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Stalwart
05-11-2014, 02:09 PM
In the course of over 23 years, I have observed a lot of military leaders, some who are generally better than others.

In the Navy, I have noticed a particular trend that somewhat parallels something I saw in the Marine Corps:
Naval Aviation Officers (aviators and flight officers) come out of their training pipeline (generally) as LTjg’s (O2’s) and get to their first squadron where their primary function is to learn how to be a pilot (or NFO) – they are not burdened with the duties of being a Division Officer. The first (again – in general) first time an aviation officer get’s a leadership job is as a LCDR (O4) when they may be a detachment OIC etc. For the Surface Warfare Officers, Submariners as an ENS (O1), they are assigned as a division officer right away; responsible for the division and with a senior enlisted training them. The product I have seen result from this is that at the LT (O3) level, the aviation officer is much more proficient at being a pilot than the surface officer is at shiphandling, but the aviation officer tends to be behind in leadership and the myriad of other skills required of a midgrade officer. I observed the same thing from officers I served with in the Marine Corps; the infantry (combat arms) officers as a 1stLt / Capt tended to be much more proficient at leading a platoon or a company than officers from non-combat arms related fields.

On the enlisted side I saw and see the same thing, the infantry Cpl (E4) / Sgt (E5) or the Boatswains Mate 3rd Class or 2nd Class being a more proficient leader than their peers in fields where little leadership opportunity is afforded to NCO’s / Petty Officers. As I have now seen several cycles of newly promoted LCDR’s and LT’s newly frocked Chiefs, I have seen some who step into the role really well, some who have mis-stepped and a very small number actually stumble.

So … thoughts? Do some occupational fields tend to produce better leaders more quickly? Does have any of you observed the same thing in the Air Force or Army? Now, there will always be learning experiences but have thoughts on building a better midgrade officer / midgrade enlisted who is a better leader and more ready to assume the mantle of leadership when they are promoted?

Rusty Jones
05-12-2014, 03:56 PM
I don't know about officer ranks, but for enlisted... ranks below the CPO/SNCO level are based more on job skill level than leadership ability. Might be different in the Marine Corps since, like all services, promotion within the NCO ranks are based on a mathematical formula; but the Marine Corps is the only service where there's no test of skill level (i.e., exam or oral board) whose score is calculated into the promotion point system.

That being said, Boatswain's Mates tend to be better leaders, because there are more non-rates to be supervised in deck division, which justifies putting BM3's into leadership position. And while a PO2 in another division is likely in a leadership position, his or her span of control is nowhere near the width of that of a BM2. I've noticed that, outside of deck of division on a DDG; your next best leaders are down in the pit - MP division, because GSM3's are supervising firemen.

Outside of these divisions... even if there are no non-rates to supervise, you might need a PO3 or a PO2 in the shop because of the skill level that's required to do the job. That, or there may be administrative restrictions on people below a certain paygrade (for example, in admin, E4 and below can't sign "by direction." So if you're a PO1, having a PO2 underneath you takes alot of the burden off of you that a PO3 or an SN can't.)