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Building a NCO: Self-Assessment

J. D. Pendry



The first thing to do in operating as a leader is be honest with yourself.The problem is, there is much rhetoric in this business.There is not enough honesty with ourselves about just who we are and whether we are really perceived as [leaders] by our subordinates.An honest-to-God, soul-searching self evaluation is in order-and very difficult to do.I think this is the first vital step as one goes about the business of becoming a better leader. - Gen. William Livsey


Do you recall these comments from General von Steubon's prescription for NCOs? "a remarkable attention to every point of duty... an expertness in performing every part of the exercise... an ability to teach it... nor can a sergeant or corporal be said to be qualified who does not write and read in a tolerable manner."?Those comments speak to the knowledge and skills required of a noncommissioned officer.von Steubon's requirements for expertise, attention to duty, ability to teach and communication skills still exist.


The most difficult step you're going to take toward becoming a noncommissioned officer is completing a brutally honest self-assessment of your skills, knowledge, and attitudes, or as General Livsey put it, "An honest-to-god, soul-searching self evaluation...".It's a critical block to add because it's the only way you can identify and come to understand your strengths and weaknesses.Without a good understanding of those strengths and weaknesses, it's not possible to develop an approach to self-improvement, which is the purpose for a self-evaluation.


The roadblocks to an honest self-evaluation.


         Personal Integrity.If you have not yet developed the required degree of personal integrity we discussed in Setting the Foundation it will be difficult at best for you to conduct an honest self-assessment.The root of a self-assessment is providing yourself with candid and honest answers to questions about your competence.


         Rationalization.It's human nature for us to examine our weaknesses and then provide ourselves with a rational (at least in our minds) explanation for them.We've all done it.I can't count the number of times I tried to convince myself that I smoked because I enjoyed it before I finally gave it up.I rationalized away a weakness (not giving up a life threatening habit) instead of recognizing it as such and dealing with it.When you rationalize, you accept weaknesses instead of identifying and implementing steps to overcoming them.


Where to start.


First, to get you in an assessment frame of mind, assess how you stack up against von Steubon's requirements.


"a remarkable attention to every point of duty..."

This speaks to the Army's core value of Duty that relies on a solid foundation of self-discipline.Ask yourself the following questions:


         Can I be counted on to do what must be done without being reminded to do it?


         Do I do the boring and mundane duties with the same zeal as I do the exciting and challenging?


         Do I use the same preciseness and thoroughness performing harmless tasks as I use performing dangerous ones?


         Do I understand my obligations to my soldiers, unit and the army, and do I fulfill them with a sense of urgency?


         Am I willing to do what must be done and am I ready to accept the responsibility for and the consequences of doing what is right and necessary?


         Do I tell the truth as I see it to my soldiers and superiors even when the truth is not pleasant and does not offer the best picture of my unit or me?


"an expertness in performing every part of the exercise...";


General Omar Bradley captured the essence of von Steubon's thought when he said this:


"The noncommissioned officer wearing the chevron is supposed to be the best soldier in the platoon, and he is supposed to know how to perform all the duties expected of him.The American soldier expects his sergeant to be able to teach him how to do his job."


Soldiers look to noncommissioned officers as the expert.Ask yourself these questions:


         Am I proficient at all skill level 1 and 2 common tasks?


         Am I proficient in all my military occupational specialty (MOS) tasks?


         Am I proficient in performing all mission tasks that enable my unit to accomplish its mission essential tasks?


"an ability to teach it...";


Noncommissioned officers are the Army's principal trainers responsible for the most important aspect of training - which is training the individual soldier.Individual soldier training is the foundation for everything the Army does.No mission is possible without soldiers trained in individual skills.Ask yourself these questions:


         Do I know how to plan training?


         Do I know where to find training resources?


         Do I know how to prepare a training lesson plan?


         Do I know how to present training that is interesting and challenging?


"...nor can a sergeant or corporal be said to be qualified who does not write and read in a tolerable manner.";


Noncommissioned officers must possess good communication skills - written and oral.Ask yourself these questions:


         Can I give clear and concise instructions to small groups, orally and written?


         Can I communicate my thoughts to others in a clear, grammatically correct and logical manner?


         Can I write good performance counseling statements, award recommendations, and letters?


         Do I have difficulty reading and understanding Army regulations and training manuals?


Once you've warmed up by addressing Von Steubonís basic points of competency, it's time to move on to a more in depth, comprehensive self-assessment.


What follows is an excerpt of The NCO Guide, Army Training Circular (TC) 22-6, to use in assessing your overall leadership attitudes, knowledge, and skills.While doing your self-assessment, use the battle focused training method of assigning a T (for trained) to those areas you are proficient in, a P (for needs practice) to those in which you can get by, but really need more work to become proficient in, and a U (for untrained) in those areas where you lack competence to perform.†† You must always keep in mind however; that your assessment is only as good as you are honest with yourself.Don't forget about our human tendency to rationalize a weakness.Remember, this is your assessment and only you are privy to what is in it - make it honest.


In this suggested layout for recording your self-assessment, the attitudes, knowledge, and skills listed come directly from TC 22-6.I've chosen those applicable to Sergeants.There is only one change to these lists, but it's a significant one.Each attitude, knowledge or skill is listed in the form of a question.You must ask these tough questions of yourself.To answer them, rely on personal integrity.The line before each is where you record your T, P, or U.


Attitudes for all Noncommissioned Officers

Can I or Do I:††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

___ Enforce standards?

___ Set the example?

___ Accomplish the mission?

___ Take care of soldiers?

___ Be dedicated and selfless?

___ Accept responsibilities for self and subordinates?

___ Obey lawful orders?

___ Be honest and courageous?

___ Maintain physical and mental toughness?

___ Show competence and self-confidence?

___ Act fairly and equitably with subordinates?

___ Be loyal to the nation and Constitution?

___ Show initiative and self-motivation?




Skills - Team Leader/Sergeant

Can I, Do I Know?



___ Receive and interpret information from superiors and

††† subordinates?

___ Issue clear and concise oral orders to teams?

___ Write performance counseling statements?

___ Provide input on personnel actions affecting subordinates?

___ Participate in squad after action reviews?




___ Enforce Army standards of appearance and conduct?

___ Control and account for subordinates?

___ Lead and evaluate individual training?

___ Lead team in performance of collective tasks?

___ Supervise maintenance of equipment, living areas, and work

††† place?

___ Enforce the Army Safety Program?

___ Enforce the Army equal opportunity and sexual harassment

††† policies?



Teaching and Counseling:

___ Teach subordinates individual tasks for CTT?

___ Teach and coach MOS Skill level 1 tasks?

___ Teach subordinates common leader combat skills?

___ Teach subordinates performance oriented training?

___ Coach subordinates in proper execution of tasks.

___ Evaluate tasks to standards?

___ Provide feedback through performance counseling and team

††† AARs?



Soldier Team Development:

___ Develop team cohesion?

___ Foster loyalty and commitment?

___ Build spirit and confidence?

___ Instill discipline?

___ Take care of subordinates?

___ Lead team physical fitness training?

___ Develop and mentor subordinate NCOs?



Technical and Tactical Proficiency:

___ Qualify with weapon, train, and direct basic rifle

††† marksmanship?

___ Be proficient with crew served weapons and equipment?

___ Perform MOS Skill Levels 1 and 2 tasks to standard?

___ Perform common tasks skill levels 1 and 2 to standard?

___ Be proficient in land navigation and map reading?

___ UseMILES equipment?

___ Perform PMCS on individual and squad/section weapons and

††† equipment?

___ Train and lead team collective tasks?

___ Perform PMCS on individual and team weapons and equipment?



Decision Making:

___ Interpret information and make decisions affecting team

††† and team members?

___ Use problem solving process?

___ Use ethical decision making process?

___ Exercise initiative in tactical situations?




___ Plan team and individual training?

___ Use backward planning process?



Use of Available Systems:

___ Use and control automated systems at team/section levels?



Professional Ethics:

___ Lead by example?

___ Practice Professional Army Ethic?

___ Demonstrate high moral standards?




Knowledge - Team Leader/Sergeant


Can I, Do I Know?



___ Listening and watching principles?(FM 22-101)

___ Speaking principles?(TSP NCOES and USASMA RB 350-25)

___ Reading grade level 10.0?(TABE and AAR 621-5, AR 25-30)

___ Writing grade level 10.0?(TABE and AR 621-5)




___ Duties, responsibilities and authority of a SGT?(TC 22-

††† 6)

___ Wear and Appearance?(AR 670-1)

___ Drill and Ceremony?(FM 22-5)

___ Unit standing operating procedures?

___ Army training system and responsibilities of trainers?

††† (FM 25-100 and FM 25-101)

___ Equipment operator's manual?(TM 10 series)

___ Unit supply procedures?(AR 735 series)

___ Army Safety Program?(AR 385 series)

___ EO/sexual harassment policy?(AR 600-20)



Teaching and Counseling:

___ Common tasks Sill Levels 1?(STP 21-1 SMCT)

___ Tasks, conditions, and standards for individual tasks?

††† (Soldier's Manual)

___ Common leader combat skills?

___ Army training system and responsibilities of trainers?

††† (FM 25-100 and FM 25-101)

___ Performance counseling of individuals?(FM 22-101)

___ After action review techniques for teams?(FM 25-101)

___ Individual Training Evaluation Program?(AR 350-37)



Soldier-Team Development:

___ Concept of team building?(FM 22-102)

___ Principles of leadership?(FM 22-100)

___ Factors of leadership?(FM 22-100)

___ Human stress factors?(FM 22-100)

___ Customs and traditions of unit?

___ Promotion criteria through sergeant?(AR 600-200)

___ Prerequisites for PLDC?(AR 351-1)

___ Company level disciplinary actions?(UCMJ)

___ Physical fitness training?(FM 21-20)



Technical and Tactical Proficiency:

___ Conduct basic rifle marksmanship for teams?

___ Operation, characteristics and employment of team weapons

††† and equipment?

___ MOS Skill levels 1 and 2 tasks and standards?(Soldier's

††† Manual)

___ Common Tasks Skill Levels 1 and 2?(STP 21-1 and STP 21-

††† 24)

___ Fundamentals of land navigation and map reading?(FM21-

††† 26)

___ Preventive measures against environmental health threats?

___ Operation of MILES?(FM 25-101)

___ Equipment operator's manual?(TM 10 series)

___ Team collective tasks?(ARTEP/AMTP)

___ Common leader combat skills?



Decision Making:

___ Problem solving process?(FM 22-100 and FM 22-101)

___ Ethical decision making process?(FM 22-100)




___ Planning principles?(FM 25-100)

___ Training schedules and event plans?(FM 25-101)

___ Squad training objectives?

___ Backward planning process?(FM 22-100)



Use of Available Systems:

___ Automated systems applicable to team/section?



Professional Ethics:

___ Professional Army Ethic?(FM 100-1)

___ Soldierly qualities?(FM 100-1)


To complete your self-assessment, you must create two more lists: Unit Specific Knowledge/Skills, Job Specific Knowledge/Skills.



After completing an honest and thorough self-assessment of your attitudes, knowledge, and skills, you have a better understanding of where you are on your journey to becoming a noncommissioned officer.Most importantly, you have identified your weaknesses and marked them as P for needs practice or U for untrained.Next, we'll focus on how to approach turning those Ps and Us into Ts for trained when we talk about Personal Battle Focus.


This is the second in a series of seven articles on NCO self-development. Some listed references may have changed since first publication. CSM (ret) J. D. Pendry is the Author of The Three Meter Zone: Common Sense Leadership for NCOs.



Copyright © James D. Pendry, 1999, All Rights Reserved