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Roots and Bones

I completed Structured Self Development IV while deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. There is little I remember from that course, and I certainly do not believe it changed me at all. The course painted in very broad strokes the history of the U.S. Army, the history of the Corp of Noncommissioned Officers, the evolution of Army Leadership, and Multi-Branch Multi-National Joint Operations. Additionally, most of the information presented is now out-of-date. While a good steward should know the history and evolution of their chosen profession, completing Structured Self Development IV was not a life-changing experience for me. Although the course did not change me, I cannot say that I did not learn anything. The most important part of Structured Self Development IV was the history of our great Army and the importance and evolution of the Corp of Noncommissioned Officers.

Roots

Since the arrival of my first unit, I have always been taught and have committed to the memory of that unit’s history. Out of the many units that I have been assigned, none have emphasized the history of our Army or the Corps of Noncommissioned Officers. Sure, we all know it was forged when George Washington was appointed to command all the Continental forces against the British (U.S. Army Center of Military History, 2022). However, most cannot tell you how we evolved from organized militias to the global powerhouse we are today. Nor can most tell you why our Army needed to evolve along the way. Structured Self Development IV provided me with the historical intricacies of our Army’s evolution.

Modus Vivendi

The gradual walk through history presented in this course fully illustrated the importance of discipline, organization, and standardization. This course first introduced to me Baron von Steuben’s Blue Book. TC 7-22.7 (Headquarters, Department of the Army, 2020) states that “Von Steuben is often called the “Father of the NCO Corps” because the Blue Book described the role of the NCO as being more than an extension of the officer.” Von Steuben’s Blue Book was the first doctrinal publication of our Army (Headquarters, Department of the Army, 2020). It illustrated the importance of Noncommissioned Officers being subject matter experts and proficient trainers.

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Strong Bones

As our nation and our Army grew, so did our involvement in global affairs. Our nation’s involvement in these affairs shaped not only the structure of our force but also the Noncommissioned Officer’s role in the force. Noncommissioned Officer’s ranks and involvement rose and fell as our force swelled and depleted. Every new opposing force presented new challenges and new lessons. As technology evolved so did our training and tactics. The many nations our Army faced coupled with the various terrains we faced reinforces the simple truth that we must remain ready to always support anywhere. You never know who may be next or where they must be faced.

Repose in Life Equals Repose Forever

The importance of a strong Noncommissioned Officer Corps that stands as the backbone of the Army was recently been portrayed when Russia invaded Ukraine. Despite Russia having a larger force and much better resources, they have been met with great opposition from the citizens of Ukraine. This is largely in part to Russia’s lack of a Noncommissioned Officer Corp. A lack of Noncommissioned Officers equals poorly trained Soldiers who are not technically and tactically proficient. That is why Russia has not yet obtained an overwhelming tactical advantage over Ukraine. This is a lesson America’s Army has had to learn over time as well. That is also why our Professional Military Education continues to evolve. It is important!

Opportunity Missed

Completing Structured Self Development IV while deployed in an austere environment hindered my ability to learn and thirst for presented knowledge. I was short on both time and patience. I will admit it was something I just wanted to complete so I could be finished with it. Amidst long patrols, Sergeant of the Guard shifts, rotations to a nearby Observation Post, rotations to our Combat Outpost, and partnered operations with the Afghanistan National Army, I just wanted to rest. However, the Army was changing, and I felt that I must change with it or be left behind by my peers. So, I did what I felt I must and clicked next for as long as I could each day. NCO’s make it happen!

Conclusion

Reflecting on my experiences in Structured Self Development IV has enabled me to find the value of that course and notice an opportunity I did not fully embrace. This opportunity showed me where the roots of my beloved Corp are seeded. An opportunity that exposed the importance of what I owe my Soldiers and what I must become to ensure their success. Knowing the history of where our Army began, how it evolved through conflicts, and how the Noncommissioned Officers were pivotal in the determination of success vs failure is crucial to understanding the importance of what we must do as Noncommissioned Officers. We must relentlessly train our subordinates to become proficient in their crafts to ensure their survival because they will soon stand in our place keeping the Army’s backbone strong.

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