Living the Creed in Whatever You Do
"No one is more professional than I. I am a noncommissioned officer, a leader of Soldiers."
I memorized the NCO Creed as I was preparing for promotion to Corporal in the Texas State Guard several years ago. The NCO Creed made an impact on me, and its not because it changed who I was. I think most of the statements in the creed are things I already believed or was already doing. But it codified the ideals of who I, as a leader needed to be, and gave me the standard to live up to. NCOs carry a tremendous amount of the weight of leadership in the military, and the responsibilities inherent in that leadership is what makes the military work. The backbone of the military.
I was working with a unit commander recently planning for their component's transition from the UCP combat uniform to the OCP uniform. We had several calls together to discuss updating patches and other things, and I was humbled to be consulted and included in this discussion. On our third or fourth call, this officer told me that he heard that I was a Sergeant in the Texas State Guard, and I confirmed. He said "Well that makes sense. It explains your professionalism and expertise in what you do." To date, that might be biggest compliment I have received in over 8 years of military service. That an officer would recognize and acknowledge to me that I am living up to my creed as an NCO means the world to me.
The NCO Creed isn't something we put on and take off like a uniform; it is WHO WE ARE at all times, and in all things. In my business its a little easier to be an NCO at all times because all of my customers are military. But I see all of my customers as "my soldiers", and I take on the responsibility of seeing to their welfare, communicating consistently, never leaving them uniformed, and placing their needs above my own. I see it as my responsibility to train and educate new service members in the proper wear and appearance of the uniform. When a new soldier puts that uniform on and goes to their first drill, whether anyone else recognizes it or not, they are not only representing their State Defense Force and uniformed service in general, they are representing State Defense Supply. If they got to drill looking like a soup-sandwich, I own some responsibility for not having done my job correctly. I want my customers to feel confident that when they get a uniform from me, they are squared away from the start. That's why I assemble and hand-pack every uniform that leaves this store. It's my mission to ship out inspection-ready uniforms.
As an NCO, I am a trainer. Every NCO's task is to raise up the next generation of military leaders, and we do that through training. Training can be direct instruction, but it is also correct modeling for our subordinates. Junior enlisted (and junior officers, for that matter) see the example that we set just in how we present ourselves, how we talk to others, and our knowledge. An NCO that doesn't exceed standards in everything they do is an ineffective leader because they are demonstrating that just doing the minimum is ok, or worse, that substandard performance is acceptable. We don't have to be the expert in everything, but we need to develop exceptional knowledge and skills in our key areas of concern.
My key area of concern is uniforms, and not just because I run a uniform store. I took it upon myself to become as knowledgeable about uniforms as I could way before I ever endeavored to open my business. When I was in the ROTC program at the University of Texas, my NCOIC was MSG Larry Lard. This guy made such a huge impression on me in my two years in the program there. Every Monday morning, before PT, we would walk to his office with 5 uniforms still in their dry-cleaning bags, and two pairs of boots, freshly spit-shined. When he put those uniforms on, I swear the creases in the front of his trouser legs were sharp enough to slice tomatoes on. And his boots were so polished, you could shave in the reflection. He set an example for me that still motivates me. I don't remember a word he ever said to me, but the image of him in uniform and the pride he took in how that uniform looked cast in titanium for me the importance of how uniforms are worn. I am motivated to be that example for all of my soldiers, and that includes my customers.
The NCO Creed extends beyond my military service. In civilian life, I am still an NCO. I listen to my superiors and learn whatever I can to improve myself, I conduct my self professionally, I pass my knowledge on to my subordinates, I try to be a role model for all around me (not just below me), and I try, whenever possible, to put other's needs above my own. This isn't a humble brag, its the standard I strive for. And although I'm never perfect in living the Creed, I always try to learn from it when I fail.