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When I joined the military 20 years ago, I was surrounded by the highest caliber of noncommissioned officers, leaders who had a passion for mission first and welfare of the men.

Promotion incentives came knocking at their doorstep based on their passion and love for being an NCO. They always stood up for what they believed in, and stood alone when they had to. Relationships with senior leaders were strictly professional, not for the purpose of promotion advantages, and they possessed the courage to tactfully and respectfully go against the grain when need be.

These are quality leaders that will be the future of today’s Army.

[Some of today’s] NCOs are not quality leaders. These leaders’ opinions are only heard among their peers, not decision-makers. They fear that voicing their opinions will jeopardize their next promotion. They seek bonds solely with decision-makers and senior enlisted, thinking this bond will accelerate them past their peers.

I have watched soldiers fall prey to this type of thinking, watched soldiers and NCOs turn into personal servants for platoon sergeants and officers, thinking this will get them ahead. Senior NCOs and officers love this type of NCO, as opposed to a quality leader, because they can promote their "Army ideology," whether it is consistent or inconsistent with Army policies.

This type of leader sets the building block for the "good-old-boy network" or "cliques" that have infiltrated the military. I have seen these networks and cliques destroy quality leaders’ careers for refusing to be affiliated.

As the military travels in its circle of changes, the quality of leaders, NCOs and officers will continue to strengthen and make this the best military in the world.

Staff Sgt. Steven D. HillCombat Outpost Cashe South, Iraq


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