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CSMs are Dirtbags

J. D. Pendry

When I was at Fort Riley, I once had to explain to a visiting Russian Major what a Sergeant Major did. I couldn't even do it in English. I didn't know. The Russians were very impressed with our NCO corps -- because they had nothing better to compare it to. But, most Sergeants Major I knew at the time were overweight, ROAD warrior dirt bags whose major skill was that they could spot an errant cigarette butt at 100 yards. - Attributed to First Lieutenant D.P in Soldiers for the Truth (SFTT) Newsletter article "NCO's in Today's Army", September 6, 2000.

It pains me to write this, but I have never had the benefit of having a "good" Command Sergeant Major (CSM). I have had good First Sergeants and good Company Commanders. I even had one pretty good Battalion Commander - but not a single "good" CSM. - Attributed to D.O.W. in SFTT article "Command Sergeants Major - have they become Enlisted Generals August 23, 2000?

SFTT posted three recent articles with comments degrading the NCO Corps and taking great care to specifically point out the sliminess of Sergeants Major and Command Sergeants Major. I wrote a response to the first one of August 23, 2000, posted it to my mailing list (Command Sergeants Major - Is There a Problem?) and provided the SFTT editor a copy.

"The battalion commander doesn't require an assistant NCO battalion commander or police call/paint coordinator." - LTC (ret) R. Zimmerman, Editor SFTT.

LTC (Ret) Zimmerman, plugged that gem into his own article on Sept 6, 2000 when he was describing a reorganization idea that turned first sergeants into "E9s" [his terminology] and done away with the battalion CSM. His argument had merit until he decided to toss in the love tap for CSMs. Such remarks give insight as to how a person thinks and possibly to their true motive. Makes me think he dreamed up a whole new organization just because he's not too fond of CSMs.

Do you want to know what is sad here? It's a dumber-than-a-box-of-rocks lieutenant and a former battalion commander operating on the same level when it comes to knowing or caring what a sergeant major or command sergeant major does - or can do for a unit. I'd be curious to know if the lieutenant knows what a lieutenant does. As for the former battalion commander, it's just depressing that he would make such a comment. I suggest a new organization for these out-of-the-box thinkers. It's comprised of 1 battalion commander and 700 lieutenants. That way, neither will be bothered with nasty NCOS, especially those, paint coordinating, cigarette butt spotting, dirt-bag sergeants major.

I'm curious. Do you reckon they are aware of the odds against an enlisted soldier ever becoming a sergeant major or command sergeant major? The odds are better at becoming a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl. How do you think that compares with the odds of an officer making it all the way up to uh - let's see - lieutenant, or even battalion command?

A soldier does not make it to those ranks without a proven performance record - a performance record consisting of many glowing performance evaluations written by officers. Here's another interesting tidbit for you to scratch down in your little green notebooks. By the time a soldier reaches the level of dirtbagdom or paint coordinatorship, he or she generally has more direct time with soldiers than the battalion commander has in the Army and the lieutenant has on earth. A good battalion commander can tap into that knowledge and experience and use it to the benefit of his or her unit. A good lieutenant has sense enough to try to learn everything he or she can from experienced leaders - enlisted or otherwise.

One of my role models spent time as an officer and an enlisted soldier. He was battlefield commissioned in the Korean War. He made it all the way to captain and company command before being riffed back to NCO ranks. When I knew him, he was a first sergeant. I asked him one day if it was hard to be the first sergeant of a company after commanding one. I also asked him if he ever second-guessed the commander. He told me that when he was the commander he worried about being a good commander, now he lets the commander do that and he worries about being a good first sergeant.

Lieutenant, worry about being a good lieutenant before your arrogance hurts soldiers. LTC Zimmerman, I'm looking for a paint coordinatorship - got any?

Read the Feedback from CSM (R) John Gillis

© 2000 J. D. Pendry