Study of Military History Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1561 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Military

NCO

The role of the non-commissioned officer (NCO) was integrated into the history of the United States since its first days and has continued to evolve ever since. It began in 1775 with the birth of the Continental Army. Similar to the American Army, it blended the different aspects of the French, British and Prussian traditions into a unique American institution. After the publication of the specific responsibilities in the 1779 Blue Book, the NCO education system grew significantly, combining history and tradition with skill and ability to prepare for changing combat situations.

During the grueling winter at Valley Forge, Inspector General Friedrich von Steuben detailed the NCO duties in his Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States for the ranks of corporals, sergeants, first sergeants, quartermaster sergeants, and sergeants major, and stressed the importance of selecting quality soldiers for NCO positions. For 30 years, these regulations served as the primary Army regulations (Arms, 1989).

It did not take long for the NCOs to demonstrate their unique skills in commitment to the country. Sergeants Elijah Churchill, William Brown and Daniel Bissell received special recognition for their heroic acts during the American Revolution and were awarded the Badge of Military Merit, a purple heart with a floral border and the word "merit" inscribed across the center that was designed by George Washington. Churchill was wounded when capturing 21 British soldiers at Fort Slongo in present-day Northport, Long Island; Brown led the advance party in the hazardous mission called the "forlorn hope" and captured the position Redoubt #10 in Yorktown; under Washington's orders, Bissell posed as a deserter and relayed valuable information to the Continental command. (Giangreco and Moore, 2000, np). (Arms, 1989). The first school for instruction opened at Fort Monroe in 1824 in the use of artillery. Unfortunately, this was not enough to prepare for the Mexican-American War. Although considerable land was gained through this War, numerous NCOs died valiantly. The blood stripe worn on the dress blue trousers of officers and non-commissioned officers is in memory of the battle of Chapultepec where 90% of the Marine officers and NCO's died taking the Mexican stronghold and essentially ended the war. The battle is further commemorated in the Marines' Hymn in the line "From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli" (Website for Young Marines).

The Civil War introduced a significant change in American warfare, with the battles on American soil. It required huge numbers of draftees and massive campaigns (Arms, 1989). NCOs led the lines of skirmishers that preceded and followed each major unit and carried the flags and regimental colors of their units to maintain regimental alignment and define locations. During the war, changes in organization and tactics encouraged the Army to rely on more open battle formations, which further built the NCOs combat leadership role. Also, new technology, such as the railroads, telegraph, steamships and balloons, affected NCO rank structure and pay. After the Civil War, the Artillery School at Fort Monroe trained both officers and NCOs, and in 1870, the Signal Corps established its officer training school (Arms, 1989).

The increase in technology at the end of the 1800s greatly changed the size of the NCO numbers and status. Congress approved a pay bill in 1908 that rewarded those in technical fields in order to maintain their services. Combat soldiers were not so fortunate. A Master Electrician in the Coast Artillery made $75 to $84 per month, while an Infantry Battalion Sergeant Major lived on $25 to $34 per month. The Infantry Battalion Sergeant Major made about the same as or less than a Sergeant of the Signal Corps, or $34 to $43 monthly (Arms, 1989).

Unknown at the time, the stage was being set for World War I where scores of NCOs would be sent overseas to fight. Using a story about an NCO in the First World War as an example, President Reagan related the story about what makes the military so special. In his Inaugural Address, he spoke of Martin Treptow who went to France to fight and was killed on the Western Front as he was carrying a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire (Wolfowitz, 2004). In his diary, they found the following notation: "America must win this war. Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the whole struggle depended on me alone."

There were numerous other examples of such bravery. After Cpl. Alvin C. York's platoon suffered heavy casualties and three other noncommissioned officers died, he assumed command and fearlessly lead seven men. He charged and took control of a machinegun nest that was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon and took 132 men as prisoners.

Such daring continued in World War II, when mobilization greatly increased the numbers of Army NCOs. The proportion of noncommissioned officers in the Army increased from 20% of the enlisted ranks in 1941 to nearly 50% in 1945

World War II lists numerous heroic deeds by NCOs, such as Staff Sergeant Charles W. Shea at Monte Damiano, Italy. On May 12, 1944, Company F, 2d Battalion, 350th Infantry, 88th Division, encountered heavy machine gun fire. Shea recognized it was vital to take three machine gun positions and advanced alone to eliminate the barrier. He hurled a grenade into the first of these, capturing four enemy soldiers and then moved to the second and forced the two-man crew to surrender. Finally, he made it to the third and killed its three defenders.

Sergeant Harrison Summers of the 502d Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, showed similar courage at Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, when he led an assault alone against German coastal fortifications. He ran to the first enemy position, kicked the door open and killed all the enemy soldiers inside. He then moved down a row of stone buildings, clearing the enemy as he went. (Arms, 1989).

After the war, NCO education was expanded. In 1947, the first class enrolled in the 2d Constabulary Brigade's NCO school, located in Munich, Germany. In 1949, the U.S. Seventh Army took over the 2d Constabulary functions and the school became the Seventh Army Noncommissioned Officers Academy. Eight years later, Army-wide standards were established for NCO academies. By 1959, more than 180,000 NCOs attended academies in the continental U.S., and by 1952, the Army had developed the Army Education Program to allow soldiers to attain credits for academic education

US Army Study Guide).

There were no women in the Organized Reserves prior to World War II. Following the war, there was no legal authority for them to join the ORC. This changed in 1947 when Congress authorized members of the Army Nurse Corps and Women's Medical Specialist Corps to serve in the ORC. The Women's Armed Forces Integration Act of 1948 authorized Women's Army Corps (WAC) members to serve in the Regular Army and Organized Reserves. In the Korean War, female Organized Reservists were called to active duty for the first time. Over 1,200 officer and enlisted WAC reservists were voluntarily placed on active duty; another 50 were involuntarily recalled and other women reservists in medical specialties were called. Many female soldiers took the places of male soldiers needed in combat units as they had during World War II in occupations not previously open to women. In Japanese military hospitals, women NCOs became ward masters. Other traditional garrison NCO positions, supply sergeant, motor sergeant, mess sergeant, were newly-assumed by female NCOs (U.S.Army Study Guide).

In 1958 the Army added the ranks E-8 and E-9, to provide for a better delineation of responsibilities in the enlisted structure. With the addition of these grades, the ranks of the NCO were corporal, sergeant, staff… [END OF PREVIEW]

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