'Stagnant NCOs' hurt morale, readiness, Soldiers tell Dailey
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'Stagnant NCOs' hurt morale, readiness, Soldiers tell Dailey
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Army News Service) -- The Army has a lock on the
world's best leaders when it comes to noncommissioned officers, or NCOs. But within
their ranks, there are an unacceptably large number who are "stagnant," Sgt. 1st Class
Matt Torres told Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey.

He and other NCOs spoke at the chief of staff of the Army-sponsored
Noncommissioned Officer Solarium II, held at the U.S. Army Command and General
Staff College.

Torres serves with the U.S. Army Reserve Command on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
He has served with active and Reserve Soldiers for 13 years and said he has seen
stagnant Soldiers in all components and all ranks. But since this solarium is about
NCOs, he said that's who they're focusing on.

STAGNANT NCO DEFINED
A stagnant NCO is one who is not taking the initiative to improve himself professionally
and is not going out of his way to help other Soldiers, Torres said.

Once some NCOs reach the 10-year mark, about halfway to retirement, "they're at the
point in their career where they say, 'you know what, I've given enough to the military,
now I'm going to sit back and chill. I'm going to take up this position until it's time for
me to retire,'" he said.

The current system is structured to enable this to happen, Torres said. Once staff
sergeants reach their 10-year mark, they can re-enlist indefinitely to stay until
retirement. It's similar to what civilians refer to as having tenure.

The importance of a re-enlistment, he said, is to give commanders a point in time where
they can, if need be, "bar a Soldier from continued service" by denying re-enlistment.

One small step to reducing stagnation, Torres said, is to require Soldiers to re-enlist up
to their 12-year mark.

Another thing that would help, he said, is getting senior leadership more involved in
assessing the potential of NCOs for further service. Leaders need to say: "'If you can't
fight and win, then I don't want you on the team.' We need to call them out."

With the Army drawing down from 490,000 to 450,000, Torres said the problem of
stagnation is magnified, with fewer Soldiers expected to do more with less. Since NCOs
are not only expected to lead junior Soldiers but also mentor officers, having one who is
stagnant - and does just the bare minimum to get by - creates low morale.

Dailey said he agrees with Torres and other NCOs who called out stagnant NCOs and
said he'd present recommendations to the Army's chief of staff.

Readiness is the chief's No. 1 priority and Dailey translates that as the "the ability to
fight and win when called to do so." There's no room in the Army for those who
stagnate, he said, by doing the bare minimum to pass the physical fitness test and
refusing to attend leadership courses.

Three in 10 Soldiers already have permanent profiles and that, coupled with those who
are stagnant, damages morale and torpedoes readiness, Dailey said.
IMPORTANCE OF COUNSELING
Looking out for the growth and welfare of one's Soldiers is a sign of a good NCO - one
who is not stagnant. Counseling plays a major part in that effort, said Sgt. 1st Class
Matthew Scherbinski, Headquarters, 4th Infantry Division on Fort Carson, Colorado.

"When someone says, 'I just got counseled,' people think it means you did something
wrong," Scherbinski said.

Unfortunately, that assumption came about because often, the only time Soldiers E-4
and below got counseled, is when they screwed up, he said.

Counseling should be something that's a set requirement for NCOs to do and should
focus on the positive as well as the negative, he said. Junior Soldiers need that
feedback and NCOs need to know how well their troops are doing to provide
constructive coaching.

There's no mechanism in place to do that, he added. "It's hit or miss," with some units
requiring counseling for junior Soldiers and not for others.

For example, in Scherbinski's case, he said he was never once counseled as a junior
enlisted.

On the other hand, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Hull, 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological,
Nuclear, Explosives Command on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, said he always
received formal monthly counseling as a junior enlisted.

Dailey said he wholeheartedly agreed with everyone's feedback on stagnation and
counseling and he said this solarium itself was a kind of professional development
counseling he and the chief were receiving from them.

Dailey agreed that "we're terrible at documenting counseling. Counseling is serious
business and it's not getting the attention it deserves."

He promised to take their input to the chief.
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