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This informative essay will introduce and break down the responsibilities of a Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) and their legal obligations toward a Soldier and the Army as a whole. An NCO is a leader, appointed above lower enlisted Soldiers to provide training and mentorship to prepare them to become future leaders of the Army. NCOs will sometimes branch off into different areas, whether it is an instructor or drill Sergeant who trained incoming and seasoned Soldiers directly. This, however, comes with legal responsibilities, which are governed by the Army and can sometimes land an NCO in a predicament if violated.

What is duty? This is the legal and moral obligation of an NCO, which is always expected to be upheld. NCOs are considered the backbone of the Army with that comes vast responsibilities and expectations. For example, the new private with little to no experience will be looking for guidance from an NCO, and if that NCO fails to provide said guidance this private will end up misled if not molded. As an NCO, one is expected to lead, by taking appropriate actions to accomplish the mission. If unclear orders are given, an NCO should ensure that he or she seeks further clarification before executing the same to cover oneself. Oftentimes an NCO is directed to do something that may have been legally and ethically immoral but due to the chain of command, some may feel the need to execute and not question. However, as a Noncommissioned Officer, whether it may be a young Corporal, you must exercise personal courage and question, questionable orders to ensure your safety. As an NCO, your position comes with a few duties, which are specified, directed, and implied. Specified duties are related to one’s job, such directives are as follows: Uniform Code of Military Justice, Army Regulations, and Department of the Army (General Orders). Most of which can be found in AR 600-20 and should be referred to if ever in doubt. Directed duties are either given orally or written by your platoon sergeant or higher. This can range anywhere from simply monitoring the cleaning of the line to taking charge of quarters (CQ) and staff duty. Implied duties are where commonsense plays its part. This will support a specified duty, where instructions are given but implied tasks are not stated in those instructions. For example, you are the NCO tasked with prepping the vehicle for Sergeant Time training (STT). You were told to ensure supplies needed for this training are loaded prior to the day of training; it would be an implied task to have water, MREs, CLS supplies, and things that are essential to the training even though your instructions may have been vague. Implied duties will give you an insight into the type of NCO you have, his or her ability to take initiative, think on one’s feet, have moral character, and be responsible.

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As a Noncommissioned Officer, you are responsible and accountable for your actions and that of your Soldiers. You are obligated to the Army, your unit, and the Soldier’s success. You are expected to be proficient at your job and possess the ability to train and guide effectively to create cohesion, which will see the success and development of your Soldiers and unit’s intent. Even though Soldiers are responsible for their own personal conduct, it also falls on us NCOs to enforce and ensure that Soldiers are adhering to and enforcing this unto their peers. Leaders are expected to lead and as such must provide clear and concise information to their Soldiers regarding their responsibilities and required contributions as a member of the team.

NCOs will find themselves working hand in hand with Officers to delegate and ensure that the job is done in a timely manner. Timeline is everything and it is the NCO’s responsibility to ensure that timelines are being met with little to no hiccups. Command Authority and General Military Authority are two basic types of authority found in the Army. Command Authority is the authority leaders have over soldiers by virtue of rank or assignment. Command authority originates with the President and may be supplemented by law or regulation. Even though it is called “command” authority, it is not limited to officers – you have command authority inherent in your leadership position as a tank commander or team leader, for example. Noncommissioned officers’ command authority is inherent in the job by virtue of their position to direct or control soldiers. Therefore, you may have two Staff Sergeants (SSG) but one is slotted in a Sergeant First Class (E7) position, which eventually enables him to command authority over the other SSG. General military authority is authority extended to all soldiers to take action and act in the absence of a unit leader or other designated authority. It originates in oaths of office, law, rank structure, traditions, and regulations. This broad-based authority also allows leaders to take appropriate corrective actions whenever a member of any armed service, anywhere, commits an act involving a breach of good order or discipline. For example, Soldier disobeyed a direct order given to him by an NCO, depending on the severity and repetitiveness of the Soldier’s action the NCO can recommend further administrative actions/corrective training (for ex. Counseling or Article 15 under UCMJ).

As a leader, it is essential that you maintain a counseling paper trail so in the event you recommend punitive actions against a Soldier, you have the necessary paperwork to back up your reason. FM 27-1, Chapter 7, also provides guidance to commanders on corrective training. A noncommissioned officer cannot apply a non-judicial punishment on a Soldier (such as an Article 15 or extra duty), he or she can only make the recommendation, but in the end, it is up to the commander’s discretion to act and finalize base on the evidence provided. The term “Smoked” used to be a form of corrective training but is no longer allowed (according to AR 600-20). As the saying goes “The punishment must fit the crime”, this simply means that you cannot punish a Soldier for being late by giving him or her extra duty. You should, however, provide on-the-spot corrections or verbal warning to ensure tardiness and deficiency is corrected. If this behavior persists then you recommend further corrective training. Overall, the role of a noncommissioned officer is very vital to the success of the Army and should be treated as such. It takes patience, dedication, intellect, and willingness to serve in the capacity of a noncommissioned officer. As an NCO, you must ensure you are in accordance with regulations because regulations do change, and it is highly recommended that one stay abreast of this to provide knowledge and support, and operate as an effective leader.

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