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Does Enlisted Time Make An Officer A Better Leader?

Posted By Blackfive • [December 03, 2004]

Based on a few threads generated from some posts here, there has been discussion and many, many emails to me about the topic of the difference between Officers who have been prior Enlisted and those who have not.

I was a Sergeant before becoming an officer - more commonly known in the Army as a Mustang.  Many of the men that I served with would like to believe that I was a good leader based on my previous experience as an enlisted man.

I believe that this is not true.  Sure, my experiences in the enlisted side of the house gave me a lot of responsibility at a very young age and helped me to see how things SHOULD be done.  Most Officers that I've met who were previously enlisted, have been good leaders.  But they are the exception rather than the rule.

Officers spend approximately 30% or more of their careers in training and education.  They have the tools to lead and to do great work.  Some just don't have the capacity to execute leadership and mission accomplishment, though.

I've known Mustangs who were the worst officers in the service.  Some just became officers in order to stop painting rocks or pull KP.  I've known West Pointers who were absolutely terrible, too. 

There is no formula other than caring about your troops and doing the best job that you can - whether you are the Mess Hall Officer or a Ranger Commander.  Being a leader is like defending a hill top - there is never a finish line, never a time when you can sit there and look around and say "This defensive position is good enough".  Constant improvement and attention to the details of your unit's mission never stop.  Take care of your troops and they will take care of you.  Taking care of the troops also means kicking them in the ass when needed, but also patting them on the back when they deserve it, too.

Any job is what you make of it (military or civilian).  You can make it more than what it is if you want to...it's all up to you.  Some people, whether they had enlisted experience or not, just don't want to be the best that they can be.  They might care about their careers but they just don't care about their troops.  You all know someone like that.

No amount of Enlisted experience would ever change that.


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» Mustangs vs. West Point from fredschoeneman.com
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