There are four types of officers troops will encounter, each with a mindset that corresponds with how they became an officer.
First, you've got your mustangs, who were previously enlisted and jumped over to the officer side. Typically, troops love mustangs because they draw from NCO experience and understand enlisted life. Then you've got your OCS and ROTC officers who came into the military after college. They're harmless and can usually be bent to the will of the platoon sergeant.
And then there are the academy grads. Now, let me preface this by saying that, during my career in the Army, I had the honor of serving under some outstanding leaders who came out of West Point. Clearly, there are many fantastic academy graduate officers out there. But there are some academy grads that give the rest of them a bad name.
These unfortunate few are unaffectionately called "Ring Knockers" because they will never shy away from bragging about their time at the academy. And holy f*ck, are these smug a**holes a headache.
1. They brag about irrelevant facts.
Graduating in the top percentile of your class is a pretty feather to stick in your cap. It makes for great introductory information and, well, that's about it. Yeah, it might mean that you worked hard, but it's not relevant to accomplishing the mission.
The military is, essentially, a never-ending pissing contest between the ranks. Who shoots better? Who can do more push-ups? Who did the most badass thing on deployment? All of those may not impress the nose-in-the-air lieutenant, but at least they're part of being a war fighter.
We're all very happy that you did well in the academy — now stop bringing it up.
The best, least smug way for officers to brag is through challenge coins... By leaving them on their desk and never mentioning them to anyone.
2. They never budge from the rules.
The rules and regulations that govern life in the military are important. Any troop worth their weight in salt will follow them to a T.
But when one rule gets bent (for a valid reason) or a genuine mistake happens, there's no need to crucify the offending party just to prove your point. Troops, in general, know they're tiny cogs in the grander mechanism that is the military — and all of those rules are in place to help the cogs fit perfectly. If a troop knows they did wrong and the NCOs are reasonably certain that it was a one-time thing, it should be handled at the lowest possible level.
The ring-knocking lieutenant, however, will often punish just to prove a point.
When it comes to the extremely minor rules that get broken, don't even lift a finger. The NCOs can (and will) handle it.
(Meme via U.S. Army WTF Moments)
3. They will almost always micromanage and step on the NCOs' toes.
There's a reason why the NCO and officer worlds differ so much. They have entirely different responsibilities and entirely different means of accomplishing their goals. Take morning PT, for example. It is unquestionably the responsibility of the NCO to work the troops into shape — not the officers. Officers can join in, but it's simply not their place to come up with the training schedule. If an officer does get involved, the process becomes unnecessarily messy and doesn't always line up with the needs of the troops.
This annoyance becomes a serious complication when comes to disciplining the troops. Officers may have the final say, but there's a reason they hear the recommendations of the NCO. It's the NCO's duty to know their subordinates like they know themselves. Disregarding their advice will likely create rifts in the ranks — and sure, it'll remind everyone who's in charge. Way to go.
It may sound like it's a military thing to do, but punish everyone after initial entry and you'll lose all good will you've ever earned from the troops.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
4. They will always justify the means with the ends.
While it's the NCO's duty to monitor the well-being and growth of the troops, it's the officer's duty to keep an ever-watchful eye on the bigger picture. It's fantastic when officers plan far ahead and set milestone goals for the NCO to achieve along the way. That is, at its core, how the officer/NCO relationship should work.
However, those milestones should always be realistic. Getting the troops to all qualify higher on their weapons qualifications? Great. Ensuring they all attend a field medical course as extra training? Totally possible. Finding little bullsh*t ways of acclimating the troops to the ever-present suck of the upcoming deployment? The NCOs got that covered.
There's no need to add to it.
Things can still get done and working parties will always be a thing. Just never bring them up haphazardly.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
5. They forget the human element of the military.
As a high and mighty academy-graduated first lieutenant, it's all too easy to forget that troops are not just pawns on a chessboard.
It might be hard to see from behind the challenge coin collection they always have on their desks, but troops are living, breathing human beings with their own thoughts and emotions. They should never be overlooked or tossed to the wayside for anyone's personal quest for glory.
If the troops earned it, let them take a break.
(U.S. Army photo)
Again, in the defense of academy grads, being a ring knocker isn't a lifetime sentence. Spending time with the troops and their NCO can make all the difference. It may take a while for officers to find their footing, but the ones who do will leave a lasting impression on their subordinates.
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