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Old 01-07-2008   #1
Ratzel
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Default A Better Educated NCO Corps.(Human Capital Investment Strategy)

I think most of us can agree that modern conflict requires a new type of leader. This new leader will need to be able to handle more responsibility, have greater analytical ability, and of course, better cultural understanding.

I left the Army in Dec 2003 after OIF I. Shortly after leaving the Army, I went back to school, and this spring, I expect to graduate with a BA. Despite leaving the Army, I still think a lot about soldering and I've come to the conclusion that I would be a much better soldier today as a result of becoming better educated.

With this mind, I've come to appreciate the benefits of education and have been thinking about ways the Army could benefit from a better educated NCO Corps. I've come with an idea that would not only insert education within the NCO Corps, but would also work as a recruiting/retention tool. I'm going to present this idea here, and together we can decide if this program would work or not. I may later send this idea to Army personnel command.

1. An individual would be recruited to go into an MOS that would benefit most from this program. The key MOS's would be all combat arms, MP's, intelligence, civil affairs, psychological operations, and medical.

2. The soldier would go through basic, AIT and then to a unit preparing to deploy. The soldier would train with the unit and then go on deployment.

3. When the soldier returned from deployment he/she would be enrolled into a university/college back in or closest to his/her hometown. The soldier would be required to major in something useful to the Army. Anthropology, geography, political science, economics, nursing, international business, history, regional studies, international studies, psychology, physical sciences, computer science etc. Obviously the Army wouldn't need theater, English literature, or paleontology majors. While these are fine fields of studies, they're not very useful to the army. Despite what major is chosen the soldier would be required to take at least 3 semesters of a critical language (Arabic, Farsi). The soldier would complete 2 years (60 hrs) without interruption. The soldier would be required to attend monthly drill at the local NG or AR unit in order to take PT tests and rifle qualification. The soldier would not deploy with the NG or AR unit under any circumstances.

4. After the soldier finishes the 60 hrs he/she would return to a unit preparing to deploy (Preferably the same unit). The soldier would deploy with the unit and by this time, would probably be an E-4.

5. When the soldier returned from deployment, he/she would go to school for another 60 hrs and finish the degree.

6. After finishing the degree, the soldier would go to a deploying unit (Preferably the same unit) and do one more combat tour. Before the soldier went on the deployment, he/she would be offered a 6 year enlistment package that offered $40,000 tax free. The soldier would be an E-5 now and most likely a senior team leader or even a squad leader. If the soldier says no, they would complete the deployment and be discharged when returning from it.

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Details- While in the program, the soldier would have opportunities during the summer to do a few things. They could make up classes, or they could go to Army schools such as Airborne, Air Assault, PLDC, sniper, maybe even Ranger (The minimum time to go through Ranger school is 64 days which would mean if the soldier started the June class date he would have no room to recycle).

As the soldier goes through the program, they would be required to attend some military science classes at the ROTC. They wouldn't take the same classes as officer cadets though. There would new classes, designed for NCOs, taught by NCOs. The NCO classes would be similar to officer’s classes but would be from an NCO perspective. They would write papers about the NCOs role in the field, or training troops, or anything else NCO related.

By the end of the 3rd deployment, it would be about 8 years. By this time the soldier would be an E6 or near it. The Army would have an experienced, educated, and battle hardened NCO whose skills and knowledge would have a multiplying effect. The soldier could lead classes on culture, language, and even analytical thinking exercises. If the soldier did agree to the 6 year, $40,000 package, he/she would most likely make a career of the Army (After 14 years most people stay in). If the soldier didn't, he/she would be a top candidate for other government work within the national security apparatus.

The program could also be open to soldiers who are in their reenlistment window. However, the program would only be available during the first reenlistment period. A certain ASVAB score would also be required. People who get a 31 on the ASVAB and only have a 79 GT score might not be appropriate. There's no reason why the Marines can't have a similar program.

Possible negative aspects- It is possible that a divide can occur between soldiers in the program and those who aren't. At times, the Army can have an anti-intellectual atmosphere. Soldiers in the program may think they know everything and those not in the program may look at the program soldiers as lacking "street smarts." An E4 studying military science and writing papers on something like- company level MEDEVAC techniques- may be an annoyance on the company 1st Sgt when the soldier tells the 1st Sgt how to do his job. The soldier will have to be taught that he or she does not know everything, and to "stay in his/her lane." For this reason, an argument could be made that the military science aspect of the program might do more harm then good. (We can discuss this)

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I strongly believe that education can benefit the NCO Corps of the US Army. The new face of war requires a new type of leader. While the cold war called for increases in physical capital to be successful, the GWOT requires increases in human capital. Economists have called for a more educated work force to man the “knowledge economy.” Today's “knowledge battlefield” is no different. While education is not required to be a good soldier, it will certainly make the good soldier even better. I believe this program can bring some intellectualism into an institution that could use it.

Let us discuss...........
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Old 01-07-2008   #2
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Let us discuss...........
This is a very important issue due mostly to the fact that with education often come more skill sets and the capability to use them effectively in team environments. Also of note that those who have recieved more education tend to be more easily identified by their commands for those skill sets they possess.

One problem is that an educated soldier can be a better soldier, but not necessarily does an education a better soldier make.

Not all those who join the service are necessarily (built) for lack of a better term; for college. Many often have extraordinary capabilities at what they do best without need nor desire for furtherance in " intellectual " pursuits.

The key is to identify early those for whom it would work best and provide career paths accordingly.

When it comes down to the ground actions its you or them many a times and in that case trying to remember how somebody centuries ago did it, or what the other guys humanitarian roots are probably isn't going to fit the momentary bill so much as smooth trigger pull and good teamwork.

Just a couple of asides I've heard brought up before
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Old 01-08-2008   #3
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1. This is a very important issue due mostly to the fact that with education often come more skill sets and the capability to use them effectively in team environments. Also of note that those who have received more education tend to be more easily identified by their commands for those skill sets they possess.

2. One problem is that an educated soldier can be a better soldier, but not necessarily does an education a better soldier make.

3. Not all those who join the service are necessarily (built) for lack of a better term; for college. Many often have extraordinary capabilities at what they do best without need nor desire for furtherance in " intellectual " pursuits.

4. The key is to identify early those for whom it would work best and provide career paths accordingly.

5. When it comes down to the ground actions its you or them many a times and in that case trying to remember how somebody centuries ago did it, or what the other guys humanitarian roots are probably isn't going to fit the momentary bill so much as smooth trigger pull and good teamwork.

Just a couple of asides I've heard brought up before

@ 1. Yes, unforchanetly when I was in the Army, the people who had educations were usually sent to the training room.

@ 2. No education does no guarantee a good soldier. But a good soldier, will only be better with one. In other words, some people will never be good soldiers regardless of having an MS, MA, MBA, JD, and PHD all at the same time, this we know. But take a good soldier and get him exercising his brain and only good can come from it.

@ 3. Yes, not everyone is built for school, that's why I believe there should be an ASVAB requirement plus the desire to do it.

@ 4. Yes, indeed.

@ 5. No one is going to think about the Peloponnesian wars while their team stacks up outside the door. Education brings something much more than just factual knowledge. It trains the mind to recognize patterns, analyze situations, think about contingencies, solve problems, and weigh trade-offs. It also produces better communicators, technical knowledge, and the ability to write better. Education will also encourage intellectual curiosity, which I believe could be very useful. I would love to see a "Journal of the Non-Commissioned Officer." This journal could discuss anything from PT programs to small unit tactics to mathematical models for ammo-redistribution.
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Old 01-08-2008   #4
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I would love to see a "Journal of the Non-Commissioned Officer." This journal could discuss anything from PT programs to small unit tactics to mathematical models for ammo-redistribution.
https://www.bliss.army.mil/usasma/usasma-NCOJournal.asp

(or maybe you're talking a whole new pub with a different emphasis)
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Old 01-08-2008   #5
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https://www.bliss.army.mil/usasma/usasma-NCOJournal.asp

(or maybe you're talking a whole new pub with a different emphasis)
Yes, I can't say I'm terribly impressed with this journal. There's no substance. In the latest one, there's an article called "To shoot or not to shoot." The jist of the article was 'sometimes soldiers are in tough situations where they might be better off not shooting.' Or, in "Beware of the Grey Zone" the article goes on to explain that NCO's must do things to standard and that there's no "grey zone", its all black and white. It then goes on to explain what the Army Values mean. This is a journal out of the SM academy and I assume its read by senior NCOs and this is all they can come up with?

How about some case studies? Or some discussion on squad size, or talk of how to optimally man a platoon after a certain number of casualties? The reason we don't see this-of course-is because there's no intellectual culture in the NCO corps. My program can change this, not very quickly-as my program is a generational program-but at least its a step in the right direction.

As far as the now is concerned, I think the Army needs to start a think tank with current, ex, and retired NCOs, plus anyone from academia who may specialize in small unit history or NCO history. It doesn't have to be big, maybe 15-20 "Fellows" plus 10 support personal.

It angers me that nothing like this exists. This business is too serious not to have full time "thinkers" researching NCO work.
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Old 01-08-2008   #6
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I would love to see a "Journal of the Non-Commissioned Officer." This journal could discuss anything from PT programs to small unit tactics to mathematical models for ammo-redistribution.
Why shouldn't NCO's contribute to their branch-specific professional journals? (Armor, Engineer, Fires, Infantry, MI - etc.) As professionals in their fields, NCOs have a lot of insights to offer - and many already do. If the pieces written by officers greatly outnumber those by NCOs just remember that it is the long hours put in by the NCOs who actually run their units that permit the officers the free time to sit down and compose those articles.
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Education brings something much more than just factual knowledge. It trains the mind to recognize patterns, analyze situations, think about contingencies, solve problems, and weigh trade-offs. It also produces better communicators, technical knowledge, and the ability to write better. Education will also encourage intellectual curiosity, which I believe could be very useful.
I tend to try and avoid general statements of value or the lack thereof, and this one really illustrates the reason why. As an NCO who has trained and led soldiers in the MI field - which has a fairly high ratio of college grads - I have to say that many of those qualities were sorely lacking in the educated young'uns.

...recognize patterns, analyze situations, think about contingencies, solve problems, and weigh trade-offs.... - you'd think that a college grad would be an instant intel professional. But many of the kids - some with Masters - couldn't recognize a pattern if I picked up a stack of reports and whopped them upside the head with'em. Even the ones with talent require effective training and mentoring.

Better communicators? I actually had a Harvard MBA at one time who couldn't verbally communicate an opinion if you hit her with a cattle prod. To this day I have no idea how she made it out of the HUMINT course at Huachuca (3 recycles!).

Don't even get me started on the ability to write better. Not only was that myth shattered many thousand times over when reviewing and editing reports produced by these young Einsteins, but to this day, in editing reports produced by other highly educated corporate warriors in the private sector, I will state with firm conviction that a college degree does not ensure that a given individual will "write better".

And "intellectual curiousity"? For far too many that curiosity only extends to getting that degree in an effort to get ahead. With the sheepskin in hand, the fairhaired minimal achievers turn off the intellectual curiosity and go back to narrow vision and preconceived perceptions of our grand world.

For some, education truly opens up their mind and provides knowledge and experience that they are able to draw upon in many different contexts later in life. For many, its just another few years spent not having to work, doing just enough to get by, while they party away their free time.

A good NCO (with or without a college degree) can separate the wheat from the chaff and attempt to mentor the kids with talent to eventually replace him - while spending the bulk of his time trying to mold the rest into acceptable soldiers, and a disproportionate amount of time dealing with the isolated problem children.

Education is a not a panacea to any of the issues facing the force. The slackers and minimal achievers will leap, frothing at the opportunity to leave the Army temporarily to attend school while many with real talent will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to be forced to sit down in a classroom. (That has long been the characteristic of filling TRADOC NCO instructor positions.....)

However, having said all that, I do agree that more educational opportunities should be provided to good NCOs. There is certainly a clear disparity regarding the amount of time many officers are provided with educational opportunities compared to NCOs (especially in the MI field). But I do not support an across-the-board mandate.

Last edited by Jedburgh; 01-08-2008 at 03:18 AM.
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Old 01-08-2008   #7
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Why shouldn't NCO's contribute to their branch-specific professional journals? (Armor, Engineer, Fires, Infantry, MI - etc.)

1. As professionals in their fields, NCOs have a lot of insights to offer - and many already do. If the pieces written by officers greatly outnumber those by NCOs just remember that it is the long hours put in by the NCOs who actually run their units that permit the officers the free time to sit down and compose those articles.

2. I tend to try and avoid general statements of value or the lack thereof, and this one really illustrates the reason why. As an NCO who has trained and led soldiers in the MI field - which has a fairly high ratio of college grads - I have to say that many of those qualities were sorely lacking in the educated young'uns.

3. ...recognize patterns, analyze situations, think about contingencies, solve problems, and weigh trade-offs.... - you'd think that a college grad would be an instant intel professional. But many of the kids - some with Masters - couldn't recognize a pattern if I picked up a stack of reports and whopped them upside the head with'em. Even the ones with talent require effective training and mentoring.

4. Better communicators? I actually had a Harvard MBA at one time who couldn't verbally communicate an opinion if you hit her with a cattle prod. To this day I have no idea how she made it out of the HUMINT course at Huachuca (3 recycles!).

5. Don't even get me started on the ability to write better. Not only was that myth shattered many thousand times over when reviewing and editing reports produced by these young Einsteins, but to this day, in editing reports produced by other highly educated corporate warriors in the private sector, I will state with firm conviction that a college degree does not ensure that a given individual will "write better".

6. And "intellectual curiousity"? For far too many that curiosity only extends to getting that degree in an effort to get ahead. With the sheepskin in hand, the fairhaired minimal achievers turn off the intellectual curiosity and go back to narrow vision and preconceived perceptions of our grand world.

7. For some, education truly opens up their mind and provides knowledge and experience that they are able to draw upon in many different contexts later in life. For many, its just another few years spent not having to work, doing just enough to get by, while they party away their free time.

8. A good NCO (with or without a college degree) can separate the wheat from the chaff and attempt to mentor the kids with talent to eventually replace him - while spending the bulk of his time trying to mold the rest into acceptable soldiers, and a disproportionate amount of time dealing with the isolated problem children.

9. Education is a not a panacea to any of the issues facing the force. The slackers and minimal achievers will leap, frothing at the opportunity to leave the Army temporarily to attend school while many with real talent will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to be forced to sit down in a classroom. (That has long been the characteristic of filling TRADOC NCO instructor positions.....)

10. However, having said all that, I do agree that more educational opportunities should be provided to good NCOs. There is certainly a clear disparity regarding the amount of time many officers are provided with educational opportunities compared to NCOs (especially in the MI field). But I do not support an across-the-board mandate.

@1. Yes, you may be correct here. But there are some NCOs who work in jobs that do offer time to do these things. And if someone really wants to study and or write about something, they'll find the time.

@2. That's unfortunate.

@3. Because my degree program offered me the opportunity to develop this kind of thinking and these type of skills, I may be projecting my own experiences on others. I'm a geography major, and as a Geo major these are the exact skills that I've learned. Regardless of the major however, a student should have some ability to do these things.

@4. I've heard the Ivy Leagues have dropped in quality but I think its safe to say that most people with MBAs can indeed communicate.

@5. Just imagine how these people would write if they didn't have a degree? I'm not questioning your experiences, I just can't see how it would be possible to go through 4 years of study and not become a better writer?

@6. This may be my own projections again. When I left the military I was very motivated to go to school and learn. Even after I complete my formal education I will live a life of learning.

@7. This was true for me when I first went away to school at 17 years old.

@8. Yes, as I said, it does not require a degree to be a good soldier. However, I do believe education can make someone better.

@9. Yes, I'm afraid this is true. There will always be people who take the easy way out. That is why a certain standard would be required. In my program, the soldiers would have to maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5.

@10. I don't support an across the board mandate either.


Overall, it looks like you had a lot of bad experiences with educated soldiers? It almost sounds as if educated soldiers were bad soldiers because of their educations? Keep in mind however, that in this program these soldiers would be going to combat and going to school in cycles. So its a little different than the guy who just smoked pot for the last 4 years coming in to pay off his student loans.

One thing I have to keep in mind-and I'm not trying to sound high and mighty-is that not everyone is me. As a student, I take studying very serious. I love the discipline of geography and spend a lot of time reading about it outside of class work. Just like when I served in the Army, I tend to see people as defective for not being serious at what they do. In the Army I would road march on the weekends and read book after book on Infantry and small unit tactics. As an NCO, I tried to encourage my soldiers to do the same and to my frustration, found they had no interest. So maybe the program I developed here really had me in mind? I'm not much of a Freudian, so who knows?

However, what I do know, is that NCO work should be studied and thought about much more. And it shouldn't be just officers doing it.
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Old 01-08-2008   #8
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Overall, it looks like you had a lot of bad experiences with educated soldiers? It almost sounds as if educated soldiers were bad soldiers because of their educations?
I wouldn't characterize it that way at all. I've had some very highly motivated and talented junior soldiers and NCOs with degrees working with me and for me over the years. I was just throwing up some negative examples to offset the rose-colored glasses view that you painted regarding education and soldiers. In the end, its not the education, its the individual. Some of the best soldiers I've ever had the pleasure of serving with did not have degrees. One was a HS drop out - but an outstanding professional in his field.
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....I think its safe to say that most people with MBAs can indeed communicate.
Not safe at all. That example was the only enlisted MBA I personally had contact with. However, in my current place of employment we are swamped with MBAs - both employees and MBA students who show up as interns. And a significant proportion of them cannot communicate effectively. But they can sure put together flow-charts and graphs like its nobody's business. They just can't clearly explain what it all means.
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I may be projecting my own experiences on others....
Mirror-imaging has been much discussed on this board as one of the most common failings in analysis - simply because it is human nature to look at something in the frame of one's own experience and perceptions.
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Originally Posted by Ratzel
NCO work should be studied and thought about much more.
Absolutely. But you are definitely making an assumption if you believe that the many solid professional NCOs we do have in the force aren't working hard in this regard, and haven't already made real contributions.

But you are not too far from the truth sometimes: if you read through many of the posts on AKO or BCKS forums, NCO Net, etc. you would think that NCOs are petty and are concerned more with just uniform issues, CTT and enforcing black-and-white issues with little attention paid to innovative professional thought within the broader aspects of their career fields. If you spent much time looking over just AKO forums, you'd come away thinking NCOs and enlisted soldiers are idiots that need close supervision.

But then you could look at the small number of current and former NCOs who post here on SWC. Reading through their posts would give you an entirely different perception.

I recommend that you look more closely at what is really occurring these days in the enlisted and NCO ranks of the Army prior to rendering judgment based on your perceptions alone. Yes, there are issues that need to be addressed - some critical - but when I was serving, at no time did I feel that the NCOs had dropped the ball and were allowing officers alone to determine the professional path we should follow.
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Old 01-08-2008   #9
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Default Have to agree with Jedburgh. A little history may be in order.

The Army has encouraged NCOs to pursue advanced education since the 1940s. In 1970-or 71, it was mandated that all E7 and above should obtain at least an Associate Degree. That requirement may have been later dropped but even before I retired in 1977, it was virtually ignored -- for all the reasons Jedburgh cited, principally that such attainment did not automatically translate into improved performance of the NCO Corps or of many individuals who did acquire hours of course.

Perhaps more importantly, they also found out that some combat arms types who partook decided they were too well educated to crawl around in the mud...

So it sort of was allowed to just sit.

In the event, the Army still offers opportunities to get more edumacation; LINK, LINK. Of course, there are other programs that do not quite fit your idea of a better educated NCO corps (A concept with which I agree, BTW ), LINK.

As an aside, I entered the Army with two years of college -- and I got 15 more hours while in the Army. BUT -- that 15 hour total was accrued over 14 years and six of those hours were garnered only because I spent a year as an ROTC instructor (took a year to escape... ). As Jedburgh said, combat arms -- really, any TOE unit folks -- simply do not have the time to partake even when the Ed Center as that at Bragg did tailors its hours to suit the Brigades schedules.

You have to also consider the effects of rotating in NCOs from units to schools on both the educational process for the individual and on the cohesiveness and training of the units involved. As you both said, college isn't for everyone...

Laudable idea but difficult to implement.
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Old 01-08-2008   #10
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Overall, it looks like you had a lot of bad experiences with educated soldiers? It almost sounds as if educated soldiers were bad soldiers because of their educations? Keep in mind however, that in this program these soldiers would be going to combat and going to school in cycles. So its a little different than the guy who just smoked pot for the last 4 years coming in to pay off his student loans.

One thing I have to keep in mind-and I'm not trying to sound high and mighty-is that not everyone is me. As a student, I take studying very serious. I love the discipline of geography and spend a lot of time reading about it outside of class work. Just like when I served in the Army, I tend to see people as defective for not being serious at what they do. In the Army I would road march on the weekends and read book after book on Infantry and small unit tactics. As an NCO, I tried to encourage my soldiers to do the same and to my frustration, found they had no interest. So maybe the program I developed here really had me in mind? I'm not much of a Freudian, so who knows?

However, what I do know, is that NCO work should be studied and thought about much more. And it shouldn't be just officers doing it.
I’ve pondered over this thread and your posts, and up to this point, I decided not to comment.

Am I correct (based on your 'tell us about you' post) that you were barely an E-5 when you decided to leave the service and get a better education? That was and is your choice, but I have serious reservations about your recent comments regarding the Army’s NCO Corps. I have a somewhat different spin on this latest comment to Jedburgh.

Overall, it appears you had a lot of bad experiences with discipline (from SNCOs).

Fact is you do sound high and mighty on your soapbox. What exactly do you purport to know about NCO work? You’re frustrated after an abysmal 4.4 years in service? Try 20 more and ring me when you’re done.
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Old 01-08-2008   #11
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Education is certainly not a "magic ticket" to anything. I've met plenty of MBAs who can't communicate with anyone who isn't an MBA, and there are also plenty out there who've been educated past the point of common sense. Try working at a university where you have professors who can't return items to the library on time because there's no one in the office who can make copies for him (since apparently they strip out the part in your head that allows you to operate a photocopy machine when you get a PhD).

I agree completely with Jed's comments that it's the individual not the degree (or lack thereof) that makes a person. I've known some outstanding PhD-owners in my time...folks who understand how things work outside the classroom and how real people make it through the day. I've also met others who have nothing but contempt for those who don't have the "right" degree. In the same vein, I've met folks who have total disdain for advanced degrees but could think rings around some advanced degree holders. Like anything else, education can make or break some people. It's no silver bullet.
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Old 01-08-2008   #12
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I would like to add to what Steve Blair said. Too often education has become like money as we'll throw education at it and something might stick. Rarely are the specific goals examined carefully. Like Stan I stayed away because it appeared to be more "boo hoo" then "what to do". The process in the first post is laid out but not the outcomes expected from the education. What is the expected result of this suggestion?

I personally and likely reflect much of the experience of the first poster. I got out of the Marines as a corporal (ready to promote) and have been in college for a long time. Due to my education I am often called to work with senior leadership on the civilian side and military side of the TLA agencies. I've often been warmly welcomed and impressed by the professionalism of the NCO's in all the services I've worked with.

I've explained an interesting phenomenon to other academics and even senior leadership of the services. Their officer cadre thinks strategic and their enlisted ranks think strategic. Where one is worried about effect the other is worried about being effective. I think it very general but very literal to understanding the roles.
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Old 01-08-2008   #13
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I’ve pondered over this thread and your posts, and up to this point, I decided not to comment.

1. Am I correct (based on your 'tell us about you' post) that you were barely an E-5 when you decided to leave the service and get a better education? That was and is your choice, but I have serious reservations about your recent comments regarding the Army’s NCO Corps. I have a somewhat different spin on this latest comment to Jedburgh.

2. Overall, it appears you had a lot of bad experiences with discipline (from SNCOs).

3. Fact is you do sound high and mighty on your soapbox. What exactly do you purport to know about NCO work? You’re frustrated after an abysmal 4.4 years in service? Try 20 more and ring me when you’re done.
@1. I was an E-5 for about 2 years before getting out. If my comments regarding Army's NCOs came across as being overly critical, then I apologize. I seen many fine NCOs when I served. The NCOs I seen at the various army schools I attended seemed to the best. Please keep in mind that my critique here is aimed at the intellectual culture among the NCO corps.

@2. I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "bad experiences with discipline?" I really had no discipline problems. Maybe you mean that I served under SNCO's with discipline problems?

@3. If I came across as "high and mighty" it wasn't my intent. I have all the respect in the world for people like you putting in 20+. My critique was directed at the lack of intellectual curiosity within the NCO corps. Overall I see education as being a good thing, but certainly not the only thing. Yes, I was frustrated after 4.4 years of service. Are you saying my 4.4 doesn't qualify me to make suggestions on how to better the Army? I'm at this forum because despite the frustration, the Army was a very important part of my life. It made me a better person and I cherish the experiences I had there. In fact, there were times in the Army that were the best times of my life. I care deeply for the Army, but most of all, for the people I served with and for those going back to Iraq 4 and 5 times. I do realize that my "abysmal" 4.4 is nothing compared to your 20 but I still wish to contribute to the discussion here, which I hope, can make the Army into a more efficient fighting force.
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Old 01-08-2008   #14
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"...
I've explained an interesting phenomenon to other academics and even senior leadership of the services. Their officer cadre thinks strategic and their enlisted ranks think strategic. Where one is worried about effect the other is worried about being effective. I think it very general but very literal to understanding the roles." (emphasis added / kw)
a very significant and thoughtful statement...
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Old 01-09-2008   #15
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...Please keep in mind that my critique here is aimed at the intellectual culture among the NCO corps.

... My critique was directed at the lack of intellectual curiosity within the NCO corps. Overall I see education as being a good thing, but certainly not the only thing. Yes, I was frustrated after 4.4 years of service. Are you saying my 4.4 doesn't qualify me to make suggestions on how to better the Army? I'm at this forum because despite the frustration, the Army was a very important part of my life...I do realize that my "abysmal" 4.4 is nothing compared to your 20 but I still wish to contribute to the discussion here, which I hope, can make the Army into a more efficient fighting force.
I am suggesting that your short time in the service and as an NCO provided you with limited exposure. That said and IMO your conclusions about the NCO Corps in particular and the Army in general are founded on limited experience. Not that you need 20 plus years to qualify, but I have found the majority of junior NCOs and Officers only fully begin to understand the Army and her system after about 6 or 7 years time in service.

I’m not sure what you are referring to regarding NCO Corps intellectual culture. If you take a quick look at the educational requirements for E-6 or E-7, you’ll find those promoted attended college on their own time, and received Associate and Bachelor degrees. The incentive is there to not only improve the NCO Corps, but more importantly the individual soldier.

There's being an intellectual, and then there's being intellectually curious. The two don't necessarily correlate. Some of the Army folks I’ve know that left college with a 4.0 GPA were in fact, some of the least intellectually curious people I've ever met. This is but an individual trait and yes; some people actually believe that ignorance is bliss. Overall I think the NCO Corps has developed into a well oiled machine thanks in no small part to her NCOs.

I sincerely appreciate your time in the Army and your desire to improve life for our Soldiers !
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Old 01-09-2008   #16
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Thumbs up I agree

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Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
a very significant and thoughtful statement...
Sort of like

The one is concerned with what to get done,

And the others, How to Get Ir Don

I can buy off on that completely
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Old 01-10-2008   #17
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1. I am suggesting that your short time in the service and as an NCO provided you with limited exposure. That said and IMO your conclusions about the NCO Corps in particular and the Army in general are founded on limited experience. Not that you need 20 plus years to qualify, but I have found the majority of junior NCOs and Officers only fully begin to understand the Army and her system after about 6 or 7 years time in service.

2. I’m not sure what you are referring to regarding NCO Corps intellectual culture. If you take a quick look at the educational requirements for E-6 or E-7, you’ll find those promoted attended college on their own time, and received Associate and Bachelor degrees. The incentive is there to not only improve the NCO Corps, but more importantly the individual soldier.

3. There's being an intellectual, and then there's being intellectually curious. The two don't necessarily correlate. Some of the Army folks I’ve know that left college with a 4.0 GPA were in fact, some of the least intellectually curious people I've ever met. This is but an individual trait and yes; some people actually believe that ignorance is bliss. Overall I think the NCO Corps has developed into a well oiled machine thanks in no small part to her NCOs.

4. I sincerely appreciate your time in the Army and your desire to improve life for our Soldiers !

@1. OK, fair enough.

@2. I found this to be true in the non-combat arms MOS's but not so much in combat arms. There are various reasons for this but time is the biggest.

@3. Yes, I have known people who can only recite what they've learned from books. IMO, some of the least intellectual curious people are people who have spent their whole lives on college campuses.

Please understand, I don't want to see the NCO corps turn into a intellectual society. I want to see scholarly thought become just one more tool that the NCO can use. You wrote you think the NCO Corps has become a well oiled machine, I'll go one step further and say the US Army has become a well oiled machine, and that the NCO Corps has played the biggest part in this. Today's Army is more dangerous (to our enemies) than it has been in all its history. I don't know what percentage of our soldiers have served in combat, but I assume that its over 70%?

I look at education as being something that can make a person better. Just as the Army can make someone better. I would also like to see some SNCOs and Junior Officers spend some time as interns at major corporations. Spending some time managing and coordinating in corporate America would give the leader another experience at which to view leadership. I'm thinking about some logistics NCO's running a UPS or GM supply chain for 6 months. Or how about some infantry NCO's doing "ride alongs" with NYC or Detroit Police officers for a few months? I'm talking about creating an even more well rounded NCO. They could also spend time working in a NGO as well.

So besides being technically and tactically proficient, and being physically fit, scholarly thought now becomes part of personal and professional development. This might sound hokey, but I'd like see NCOs forming book clubs to discuss COIN books. So its more than just promotion points, its adding another "weapon" to the arsenal.

@4. Thank you for the kind words.

-----------------

After thinking about and discussing my program, I am starting to see it as a bad idea. Or at least, not very feasible. If someone wants to go to school while going on deployments every few years, they could join the NG or AR. Besides this, I think it will create a wedge between program soldiers and non-program soldiers. Managing these soldiers will be somewhat difficult too.

I had a PL who went away for a few years to finish his degree. There should be similar programs for NCO's. If anyone deserves to take a break and exercise the mind for a year or two, its the NCO with 10 years, not the private after 1 deployment.
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Old 01-10-2008   #18
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It sounded a little like something I believe was called MECEP? Military enlistment commissiong mumble program? The goal being to promote and educate NCO's to officer rank by sending them to school for some period of time.
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Old 01-10-2008   #19
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Default I'll throw in my 3 cents...

as in a previous life I was a crusty NCO on active service with the Marines.

Stan makes the excellent point that often the longevity of service is directly proportional to the NCO's understanding of the service. I'm not too sure about the "system" part; some folks spend a career not figuring out the system, or sometimes the seeming lack thereof!

Ratzel has a great point that it is a Human Capital Investment Strategy issue.

I believe there is a consensus that education credentials are not necessarily an indicator of useful miltary skill sets.

I guess you have to more clearly define "education" as it relates to the betterment of the NCO, and thus the increased value of the NCO to the service. They are engaged in what I consider not a “normal” job, in that there is nothing that even approaches the role of the NCO in the civilian world.

I am sure that the existing PME curricula of both the Army and Marines could be tweaked to provide more "education" but I would lean heavily towards a military education vice the liberal arts type traditionally found in colleges and universities, perhaps something along the lines of a watered down version of West Point. By that I mean less emphasis on engineering and more on the military arts.

Soon after I pinned on Sergeant (the second time ), in addition to the mandated NCO PME, I had completed the Officer's Basic Course through correspondence. As a Staff Sergeant I completed the Amphibious Warfare Non-Resident Course (then MCCDC decided to change it so I just had to take it again as a Gunny). I certainly had a strong intellectual curiosity but that was not always backed up by my oft times woeful intellectual ability.

I feel the NCO who is highly aware of his/her position in the grander scheme of the unique profession they have chosen should prove to be better leaders.

Then again, to paraphrase an old adage: you can lead a troop to school, but you can't always make him think.
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Old 03-22-2008   #20
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If we agree that the education process offers valuable tools to NCOs, we must first address the issue of whether or not the NCO community values formal education enough. If you surveyed NCOs, you'd get some who valued it for the potential, and some who valued it only because commissioned officers get it via PME and NCOs don't for the most part. The third and biggest group would hold it at arm's length, with suspicion. NCO's are, as a previous poster said, a "get 'er done" group whose bias for action and practicality are cornerstones of our battlefield success. The trick is opening a community-wide set of eyes to the potential of formal education.

Once NCOs as a group value formal education, the process becomes possible. The Marines are offering a tip of the hat to the intellectual abilities of NCOs -- in May, Marine Corps University is having a three-day conference at Quantico that is a mixture of professional, undergraduate and postgraduate level seminar, lecture and training. The kicker -- all expenses paid but senior officers and NCOs need not apply. Unless your name begins with "Corporal" or "Sergeant," you need to explain why you want to go.
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