In April of 2015, a user on reddit.com posted a meme on the page which opened the floor to an epic response by the user americanpegasus. The meme (right) has the text “I was an asshole long before anyone paid me to be a snco. I didn’t do it to be cool, or make a statement…I just like it.”
I served in the U.S. Army for close to 20 years and I had seen the Army change a lot. Based on the response to the meme, I can only assume that the U.S. Army is not alone and each branch of service is going through the same changes. With the draw down cutting deep into the ranks, unit inactivations, qualitative service program (QSP) and qualitative management program (QMP) looming over the heads of a lot of the more senior Soldiers, we are quickly growing into a zero defect military. I have seen a lot of outstanding Noncommissioned Officers and Commissioned Officers in my day that would do anything for their Soldiers and did anything they could to take care of them, but I have also seen a lot that seem to be in it for the money, rank and “power” that comes with climbing through the ranks.
Check out this reply to the meme and let me know what you think.
I’m a Master Sergeant.
My job is not to be part of the fucking Top 3, or preen and lick my coat so that Colonels and CMSgts like me, or to carefully consider how to earn a “5”.
My job is to take care of my airman, and motivate + inspire my Staff and Tech Sergeants to do the same.
They aren’t as wise as me yet, because they haven’t seen as much, but if I do my job I will expose them to situations where they will begin to acquire that wisdom.
My job is to protect my people and let them truly understand what ‘taking owningship in an organization means’ while at the same time holding them accountable to the high standards I set, exemplify, and enforce.
I shouldn’t have a perfect career history or life, because that gives me no clue how to talk to a junior enlisted who is having troubles. If I’ve never gotten in trouble, what the hell am I supposed to say to Airman Smith who is getting an Article 15 or a Letter of Reprimand?
“Sorry man. You should have been more like me.”
No. Fuck that.
“Sorry man. I’ve been there. I did something stupid too. But I didn’t let it stop me. I picked myself up and dusted myself off.”
That is the real danger of the one-mistake Air Force. We are robbing our organization of the most powerful force in human history: the ability to learn from our mistakes. Instead we staff it with a bunch of crumb lapping lap-dogs whose only concern is some stupid stratification or some worthless certification they are supposed to have because “someone told me I’m supposed to have it”.
What about people? If you spend so much time buried up your own ass, you forget why you are here in the first place. Your purpose is not as an ego-masturbatory exercise, but as a leader of men and women and a manager of teamswho’s goal is to foster an organization that doesn’t trudge along to a broken and sick drum, but hums along with a precision and fury that somehow exceeds the sum of its parts.
These days we don’t even know how to create such an organization. We sometimes marvel at one when we see it, but more often than not it came about through dumb luck because we have forgotten how to be leaders. Inevitably, the next egotistical maniac will take the helm of such an organization and run. it. into. the. ground.
Why do I know this?
Because I have seen it. I have lived it. I have made my mistakes and learned from them, even when they weren’t my mistakes. I have reflected on years of a career spent trying to do the right thing, even when it cost me personally and professionally.
You know why? Because I’m not just a fucking E-7.
I’m a Senior NCO.
And my job is bigger than just me now. People don’t work for me any longer. That’s not how this works.
I work for them. They aren’t there to stroke my ego or provide me with career and EPR fodder. They aren’t there as punching bags to absorb my own shame, guilt, and frustrations. They aren’t there to do the one thousand menial tasks I invent because I am an uncreative prick.
I am there for them, to shepard them towards better careers, to encourage them to pursue personal improvement, to inspire them to do outstanding jobs (even at great personal cost), and to slowly shape them into the SNCOs that I know they will one day be.
Because that’s a family.
That’s an organization.
That’s taking care of each other.
And that’s what the US Air Force was supposed to be, and is about. And if you’re not onboard, and you care more about your own EPR than the SrA who’s wife is leaving him, get the fuck out. If you care more about the next Top 3 Meeting than your SSgt who’s work productivity suddenly plummetted for no discernable reason, get the fuck out. If you care more about impressing the wing commander than what your Staff Sergeants and airmen are saying amongst themselves, get the fuck out.
We don’t need you.
We need SNCOs.