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Why do we need officers?

#1
During the interview on my AOSB briefing, I was posed this question. "So Mr Humour, why does the army need officers? Why can't we make do with SNCOs leading troops?"

With plenty of umming and ahhring, I resorted to shrugging my shoulders. I don't think he was too pleased with that answer.

The thing is, if I had said what I originally wanted to say which was officers are smarter than SNCOs and would come up with a better plan. Wouldn't that just make me seem like a douchebag with no respect for their years of experience? If I had said, "well officers have better man management skills", that would suggest that SNCOs are incapable of organising a platoon which we all know isn't true.

So what is the DS's answer to this question?
 
#5
Somewhat obviously (I feel), the answer is somewhere in the assertion that an effective CoC needs BOTH kinds of officers; commissioned and non-commissioned.
 
#6
I always liked this as a pretty good summary:

[FONT=&quot] “The quality and character of an army is determined by its officer corps. Men in the ranks have little influence except in their numbers and their degree of physical endurance. An army - that least democratic of social institutions - is dominated by its officers: it is they who establish its moral and social codes, the standard of discipline, and the degree of inhumanity to be tolerated; they determine its organization, its tactics and strategies, its weapons and clothes, and, most importantly, its attitudes and opinions[/FONT][FONT=&quot].[/FONT][FONT=&quot]”[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Byron Farwell, "Queen Victoria's Little Wars"[/FONT]
Amazon.com: Queen Victoria's Little Wars (9780393302356): Byron Farwell: Books
[FONT=&quot][/FONT]
 
#7
During the interview on my AOSB briefing, I was posed this question. "So Mr Humour, why does the army need officers? Why can't we make do with SNCOs leading troops?"

With plenty of umming and ahhring, I resorted to shrugging my shoulders. I don't think he was too pleased with that answer.

The thing is, if I had said what I originally wanted to say which was officers are smarter than SNCOs and would come up with a better plan. Wouldn't that just make me seem like a douchebag with no respect for their years of experience? If I had said, "well officers have better man management skills", that would suggest that SNCOs are incapable of organising a platoon which we all know isn't true.

So what is the DS's answer to this question?

I assume the British military is close, but I speak with regard to the US army.

The difference between commissioned and non commissioned officers is that commissioned are strategic leaders, take over in the field and coordinate with the overall larger strategic war plan based on study and education.

Non commissioned officers (NCO's) are tactical & support oriented leaders who usually lead in smaller groups under direction of an officer based on their experience in the military and leadership qualities.
 
#9
I always liked this as a pretty good summary:


[FONT=&quot][/FONT]
That does it for me, jumpinjarhead.

Or to use the colloquial . . . the officers set and disseminate the objective(s) (long term, and immediate); and, observe and manage the progress to meeting the objective(s).

It is up to the NCO/SNCOs, to organise the soldiery so that they can meet the objective(s).
 
#11
Because without officers, the British Army would disappear in a morass of toe jam and smegma. The inspection of winkies and feet seems to be something that perhaps public school educations have made the specific concern of the officer corps?
 
#13
Go read

Richard Holmes's 'Dusty Warriors' and then

sgt. Dan Mills 'Sniper One'

Dusty warriors is written from a historical point of view focusing on an officers point of view mostly, about the fighting in Al Amarah in Iraq, and Sniper One is obviously from a sergeants point of view about the fighting in Al Amarah Iraq, on the same tour. After reading both of these you can really get a sense on how the two had approached the war differently. Dan was focusing on killing the enemy, plain and simple, where as in dusty warriors you really got the feeling of the overall battle and how the majors and other higher ups were thinking about other things, high among them political posturing and such, Dan mentions a number of critically important ceasefires for example, which where all brokered by Lt.col Matt Maer.

In my personal opinion the roles of NCO's and Officers over lap immensely, especially when the bullets start flying at which time they often end up doing the exact same job, keeping an overview of the battlefield and directing the men.

But in general Officers play the politics game much more, and are far more concerned with where a regiment will be in a months time and whether or not that regiments particular mission is being accomplished and what needs to be changed or done to make sure a mission is accomplished. NCO's on the other hand are thinking about tomorrow, "do my guys have enough ammo and food? How should I reposition a few sangars, or mortars" stuff like that. Not that I am trying to say NCO's are all short sighted, I just get the feeling they focus on specific tasks.

That is just my two cents, bearing in mind I have absolutely no military experience at all, but to me it seems quite clear cut how important officers are.
 
#14
Nice quote. However, I fear it neglects the value that the British Army's Warrant Officers' and Sergeants' Mess brings to the equation.
Point taken but you must remember the time period about which he was writing and I think given the entire quote, it is apparent in the modern context that it applies equally well to WOs and SNCOs and NCOs with appropriate tweaks for the relative experience, education, roles etc. of each level of the rank structure.

I have a bit of a canned speech I give when I commission new lieutenants in the Marines as part of my duties as their faculty adviser at a very large US university. I include of course Farwell's quote but also add these (there are many others to the same effect so
don't slag me for my personal choices):

[FONT=&quot]An officer must put himself in the place of those whom he would lead; he must have a full understanding of their thoughts, their attitude, their emotions, their aspirations, and their ideals; and he must embody in his own character, the virtues which he would instill into the hearts of his followers.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Gen John A. Lejeune[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]

[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]
[/FONT][FONT=&quot]As Marine Corps officers, we are all responsible for the physical, mental and moral welfare, as well as the discipline and military training of the young men who are serving the nation in the Corps.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]LtGen Victor H. Krulak[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]He who dedicates himself to a profession, which demands staking one's life in a common cause, he who takes on at the same time the responsibility to send others on orders to their deaths, must maintain for himself a moral conviction and direction, which cannot be measured by ordinary standards.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]William I, German Emperor, 1888[/FONT]
I use these to make my point that to me, given the tremendous skill and capabilities of our SNCOs and NCOs (for you in the UK, your WOs and NCOs), one needs to ask the question why are there commissioned officers in the rank structure. Since a good infantry Sergeant can perform virtually all of the tactical skills that are needed for an infantry platoon to accomplish its primary mission, there must be a reason for the platoon commander and I believe it is to provide the collective "conscience" of the unit.

By this I do not mean that each Marine is not expected to have his or her own moral compass that points in the right direction but when in combat, given the perverse centrifugal force of inhumanity that is inherent in all war that pushes attitudes and actions toward the outer limit of acceptability, it is the officer who must be always on the alert to reign in the zeal and aggressiveness that the members of the unit must have to0 accomplish their often bloody mission. In varying degrees, this same dynamic holds true in any military unit regardless of mission or specialty. The officer must be the one to say when the unit has done "enough."
 
#15
An officer can be a good soldier; and a soldier can be a good leader. However, it is the officer who must take ultimate responsibility and when faced with a difficult challenge must set the example; it is the officer who stands up and says ‘follow me’.
 
#16
I think it's a legacy thing, but ...

Good soldiers don't have the time to go through the ranks and make it to General and the army needs Generals who understand how to play war games.

Maybe it is time to draw a line, say at Lt Col - so Soldiers rank from private to half-Colonel, with officers entering at full-Colonel after a 5 year apprenticeship as a gofor in a working unit.
 
#17
The reality is that almost all effective managment structures are hierachical. At the various levels in the hierarchy you need different skill sets and training. Just as not every private can or should become a corporal or even a sergeant, whilst some sergeants have the ability to become a major many don't because the needs of that position are different.

The militarys does expend far more effort than much of industry in trying to het the round pegs in the round holes. They do not always get it right, and some of the mistakes are actually very smart and evade detection for years.

In my days in a blue suit at significant number of junior officers were promoted from the ranks and there was a very definite drive to seek out suitable candidates. From entry till the age of about 30 if I remenber correctly every ratings annual report contained an idication on suitability for a commision.
 
#20
Did a indoor TEWT with some Young Officiers recently and the quote from the directing staff was(ish) "After any action you have 8/10 fully armed very very angry soldiers who will carry on with the action if not controlled. You Genlemen are there to primiraily to command the action and control it after"

(Been drinking, sorry)
 

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