Those who have never been in the military may think Army enlisted ranks are in order of importance. To some degree, they are. However, just because you have some big college degree and attend OCS, it does not mean you’re more important than a private right out of high school and boot camp. Why? Because it’s hypothetically possible that a private has more desire, dedication, discipline, and pure heart to serve their country than a high-ranking officer who joined the military to get free college tuition. It’s also possible that the private could know more about the Army and their MOS than an officer does after he or she completes OCS.
Enlisted Army Personnel
The enlisted ranks and the NCO run the Army. This is different than in the Navy, where the officer runs the show. In the Army, more responsibility is put on a young NCO than on a younger officer. The E1 through E4 are taught and trained by a young sergeant or, in combat MOS, even a E4 corporal. The sergeant or E4 corporal is responsible for teaching young soldiers and the lowest level of leadership everything about their MOS, and leading them in a safe and correct manner. The E5 through E7 are team leaders, squad leaders, and platoon sergeants, known as senior leadership. They not only have to train soldiers, but also teach themselves and other leaders advanced MOS training. The squad leader may have to take his squad into combat alone and be faced with dangerous situations and hard choices. They must be able to make decisions based on knowledge, experience, and training. This is why you train as you fight; it creates that subconscious muscle memory that will cause a soldier to react correctly and safely to complete each task and mission.
The E7 through E9 are your highest enlisted leaders. The E7 and E8 will be first sergeants and responsible for an entire command. They will direct their soldiers into combat, so they must gain the trust and respect of each solider to assure the mission is a success. The first sergeant is accountable for the health and welfare of all the soldiers under their command. They will handle the discipline of any soldier and sometimes even officers. The first sergeant runs the command even though there is a company commander or commanding officer. The company belongs to the first sergeant, and it is their responsibility to make sure their command climate and their command readiness is always 100 percent positive. Because of this, they have a very stressful but important position. When things go wrong, the commanders will go to the first sergeant right away to find out why.
The E9 is your Sergeant Major, a position normally held starting at the battalion level and all the way to the Sergeant Major of the Army. They’re the teachers of leaders. They’re the ones who dictate who gets promoted and who goes into combat and when, from each command. If they feel your company is not ready, you will sit on the sidelines until they do. To them, the soldiers’ safety and well-being is of the utmost importance. They will hold many enlisted meetings to make sure the command is a positive and combat ready one. They are the highest enlisted, and no matter what rank you are, the Sergeant Major is “roger Sergeant Major!” They have earned it right there in the trenches in combat and have years of knowledge and experience to pass on.
The Hardest Army Enlisted Rank
I myself believe the hardest enlisted rank is the E4 because I was an E4 corporal in a combat unit for three years. To say it sucked is an understatement. I dealt with high ranking officers saying, “Well, you’re not really an NCO.” As an E4, you’re thrust into a leadership position with very little experience, and you are leading your peers, the buddies you used to laugh in the barracks with or hide when the platoon sergeant says, “I need somebody.” These are the ones you now have to discipline, teach and train, and it can be very difficult. How did I do it? Well, it was not easy. I had to separate myself and no longer let them see me as a friend, but as a trusted, respected military leader. This meant at times I had to utilize my squad leader’s assistance to discipline. Once they realized I was going to discipline fairly, always have their back, and go to bat for them, no matter what ridiculous antics they pulled, we once again became a team. We got called upon over other teams that had older E5 team leaders that more experience. I was asked by a battalion commander, Corporal Howard, “Why did they send you instead of an E5 team?” My response, “Sir, my squad leader, my platoon sergeant, my first sergeant, and my company commander have instilled trust and confidence in me, and my team to get the job done and once we do, you won’t ever have to ask me that again.” I have never spent time as NCO proving myself. I have spent time training, teaching and proving my soldiers. To anybody that asked, they are the best and not because of me, but because of my attitude.