Friday, September 15, 2017

The sergeant is the Army.*

The baleful glare, the booming voice, the quick reaction to anything and anyone out of place or up to no good. The good sergeant knows everything worth knowing as it pertains to his or her trade and will convey that knowledge to the eager and willing young troops which the country gives to him or her to guide.

The officer signs the paperwork, makes the plans, schedules the things which need doing. The officer turns to the men and women under his or her command and says, "Follow me."

The good sergeant is right behind his officer, his all seeing eye watching the troops to see that they do their duty and follow that young officer to wherever the mission takes them.

I was a sergeant for 20 years, from 1979 until the day I retired in 1999. I thought I was good at it, seems like I was born into the role. Being the oldest brother and the oldest kid in the neighborhood it just seemed natural to be in charge. The parents were the officers, after a fashion. They told us to go outside and play and when to return to the fold. Usually about the time the first streetlight came on.

Once outside though, I was the guy who made sure none of our merry band got in trouble (or at least ensured no one got caught, not to worry though, our sins were minor indeed), no one got hurt, and everyone was home when they were supposed to be.

It's easy when everyone is on the same page, when you're a kid the objective, the mission if you will, is to have fun. Baseball, football, playing army, playing cowboys and Indians (though truth be told, playing at soldier was what we did mostly). We learned to get along and to work together.

My earliest nickname was given to me by one kid's mom back in the day. "Fearless leader." Had rather a ring to it I thought, though truth be told it was meant somewhat in jest as well. The kid in question had been told to do his chores one day and he asked if it could wait as I was expecting him at a certain time.

His mom was a bit exasperated but relented and quipped, "Oh go and play, mustn't keep your fearless leader waiting." His mom actually wrote that on the card they gave me for graduation. "To the 'Fearless Leader' best wishes."

Well, I liked it.

At one point in my life I thought to become an officer. After a rather long road I was very close, within weeks of being commissioned and turned away from it. I just didn't see myself as an officer. I knew that I was a damned good sergeant and decided to stay one when some instructor in a very large briefing room told a group of trainees that his job was to make us stop thinking like sergeants.

No, I didn't like that at all. So I walked out and never (seldom) looked back. No, The Missus Herself was less than impressed with my decision (it would have meant a rather huge jump in pay). Nevertheless, after a while she realized that I was a sergeant to the core. Let someone else plan stuff and allocate resources. I'm the chap who makes sure it gets done, I'm a sergeant.

Sergeants, ya gotta love 'em.

Yes, there is much longer story here, much I haven't revealed, much which may never be revealed. It was an odd and somewhat bitter experience. I might tell the rest. I might not, depends on a number of things.

* Dwight D. Eisenhower

Anyone care to guess which regiment the sergeant in the opening photo is from?


  1. Hey Old AFSarge;

    Yep the NCO is the backbone of the service. ANd yes that movie was a great indicator of the NCO's role along with the Wild Geese. Excellent post.

  2. I've worked with Sergeants and E-4s through E-9s. One is exponentially worth their weight in Gold, the other are Shoe Clerks. I'm sure you were an excellent Sergeant and I'd have been blessed had I had the opportunity to work with you (on something more than the tangential arrangement we had at the Kun).

    1. Thanks Juvat.

      I knew a LOT of shoe clerks with stripes.

  3. That clip underscores your posting.... when one finds one's calling....well...there ya go.

    1. Like Popeye said, "I am what I am and that's all that I am."

  4. A nice little Easter Egg hunt. The lead photo is a member of the Welsh Guards.

    From the History of the Regiment page:

    "The Leek – the Welsh Guards Regimental Cap Badge
    The choice of the leek reflected its traditional position as the main national emblem for Wales and its strong association with the military. During the Hundred Years War, Welsh archers wore green and white colours and it is also cited in William Shakespeare’s Henry V. Even before this and according to legend, on the eve of the battle against the Saxons, Saint David advised that leeks should be worn in caps to easily distinguish friend from foe."


    1. Very nice L.J., I've always liked their cap badge.

  5. Thanks to Juvat for pointing out there is a difference.a

  6. It's written somewhere that in a nutshell, officers are responsible for the mission, sergeants are responsible for the men. This is true. The officers are responsible. But the sergeants and the men are the ones who get it done. With out them, the officers are just talking heads.

    There are reasons for the regulations prohibiting fraternization. I know that most here get that. They also get that there is a flip side. Not for nothing are they called a "Band of Brothers". One of my favorite lines in that same movie is when Winters tells Buck (Compton) "Never put yourself in a position to take from these men". I am also reminded of two other movies--

    'Twelve O'clock High'-- when General Savage finally has a nervous breakdown.

    'Mr. Roberts's'-- when he is about to leave the ship, and says that it suddenly seems "terribly wrong" to leave those guys.

    OAF Sarge, I'm suspect you would have felt the same. I'm also sure you would have made a damn fine officer. But you were meant to be a sergeant. Lucky for many that you were.

    As a mustang officer, I have no doubt that being an NCO first made me a better officer. I kept in mind the times when, as an enlisted man, I felt that an officer had dropped the ball or let us down, and did my best not to be 'that guy'.

    1. Being "that guy," yeah, I tried to avoid that.

      Sometime I need to write about my "best" assignment. It wasn't the nicest for personal reasons, it was the nicest because I worked closely with some of the finest NCOs and airmen I've ever had the privilege to serve with.

  7. I guess you were too smart to take a commission. And smart enough to push your kids towards Navy vice the others! haha

    1. It's the spectacles really. If you wear glasses you will never (though should never is closer to how I feel) be in a position to truly be in charge. It's the Air Force, it should be run by the men and women who fly/navigate/crew the aircraft. NOT by maintenance/missile/logistics/personnel types.

      I steered the kids to the Navy because they all wear glasses. You can still be operational at sea with glasses (even be an NFO for that matter) not so much in the USAF. Which to me is fitting and proper.

    2. Not to disagree, but they've really rolled back the rules on glasses. When I joined you couldn't have glasses without an approved from on-high waiver, shortly thereafter it was you couldn't get to pilot training if you wore them, but after you got your wings you were good to go. I made it all the way to Holloman before needing glasses. That waiver was approved by the flight surgeon. Just had to be corrected to 20/20 or better. Now, as I understand it, you can fly even after Lasik.
      Does remind me of a story though.

    3. Near the tail end of my career they were letting folks get the surgery. They have rolled back the rules on glasses, I'm betting it's because they couldn't fill cockpits otherwise.

      From what I understand these days, they're having a LOT of trouble retaining pilots. Too many stupid rules made by the shoe clerks is my guess.


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