Commandant’s Leadership Essay (class # 004-17)

“What is your role and the impact you have on unit training?”

During the winter of 1778, the fate of the American Revolution hung in the balance. Little more than a rag-tag band of farmers who picked up muskets to fight for independence, the Continental Army desperately needed to be transformed into a disciplined military force. Appointed by General George Washington to train troops at Valley Forge, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben set out to accomplish this transformation. Based on his successes at Valley Forge, Baron von Steuben published a drill manual titled Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States. This manual was distributed throughout the Continental Army, and formed the foundation of all future training. In 1778, just as today, it became the responsibility of non-commissioned officers to implement and enforce these regulations. By creating the conditions for victory in the Revolution, the confident, competent, and informed leadership displayed by these NCOs can be largely credited for the liberty we enjoy today.

As non-commissioned officers, we are bound by a sacred trust to uphold the same standards of good order and discipline which the very first NCOs of our nation established. We provide the purpose, direction, and motivation which inspires our soldiers to persevere in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Only by rising to this occasion and upholding the bonds of this trust can we expect to maintain the finest fighting force the world has ever seen. Forming the body of this force, the lower enlisted depend on our professionalism, our sound judgement, and our dedication to duty in order to prepare them to succeed against the myriad of challenges on today’s battlefield. Our commissioned officers depend on the NCO Corps to provide the experience, the expertise, and the mental agility to guide their vision and implement their orders — both in training as well as combat. As “The Backbone of the Army”, the Corps of Non-Commissioned Officers carries the great responsibility to ensure that we are ready and able, from top to bottom, to function efficiently and effectively as a synchronized military force.

A leader of strong character who is comfortable in every role, supplying the will and initiative to do what is necessary to accomplish a mission — the impact that a non-commissioned officer has on their unit can scarcely be overstated. Without this impact, our Declaration of Independence might well have been forgotten in the archives of history’s failed insurrections. It is, therefore, not lightly that we bear the weight of responsibility to maintain the readiness of our troops — to ensure the continued liberty of our nation. For us, honor is everything, and victory is the only option. We may shrink under the magnitude of the shadows of the great leaders who came before us — NCOs like SSG Todd Cornell — but we stand tall to provide the example for those who must come after us.