8 years ago
In Standing up the Iraq Army we noted the importance of NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) to the capabilities, cohesion and performance of an Army. From Why Arabs Lose Wars, Norvell B. De Atkine, Middle East Quarterly, Dec. 1999, Vol. 6, No. 2:
The social and professional gap between officers and enlisted men is present in all armies, but in the United States and other Western forces, the non-commissioned officer (NCO) corps bridges it. Indeed, a professional NCO corps has been critical for the American military to work at its best; as the primary trainers in a professional army, NCOs are critical to training programs and to the enlisted men’s sense of unit esprit. Most of the Arab world either has no NCO corps or it is non-functional, severely handicapping the military’s effectiveness. With some exceptions, NCOs are considered in the same low category as enlisted men and so do not serve as a bridge between enlisted men and officers. Officers instruct but the wide social gap between enlisted man and officer tends to make the learning process perfunctory, formalized, and ineffective.
From the Small Wars Journal, Professors in the Trenches: Deployed Soldiers and Social Science Academics (Part 1 of 5), we read the following important analysis:
Another major issue that emerged was the relationship between commissioned officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs). Commissioned officers did not believe that NCOs should or will ever assume the role played by NCOs serving the armies of western democracies. This was considered to be mostly an issue of class structure, which was reinforced by the differences in educational levels between the two groups. During the focus groups, many of the NCOs frequently complained about the unwillingness of officers (or even more senior NCO) to listen to them; offering advice was simply not considered an option. Conversely, officers – especially junior officers – frequently micromanaged, often doing even the most routine tasks themselves to ensure success.
A sure recipe for failure, at least on a relative scale. But it may be that this is a cultural issue, unable to be amended or rectified by training, education and mentoring. The upshot is that the questioning attitude, initiative, capability to take responsibility and education in the West ensures a strong NCO corps and thus the world’s greatest military.