Category Archives: By Example

By Example: Army education system makes NCOs ‘certified in what we do’

NCO Journal

This story is part of a periodic NCO Journal feature that takes a closer look at an Army award in an NCO’s career. This month we focus on the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon.


Staff Sgt. Sony Merus grew up in Delray Beach, Fla., the son of Haitian immigrants. He joined the Army just after his 18th birthday in July 2005. Like many Soldiers, he thought he would soon be getting out and going to college. But a 15-month deployment to Iraq beginning in September 2007 changed his perspective on life and the Army. He is now a small group leader for the 35F Intelligence Analyst Advanced Leader Course at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence NCO Academy at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. Merus was named the NCO of the Year for the 1st Armored Division in 2010, and in January, he was named Instructor of the Year at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence.

Why did you decide to join the Army and why have you continued to serve?

I joined the Army initially for the college money, like most people do. I was still in high school and unsure of what I wanted to do. Once I got in, I was deployed, and those deployments kind of change you in terms of making you grow up fast. The responsibility that was placed on me during that deployment — it felt good, knowing that I can impact people below and above me and the mission the Army is trying to accomplish. It was a 15-month deployment. It was long, and it sucked. But at the same time, I learned a lot from it about myself and what I wanted to do. It felt right to stay in the Army.

How does the NCOPD ribbon showcase the role of NCOs?

The ribbon is given after you complete a training requirement through an NCO Education System school. I think it speaks to the military expertise and stewardship of the profession. The schools’ awarding the NCOPD ribbon is definitely a part of professionalizing the force because it means, now that you are a graduate of WLC or ALC, you have been equipped with the tools to go out and lead Soldiers as well as accomplish the mission. It represents that we are professionals; we are certified in what we do.

Talk about your role in helping others earn the ribbon.

As a small group leader, I’m that individual they have to get through before they can get there. I have to make sure they meet that requirement to be certified as a professional. I’m not at the Warrior Leader Course level, where it starts for NCO training. I’m right at the mid-level, which I think has a big impact. Everyone has to go through ALC to become a senior NCO. So I’m right there at that crossroads, and I think that has a big impact on the military. We want to make sure everyone is certified in their job.

Do you remember when you first received the NCOPD ribbon and what it meant to you?

Yes, I received mine after WLC in 2009 at the 7th Army NCO Academy in Grafenwöhr, Germany. It was a 30-day resident course. I learned a lot. I was already an E-5 and had already completed one deployment as an NCO with Soldiers underneath me. But I still was able to learn, not only from the SGLs there, but from my peers as well. I graduated on the commandant’s list, got the ribbon, everything was good. But after getting back to my unit, the realization hit — “Now Sgt. Merus has the NCOPD ribbon. The bar has been raised.” The Army is saying, now you have been certified. When people see it, they know you’ve been through the NCO Academy; you’ve been equipped with the tools. So now you have to go out and execute.  It became reality at that point: OK, I have to take this seriously; I can’t be that guy just joking around. I have to take this NCO business seriously.

How did you choose your MOS?

I had a good recruiter; he was good at selling things. I had no focus on what I wanted to do. But he brought up the intelligence analyst, said it was like the James Bond of the military and showed me a cool video of intel guys running around the forest with their laptops and communicating with satellites. Looking back, it’s all corny. But it definitely had an impact on me back then, and I thought that’s something I want to do. Once I got in and saw what I was going to do, I thought, “Wow, this is some very important stuff.”

What roles have NCOs played in your professional development?

I’m a product of NCOs, officers and warrant officers. But NCOs have had that immediate impact. I remember being a young private in Germany — doing those dumb things privates do — and my NCO was always there to put me back in line. He knew I was going to make mistakes, and he was there to make sure I paid for it, but also to build me back up.

What advice would you give to junior NCOs?

During my time here at the academy, one thing I see a lot of NCOs struggle with is personal courage to make those tough decisions, specifically when addressing their peers when dealing with an issue. A lot of people shy away from it; they just don’t want to be that guy or gal who is going to make that unpopular decision. It’s hard to say, “Hey, I know you are having fun and enjoying what you’re doing, but it’s wrong.” A lot of people shy away from that. The advice I give is, there comes a time in every NCO’s career when you have to make that unpopular decision or that difficult decision, but it’s the right decision. It’s going to take personal courage, but that’s expected of you. You’re charged with enforcing the standard and making sure things are done right.

What is good leadership?

I think a good leader is one who not only shows up when things go right, when everything works out fine, but is also there when things go bad to take responsibility and own up. You need to be there with that team to help them through whatever they’re going through.

By Example: The Army ‘raised me right’

NCO Journal

First Sgt. Jack Essig is the first sergeant for the rear detachment company, Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, Ky. In 1996, Essig joined the Army from his hometown of Cranston, R.I. He volunteers as a coach for football, baseball and basketball, and during the past five years, has logged more than 500 volunteer hours. Essig has also deployed four times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

First Sgt. Jack Essig (left) conducts a First Responder Course at Fort Campbell, Ky. (Photo courtesy of 1st Sgt. Jack Essig)
First Sgt. Jack Essig (left) conducts a First Responder Course at Fort Campbell, Ky. (Photo courtesy of 1st Sgt. Jack Essig)

Why did you join the Army?
I grew up in not such a good neighborhood. A lot of my friends and a lot of my seniors weren’t the best examples, and I knew I had to get away from my hometown. The Army was the best route. College wasn’t really an option because of financial reasons, and I knew the Army paid for schooling. My initial intent was to get a degree and get out. But here I am, 16 years later.

Why have you continued to serve as an NCO?
It’s made me a better man. It’s raised me right. It’s a career. I have friends who spent four years in college and are still scrounging for jobs 10 or 15 years later. As I excelled in the military, my best choice was to stay.

How have NCOs helped you in your career?
During my career, I’ve noticed everyone has his or her own leadership style. I’ve tried to pull out the positives, use them and put them in my kit bag as I’ve progressed through the ranks. Even poor leadership has shown me the right way of doing things, because I knew if and when I reached that rank, I wouldn’t do those things.

What would you like to see more NCOs do?
The Army has gotten away from sergeants’ time. I would like to see more NCOs implement that. It’s up to us to find the time and to make it mandatory training time. Any training is good because it makes a Soldier well-rounded and improves everything they do. 

How do you lead your Soldiers?
I try to do what they have to do. I always try to set the right example for them. If I’m not bogged down by additional duties as a first sergeant, I’ll be out there sweeping floors, checking vehicles for preventative maintenance or any Soldier tasks. I’m always right there with them to show them a better way from my experience or an easier way of doing the task. I always push on my guys to get a college degree, volunteer in the local community and show genuine character. I’ll pull my Soldiers into my office, sit them down and see how everything is going — just basically let them know I’m looking out for them.

What advice do you have for junior NCOs?
I always tell my junior NCOs to take the job that no one wants and excel at it. I believe that’s helped me in my career. Some of the assignments I’ve had in my career, you wouldn’t want to sign up for them. But when you do them, and do them well, it shows diversity over your peers when you’re being looked at for promotion. 

How does your role help the Army as a whole?
We have 200 Soldiers staying in the rear detachment during this deployment. It’s a complex company, with medical personnel who aren’t deploying and Soldiers who are going to different bases or leaving the Army. It’s trying to do the Army business with the diversity of military occupational specialities. It’s providing Soldiers with all of the assets they need, with all of their different concerns. It’s also assisting with our forward element, which is downrange. Anything and everything with deploying, we assist with that process.

By Example: ‘Make sure they excel’

NCO Journal

Sgt. 1st Class Ezra Glover joined the Army at age 17 after growing up in Honolulu. He has served for more than 15 years and is currently the motor sergeant for a support element of the 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kan. Glover has deployed to Iraq three times and has earned the Parachutist, Air Assault and Combat Action Badges.

Why did you join the Army?
I joined the Army because I was curious. I didn’t plan on staying in the Army; I thought I would do it for three years, then go to college. Fifteen years later, I’m still in the Army. I love the Army. I love the institution, the way things fall into place, the discipline, the pride, the work. I strive for excellence and take advantage of every opportunity in the Army, whether it’s school, training, etc. You can’t get that anywhere.

Sgt. 1st Class Ezra Glover (front left) in formation during an event at Fort Riley, Kan. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. 1st Class Ezra Glover)
Sgt. 1st Class Ezra Glover (front left) in formation during an event at Fort Riley, Kan. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. 1st Class Ezra Glover)

I’ve been in 15 years and I’m going to stay as long as I can. I love it. I try to tell the Soldiers that. I don’t try to pressure them to be in the Army; I just try to explain, this is what the Army is. Where can you get this outside?

What role have NCOs played in your professional development?
NCOs played an important role. The way I am now is because of the leadership I had in the past: strict but fair; always lead from the front; always do the right thing. I try to instill that in the Soldiers: Even when no one is around, always be doing what you’re supposed to be doing. I had excellent leaders and NCOs throughout my past.

What makes a good NCO?
A good NCO is someone who provides purpose, direction, motivation. You need to ensure you know what your Soldiers are doing and that they’re doing the right thing.

How do you set the example for your Soldiers?
I set the example by enforcing the standards, making sure that I’m in the right uniform and I’m within the standards, and enforcing that with all my Soldiers by making on-the-spot corrections. I always support my Soldiers to go to school. I try to make sure they excel and better themselves.

What changes would you like to see Armywide?
Right now we’re doing the drawdown; I’d like to see the Army recruit at a higher standard. It’s starting to get better. We can make corrections, but it’s good to do some weeding out in the beginning.

How do you see NCOs rising to the challenge in your organization?
We’ve had some hurry-up promotions. I think now we need to start putting more emphasis on the NCO Development Program to make the NCO better. There are a lot of young NCOs out there who got promoted during the wars. Now we need to focus on NCO and Soldier DPs and showing them the standard.

How does your current job impact the Army?
We keep the Army moving. Everything from power generation to water, fuel, trucks, vehicles. I think it’s an important part of the Army. If we’re not there, nobody is moving.

What is good leadership?
Good leadership is not passing by the problem. Make sure you correct that problem when it happens. Leading from the front, ensuring that you’re tactically and technically proficient. Be a good communicator.

By Example: ‘Always be a leader’

NCO Journal

Staff Sgt. Andrew Dugger served eight and a half years with the Marines, deploying to Afghanistan after 9/11 and later to Iraq. He joined the Army to continue to work toward a military retirement. Since joining the Army in 2005, he has served as a recruiter, Master Resilience Trainer and in his primary occupational specialty as a 92W water treatment specialist.

How do you set the example for your Soldiers?
The best example I’m able to set is to do what I’m supposed to do and be where I’m supposed to be. My Soldiers are a reflection of me. Whatever I do, I know they are going to emulate that, whether it’s good or bad. So I always try to portray a positive image.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Dugger, assigned to A Company, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, inspects the tie down chains for potable water blivets Sept. 10 at Fort Drum, N.Y. (Photo by Spc. Candace Foster)
Staff Sgt. Andrew Dugger, assigned to A Company, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, inspects the tie down chains for potable water blivets Sept. 10 at Fort Drum, N.Y. (Photo by Spc. Candace Foster)

What advice do you pass onto your Soldiers?
I tell them that they have to gain as much knowledge as they can — as much as for themselves as for their Soldiers. I encourage them to go to as many military schools as they can and pursue civilian education. As leaders, they should never forget that they need to take care of their own careers. It’s too easy to get so caught up being a leader and taking care of your Soldiers’ careers that you forget to take care of your own. For example, you might be so caught up in maintaining your Soldiers’ records that you forget to take care of your own and, in the process, you might be passed up for promotion.

How has Army training helped you?
Army training has helped me develop as a leader by allowing me to go to a variety of military schools. The Army has also put me in a variety of challenging assignments, allowing me to gain knowledge and a variety of different skill sets. On recruiting duty, it got me to talk to people in different ways. In Master Resilience Training, it gave me the big picture and how to address those situations by having a positive outlook.

How have other NCOs helped your career?
When I first came into the Army, I came in as an E-5. Staff Sgt. Martin had told me to learn as much as I can about the Army regulations and live the NCO Creed. Another, Sgt. 1st Class Teleforo, told me to always be who I say I am. NCOs like that are always pushing you to do better and be better than who you are.

What would you like to see adopted in the Army?
I would like to see the Army use more drill and ceremony. It shows that Soldiers are capable of a variety of tasks and gives NCOs the opportunity to have a sense of command and control over their element. If Soldiers have an understanding of obedience to orders, that allows new NCOs to become comfortable giving commands and seeing those commands executed. It builds and shows the discipline of the unit. But most of all, it shows a sense of pride in the unit.

What advice do you have for other NCOs?
A lot of NCOs might focus on the Soldier who’s doing the wrong thing. Though you have to take care of the wayward Soldiers, you also have to focus on commending the Soldiers who deserve it. Always be who you say you are. Always be a leader of Soldiers. Always set the standard and be that standard-bearer. Know that whatever we do as NCOs, someone is watching us; whatever we’re displaying, that’s what our Soldiers will see. So it’s important to always maintain that positive image. If you’re a noncommissioned officer, then that’s who you are — you’re a leader. We should always lead by example.