Quotes - NCOs (page 1)

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We have good corporals and sergeants, and some good lieutenants and captains, and those are far more important than good generals. - General William Tecumseh Sherman


What was expected of a Sergeant-Major in the XVIIIth century is disclosed by the following from Simes' "Military Course" (1777): "He should be a man of real merit, a complete Sergeant and a good scholar, sensible and agreeable in conversation, in order to attract the eye of the N.C.O's.; he should be a person who has discovered an early genius for discipline; he must be ready with his pen." - Major T.J. Edwards, "The Sergeant-Major", Journal of the Royal United Service Institute, Vol LXXIV, February to November, 1929


To a significant degree, the social barrier between officer and enlisted man, and between sergeant and private, exists to enable the superior to send his men into mortal danger and to shield him from the inevitable guilt associated with their deaths. For even the best leaders will make some mistakes that will weigh forever upon their consciences. Just as any good coach can analyze his conduct of even a winning game and see where he could have done better, so does every good combat leader think, at some level, that if he had just done something different these men - these men he loved like sons and brothers - might not have died. - Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, On Killing; The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Little, Brown and Company, 1995


The best of all lessons is example and before attempting to awaken the soul of the soldier to noble sentiments it is necessary for us to have inculcated these sentiments into the soul of his non-commissioned officers. - Captain Constatin, "La Confience: Essai de Psychologie Militaire", quoted in Captain J.F.C. Fuller, Training Soldiers for War, 1914


If the man is of a stubborn nature, he must be played like a trout; we must not attempt to jerk him out of his stubbornness, for our object is not to make him a craven but a fighter. "I'll make you, etc.," shouts an irate drill-sergeant, and the recruit throws down his rifle, and a Court-Martial entry for ever afterwards reminds him of his imperfections. If the man is excitable, he should not be checked again and again when his blood is up. "Now, then, Private X, how many times, etc.," is a phrase one continually hears on the drill-square; why not instead: "Number seven in the front rank slope your arms properly" . . . Or whatever it is. The continual shouting out of a man's name on the parade-ground is the surest way to give him a bad name, and the moral of this is that he may then just as well go and hang himself for all the use he will be to the service." - Captain J.F.C. Fuller, Training Soldiers for War, 1914


One great secret of discipline for officers and non-commissioned officers is for them to know how to make the most familiar intercourse with their men compatible with absolute authority; for if you attempt to keep up discipline by all in authority holding aloof from those under them, you will maintain discipline by fear, and not the true discipline inspired by confidence and affection. To quote Napier . . . . 'Who shall say that the British soldier can only be worked on by fear because he is insensible to honour? Shame on such a thought? Fear is a thing he is most insensible to.'" - Lieutenant-Colonel W. Clark, The Maintenance of Discipline, 43rd and 52nd Light Infantry Chronicle, 1894


Duty was duty: as a Warrant Officer, he was charged by the Secretary of State for War, in the name of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, to do his duty and to uphold and obey his orders. A woe betide any N.C.O. or man who didn't do the same! - Duncan MacNeil, Subaltern's Choice, 1974


BATMEN are officers' orderlies or body servants, and, as the officer is supposed to be the brain of the Army, it is easy to see how important a position these seemingly unimportant people hold in the military world.
        Blame in the Army is very much like the rings that are caused when a small boy throws a stone into a pond. Starting from the centre they spread outward and outward until they have covered the whole face of the pond. So it is with military life. Let the general's boots not be properly cleaned, or his shaving water not the right temperature, and the neglect or carelessness of his batman has its effect in every portion of the command. Starting off in the morning in an angry mood, the general strafes the battalion commanders, they pass it on with additions to the company commanders, who in their turn add a little and hand it on to the platoon sergeants. The sergeants beautify the language and hurl it at the corporals, and the corporals, having flavoured it still a little more, throw it at the privates, who look as if they were taking it all in, while all the time they are wondering when the parade will be dismissed and they can get away to things that have more appeal for them. On the other hand, let the general's shaving water be of the right temperature, or his boots shining and in a high state of polish, and everything is quiet and peaceful. - John Aye, Humour in the Army, 1932


He lined up his disreputable paladins in the darkness, and spoke --
        "Sergeant M'Nab, how many men are present?"
        "Eighteen, Sirr." The platoon had gone into action thirty-four strong.
        "How many men are deficient of an emergency ration? I can make a good guess, but you had better find out."
        Five minutes later the Sergeant reported. Cockerell's guess was correct. The British private has only one point of view about the portable property of the State. To him, as an individual, the sacred emergency ration is an unnecessary encumbrance, and the carrying thereof a "fatigue." Consequently, when engaged in battle one of the first (of many) things which he jettisons is this very ration. When all is over, he reports with unctuous solemnity that the provender in question has been blown out of his haversack by a shell. The Quartermaster-Sergeant writes it off as "lost owing to the exigencies of military service," and indents for another. - Ian Hay, All In It; "K(1)" Carries On, 1917


The objects in view in developing a soldierly spirit are to help the soldier to bear fatigue, privation, and danger cheerfully; to imbue him with a sense of honour; to give him confidence in his superiors and comrades; to increase his powers of initiative, of self-confidence, and of self-restraint; to train him to obey orders, or to act in the absence of orders for the advantage of his regiment under all conditions; to produce such a high degree of courage and disregard of self, that in the stress of battle he will use his brains and his weapons coolly and to tho best advantage I to impress upon him that, so long as he is physically capable of fighting, surrender to the enemy is a disgraceful act; and finally to teach him how to act in combination with his comrades in order to defeat the enemy. As soon as the recruit joins he should be brought under influences which will tend to produce and increase such a spirit, and it is the duty of all officers and non-commissioned officers to assist in the attainment of this object by their conversation and example. - Infantry Training (4 - Company Organization), London, 1914


Junior officers and NCOs who neglect to guide the thinking of their men are shirking a command responsibility. -- February 1955 Combat Forces Journal


"While it is difficult to say what a Sergeant-Major is, it is not difficult to say what he is not. First off, he is not an officer; he is a Master Warrant Officer, probably with between 15-20 years of service and with more professional Infantry training and expertise, not to mention experience, than anyone else in the company. Do not confuse what a CSM does with an officer's duties or responsibilities, he is not an officer and he does things, his things, in his own way. If the Company 2IC is absent then a Platoon Commander, not the CSM, should be tasked to replace him. As long as he does his duties properly and the company flourishes then fair enough: if not, then the Company Commander, RSM and Commanding Officer have a problem. Next, a CSM is not a clerk, bound to a desk with charts and orders. We have fine clerks, a CSM is not one of them, he is a mover and a shaker. He is out of the office, watching, looking, teaching, setting and maintaining standards. He delegates the office work and while supervising it, gets on with being seen and seeing things for himself. And lastly, a Sergeant Major is not just another player in the team, he is a key player, the pivot man, the experience base, the mover and the shaker - he is the Sergeant Major.


Anyone who has seen a good Company Commander and Sergeant-Major in operation together, be it in the garrison, or in the field - particularly in the field - has seen something special - the company clicks, things happen, people bounce, men respond, the team wins again and again. I do not know how to write it down but I do know that without a good Sergeant-Major you cannot have it and that is certain. - J.E.L. Gollner, Colonel, Director of Infantry, 1985


He spoke, "My name is Clifford Rafuse." Then, taking his swagger stick and touching the crown insignia on his arm, he would say, "I am a Sergeant-Major. You will not address me as Clifford, Cliff, Rafuse, sir, hey you, or any of the foul names you really think of me in your pea-sized brains. I am a Sergeant-Major - here, in the shower, in the latrine, in my drawers, in my pajamas, or when I am dead. I am, and always will be Sergeant-Major Rafuse to you. If you pumpkin-heads see me on the street twenty-five years from now- and most of you won't survive this training to live that long- I will still be addressed as Sergeant-Major by you. Do you understand that?" Then bellowing again, he demanded they scream an answer: "Yes, Sergeant-Major."
        He would then go on: "I'm not your mother; I won't tuck you in bed; and I won't be your pal. I will make you bleedin', sloppy, unwashed, useless, pudgy loafers who thought this army was a holiday camp into battle shape. I shall turn your pudgy asses into such shape that you will have muscles in your defecation. Some few of you who fooled your way through some little school may think you are smart and will think you will fool me because you know the ABC's! You will not fool me; you are not smart. And when I say "jump", you say "How high". When I say "defecate", you say "Yes, Sir, and what colour, Sir?. I shall make you baggy, civilian lot of unwashed, sloppy, buggers into cleaned, shined, well-spoken, and obedient battle-ready troops. Or.. you will suffer a fate and terror worse than heck.
        "Your Mother can't save you. Nobody is tougher than I am. I am tougher than any Kraut you ever encounter. Even the Padre is scared of me. I'll march you, drill you, train you, punish you, and toughen you into soldiers. Don't talk back; don't complain, even to the Padre; because my words will even bring tears to his eyes. Now tighten up those soft pudgy asses, pull in those sagging chins, and suck in those baggy guts. Hands by your sides with thumbs down the seams of those potato-bag looking trousers.
        "Like this," as he demonstrated, "and when you get that right, we'll take you ladies to a lovely King's breakfast of such quality you'll be glad when we let you work in our kitchen. Our next present to you slobs will be a visit to His Majesty's barber so as you can get that bleedin', mangled, lady-length, dirty, bug-infested civilian hairdo cut off. You will then, at least, not look like a bleedin' civilian, with a filthy mat on your head. Now fall out, ladies, and form up for the cookhouse. MARCH - quickly, before I lose my f...n' temper" - Sergeant-Major Rafuse' standard welcome to new recruits at Camp Aldershot, beginning around 1939.


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