How I learned not to be such a shit-head.
Published on April 15, 2004 By greywar In Personal Relationships



     As you may have gleaned from my earlier articles I am a Sergeant in the U.S. Army. I have been on active duty for going on 13 years and have nearly a decade of that spent as a Non-Commisioned Officer (NCO).

     When I joined the Army in 1992 the military was in a period of heavy transition from the Reagan/Bush years and the drawdown into the Clinton/Post Desert Storm years. During this timeframe the cultural changes in the Army were nothing less than astonishing. Women were being heavily integrated into more support roles and also into combat units who had never had a woman assigned at all even in those support roles. President Clinton (who I supported at the time) was heavily embroiled in a dispute with GEN Colin Powell over the role of gays in the military (which I still support). The Aberdeen Proving Grounds scandals had ripped the world of Basic Training wide open for intense scrutiny. While many of these things changed the modern military forever one thing remained constant : the paternal role of the NCO.

     In a career field where most of your new "hires" are straight out of high school, away from home for the first time, and subjected to stress factors like carrying live weaponry; the need for emotional support is tremendous even if the Army won't put it in those terms (policy writers mainly being men after all, we have to protect our gruff image). The Army likes to refer to this under the general term "Leadership". The reality of it is that while any schmuck can wear the chevrons of a sergeant, a *good* NCO knows when they must also take on the roles of parent, sibling, coach, and somtimes even just "buddy". These skills are not really possible to teach or train, either you have them or you don't. Thankfully due to simple statistical distribution there are usually one or more of these type of folks in any given unit. 

     My first father figure after leaving home was SSG Stoneroad, a 35 year old man who had been an Signal Corps NCO first but had re-enlisted to become a Korean interrogator (MOS 97E for those who want to know). While Stoney may not have been a paragon of Judeo-christian morality at the time, (his first words to me were "See all these chicks in our class? Well by the end of the year I am gonna do them all.") he did serve a vital role in our class. Most of the enlisted men were 20 years old or less as the college degree push had only recently begun. For the most part we had never really been anywhere or done anything. I fit this description to a "T".

     I was newly married, in the Army for all of 10 weeks, in a new state, in a foreign language class, and still trying to figure out what the fuck I had gotten myself into. Emotionally I could not have been more vulnerable. I think the same went for most of the group. Some of us had chronic woman problems, others financial difficulty, and still others (me) problems getting into the shape the Army wanted us in. SSG Stoneroad mentored us in all of these areas with careless ease. He knew just the right time to engage in witty, viscious, and usually homo-phobic locker room banter, when to sit and listen to your problems saying little, and when to just take you down to the beach, make you run like crazy until you were helpless, when to cuff you smartly on the head telling you to "Stop being a whiny bitch, suck it up and get your goat-smelling-ass back on track!". For the women reading this article you will simply have to take my word for it that this is *exactly* what young men need in their lives.

     All of us basically worshipped the ground that he levitated over. He ensured that this hero-worship continued throughout the duration of our time at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) by always leading from the front in areas that he knew he could excel in and wisely deferring to others when it was something he could not. Without this crass, talented, and caring NCO fully 50% of our class would not have graduated and gone on to the regular Army. He was that important.

     For the women in class he fulfilled a similar role but as the "older guy" that most girls feel the need to date at least once in their lives. He was a gentleman, always plugged into the local culture, treated them far better than any of the young bucks that were barking at their doors, and then left them just as gently with no trailing emotional baggage. They all learned something from him and the men all worshipped again at the altars of his obvious sexual prowess, suave demeanor, and superior relationship ability.

     In the end he was not a perfect man or a perfect NCO but his qualities far outshined his failings. (Additionally, he kept his promise nailing all the girls during that year and that has to count for something right? )

 

I miss that guy.

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Comments
on Apr 15, 2004
So, have you carried on his legacy? Are you that kind of NCO now? Without the girl-nailing aspect, of course!

I know what you mean about NCO's having to be a little bit of everything to their troops, especially the JEEP's. I have horror stories of nightmare troops...then again I have tales of kids that were just awesome.
on Apr 15, 2004
I have done what I can to follow what I consider the best parts of his example with varying degrees of sucess. He is not the only influence on what became my "leadership style" (ooh thats pretentious!!!! I love it!) but he was the first influence.
on Apr 15, 2004
Nah, I don't think it pretentious at all....everyone in a leadership position has their own 'style'.
on Apr 16, 2004
I just wanted to log on and say, "Fuck you, Dad."
But, honestly, SGT Greywar is one of the better supervisor's I've had to work for. He had been my immediate supervisor during a stint in our Orderly Room (read: Company office), and tried very hard to look out for me. He has also been the de facto technical supervisor for about 3 years now... Greywar is the type of soldier who is highly praised for his technical skill, but that's only one factor of soldiering and "Army leadership." He is more than adequate at most of the other aspects as well, excels in many of the interpersonal skills that he discussed in this article, actually... but I thought about this a bit yesterday (Thursday) when SSG Highlyaccentedspeech gave us a brief class on Leadership Principles.
It doesn't matter *what* you do well in the Army. If you do *something* well, well enough to get praise, you get promoted. It's as simple (and stupid) as that. No, it's worse than that: you can get promoted for having a (weak) pulse, in some MOSs (read: job fields). I'm going to take some of the thoughts I was already having, apply a good bit of what Greywar said here, and see what I come up with in regard to my "leadership" skills.
I could be in the same boat as Greywar: I'm fairly (chronically) out of shape, I have a fairly high degree of technical skill, and I lack in other areas of soldiering. Greywar is one of my role models for Sergeanting in the Army (STFU, Greywar's ego). I strive to be as technically proficient, and, yah, to be as good at taking care of soldiers.
on Apr 16, 2004
Ok.....pseudosoldier....you forgot to mention that "SGT Greywar" is in fact the biggest nerd walking around down there in hell right now. But you are too, kinda. OK. Yall are both nerds. But I still love both of yall : )
on Apr 16, 2004
One: I said, "STFU, Greywar's Ego."

Two: The above comment was in good fun, please don't freak out, James.

Three: After today's "Sergeant's Time Training," which was Infantry Squad tactics, I no longer feel tactically retarded. Not because it taught me a lot (it didn't), or because I'm some sort of non-pogue pogue soldier, but because of things like:
Squad leader taken out by a sniper. No one yells "sniper." (bad) Team leader takes over. (good) Alpha Team doesn't realize anyone is dead. (bad)
Team leader taken out by a sniper. The now-headless team continues march *past the body on the ground*. (do I have to put "bad" here?)
Soldiers asking me questions about material I already covered (but that always happens, right?).
on Apr 16, 2004
Wow, I am sorry I miseed it. You don't see train wrecks like that everyday.
on Apr 16, 2004
You would have easily been in the top 5 knowledgeable soldier group... and that includes our instructors. SSG Oldman was supposed to instruct (he would've been top knowledge dog, AFAIK), but he went to sick call instead. With the keys to 318. So they got 213. But it had concertina wire and sandbags in the back. (Thank ghod they offloaded that before we got in; we were packed like sardines.) We also had to start at a later time, as we had a PT test this morning... but you knew that. BTW, 1SG thinks he has 30 days to get the weigh/tape done, so it may or may not happen Monday, or Tuesday... or next week. Or never. You know how it is.
Ah, pseudosoldier is rambling again... that *never* happens.
on Apr 16, 2004
For the record, I dont think *any* of the fat kids got flagged either. I am still on the C-10 in any case.
on Apr 17, 2004
You know I still love you, Jer.
And everything is in good fun.
on Apr 17, 2004
Sergeanto Greywar......you are not fat.
on Apr 17, 2004
Just his head.
on Apr 21, 2004
Good point. I concur, SGT.
on Jul 07, 2004
Good old SSG Stoneroad. That guy got a few girls from outside your class, too. But I do know what you're talking about when it come to how he acted. We had a similar guy in Hawaii. One of the finest NCO's I've had a chance to work with, profesionally. Because of him, I made SGT later than the average golf, but I know I earned that promotion as a result of his pushing me towards the goals set before me. That of course was years before this new, "oh, you have a pulse and no disciplinary issues so get your ass to the board" system that we see so often nowadays.
on Aug 16, 2013

While he was just the amazingly awesome guy you described, having been a girl in that class... I have to say, he actually didn't meet that particular goal. LOL

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