remember, you can delegate authority, not responsibility.  If you or your people screw up, take the ass chewing.

I will not compromise my integrity, nor my moral courage.

Once you’ve sold out once, you will never be trusted.  Never lie.  Never cover up.  When you screw up, and you will, admit it and take your lumps.  You’ve earned them.  Don’t shy away from the hard decisions.  Never take the easy wrong in favor of the hard right. 

I will not forget, nor will I allow my comrades to forget that we are professionals, Non-Commissioned Officers, leaders!

Again, a reminder of the standard that you are held to.  Also an admonishment that you will support your peers and help them to live to this standard. 
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