Corporal in the Army just may be the most unfavorable military rank. I was a corporal for 3 years, and besides the fact of being a so-called “NCO,” it sucked, and there is no other way to put it. I had other lower-level E4s and below say, “you’re not really an NCO.” Another Army corporal and I were actually told by a colonel in Kuwait when we were trying to leave the FOB that we had to have an NCO with us to leave. We replied that we were corporals. But he simply said, “you’re not really NCOs, so you need an E5 or above.” The worst part is that if you have an E5 in your squad, he will normally pass the assignments down to you as a corporal while he sleeps all day and plays soccer on his computer. That’s when I realized there is a big difference between an E5, a sergeant, and an NCO. He was no NCO or sergeant, just a E5.
Have Fun with It
I never looked at being a corporal as a demeaning or negative rank. I actually saw it as an opportunity and an honor. There are very few Army corporals, and most of them are in combat MOS (i.e., infantry, 19D etc.). The great opportunity that comes with being a corporal is that you do get some of the same privileges as ot
her higher-ranking NCOs. The bad part of it is when the latrines need to be cleaned. No way is a sergeant going to volunteer for that, so you will be volunteered for it.
How to Act
When you’re a corporal, you’re really caught in the middle. Other E4 specialists see you as the same rank as them. They are usually the ones you have to work hard to earn trust and respect from because you’re still an NCO, and they still have to respect that and show you the same respect as any other NCO. I will say the worst thing you can do is go on a power trip and have every E4 standing at parade rest whenever they speak to you. Or even have a hard-boiled attitude of “I am an NCO. Do as I say and do it now.” The best thing you can do is earn respect just as any other NCO does: provide guidance and leadership. Be the better NCO by being willing to teach, learn, develop, and pass on all your knowledge and experience to other soldiers. Then make them want to be a corporal to.
You Live and You Learn
When you’re a corporal, you have added responsibilities. You should take advantage of this. Don’t be lazy by passing everything onto lower, non-NCO soldiers. As an Army corporal, this is your time to prove you’re ready to be a sergeant and move up that military pay chart, so set an example for others to follow and soon you will earn their respect and the respect of your superiors. Soon you will be one of the best sergeants your unit has. You should take every opportunity to show you can do the job of a sergeant. Then when the time comes and you’re promoted, you will be more than ready to be a better team leader or even squad leader when needed.