"Thoughts from the Running Trail" - Being a Successful Non-Commissioned Officer

Being a Successful Non-Commissioned Officer

To be successful as a leader, non-commissioned officer and future senior
non-commissioned officer, you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable,
something actually true of many things in life.  Here at CJTF-HOA,
regardless of your job, you are going to encounter challenges that are
different and potentially more complex than what you have encountered
elsewhere.  You are going to have to think outside the box, particularly as
you work with enlisted and officers from different services, State
Department personnel, foreign military personnel and civilians.  It will not
be enough to be competent technically; you will have to be adaptable. Expand
your overall skill set and improve your ability to effectively communicate,
especially with senior officers and civilian officials.  The NCO Joint creed
states "I am firm, fair and a loyal advisor to those appointed over me."
These are not just words we recite; these are words we live by.

In the last 12 years, many of us have done numerous combat deployments. We
have led Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen. We have been on dangerous
convoys; faced insurgents, ambushes, IEDs and helos practically falling out
of the sky.  Whether in the most intense combat situation or day-to-day
battle rhythm, leadership is necessary and vital.  We were fortunate to have
incredible mentors and teachers who also felt it important to pass on these
critical skills, and we are so fortunate they did.   These examples have
helped shape our leadership and are great examples of our NCO corps.  It is
now your turn.

You must be able to make critical and command decisions. Having trust from
your leaders to make those decisions is crucial.  To prepare as a
subordinate, learn what it takes to support senior leaders as they get ready
to make decisions.  What information do they require? What analysis? What
advice?  Becoming a good advisor will earn the trust of seniors and enable
you to become a part of those decisions, something that in turn will expand
your experiences and make you even better. You can always be better.  There
is always room for improvement. 

Ensuring your men and women are prepared is a combined effort involving your
mind, body, soul and team.  Train like you fight.  Practice scenarios and
candidly talk about what happened so you can improve both personally and as
a team.  Ensure that the team acts as one.  As you work together to solve
problems, learn the strengths and weaknesses of the different teammates and
how to lead that particular team.  You can never predict what the next
crisis will be, but if your group is prepared because of effective training
and leadership, the combination of effective teamwork, communication and
trust will see you through almost any challenge.  This is true in tactical
action on the battlefield as well as analyzing a challenge to supporting
others on the battlefield.  We are enablers here and have to be good
critical thinkers.  

Being a leader and a NCO means self-sacrifice.  It doesn't mean - just when
it is convenient, it is 24/7.  It is for the greater good of the
organization.  As a leader, you are a servant first and as a NCO you exist
for the team. You are a part of something bigger than yourself.  Sometimes
you may risk your life for your fellow brothers or sisters and sometimes
giving your time to one of your service members is all that it takes.  Be
there for your team.  Often, being a leader is about making tough decisions
and it isn't always about being someone's friend.  Never confuse leadership
with likership. Everyone has a different leadership style, some are more
straightforward. We believe it is about trust and respect.  It's your
actions that define you as a leader and determine if your men and women earn
your trust or not; leading by example, communicating effectively, having
integrity, being firm and fair and showing them you are approachable.

You are less than 1% of Americans that took on the responsibility to defend
our nation and serve selflessly.  You are in support of Operation Enduring
Freedom.  Ensure you stand ready to lead your men and woman in any type of
situation: in a combat situation, executing crisis response or conducting
theater security cooperation activities to enable regional actors to
neutralize violent extremist organizations.  There are many different roles
to be filled in effectively executing a mission.  To paraphrase an old
military saying, "Don't confuse the necessity for good NCO leadership with
your proximity to the fight."  Effective leadership is a necessity at all
military levels and activities; bad decisions on a staff can have
catastrophic effects on the battlefield, so do your best to help leaders
make good and sound decisions.  

We'll see you on the running trail.  Ubuntu!

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