The M2 .50 caliber machine gun, arguably, is one of the finest weapons in our inventory. Its reliable design, long range, sustained rate of fire and pure lethal punch have set the conditions for it to be a long, mainstay crew-served weapon over many decades.
As reliable as it is, improper head space and timing renders it useless. If it malfunctions at the wrong time (or a critical time as in ‘when needed’), the loss of combat power can weaken and even bring devastating consequences – to the entire team.
Soldiers don’t man weapons systems. Soldiers man teams. The team is our weapons system. The Soldier-team is much more powerful and enduring than any finely crafted piece of steel. Like the M2, leaders must continuously check head space and timing.
A singular beauty of being an O6 is the opportunity to listen to O6 conversations and approaches to problems. Your colonels are on track when it comes to their assigned disciplines. On occasion a discussion revolves around a first-line leader action or solution to an institutional problem or concern. Funny thing is… There’s generally not one thing any colonel can “do” about anything. The only folks who can really “do” anything about anything are Sergeants.
Colonels will fight for resources, run processes, set conditions for success and empower leaders to execute tasks, but the folks who are able to “do” something about anything are Sergeants.
Here’s a problem. Suicides and fatal accidents (mainly traffic accidents) continue to outpace combat deaths to enemy action 7 to 1. Failure to wear a seat belt is a leading factor in most of the traffic fatalities we suffer.
I propose it’s not because the living rooms or the highways of Missouri are more dangerous than the war zone.
I propose the difference is the amount of solid NCO leadership and peer over-watch.
While deployed, every Soldier has an NCO watching out for him or her. Soldiers watch over Soldiers. Every mission is preceded with mission analysis, mission planning, pre-combat checks, and firm discipline ensuring adherence to Army standards. The result speaks volumes – 7 to 1. Leaders continuously check the head space and timing of their weapons systems – the team (and those who make it up).
At home however… Soldiers seem to be on their own for all but two days per month. Lots of things happen between drill weekends.
How can the folks who can “do” something about it, get this critical mission done at home? NCOs… We’re lining up resources to help. But, thinking this through, we need you to let the colonels know what you need. The strength, wherewithal and drive to do it is well placed already. It’s in the non-commissioned officer ranks.
To be clear… In no way, do I assume NCOs are responsible for those things that happen between drill weekends. However, following the “Guard is family” model, many NCO’s get a lot done in those intervening days. Let’s start a discussion and share best practices. Let’s share some examples (please don’t pinpoint a Soldier in the process). Let’s find a way to drive down suicides and traffic accidents. In the same effort, let’s find a way to help Soldiers who need them the jobs they need. Let’s find a way to help those find the help they need. Let’s find a way to instill confidence in the force that if something bad happens to them, a team of Guardsmen will stand behind them — help them figure out what to do. I suspect we’re already doing a lot of this throughout the command. Share a TTP you use to maintain head space and timing.
How do we set the head space and timing so your teammate’s actions or circumstances don’t fail him or her at critical moment?
Without the NCO presence on a daily basis we all should stay attuned to the issues of the Soldiers we drill with and offer support wherever we can.
What can we do?