Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey was recently at Ft. Bliss, TX among the senior enlisted members of the service and in a closed-door meeting floated the idea that perhaps the Army should consider creating pay grades E-10, and E-11 for the senior NCOs who serve in positions of higher authority.

And although the meeting was just a discussion with no formal proposal having yet taken place, word seeped out when one of the attendees posted his notes in a closed Facebook post.

That post quickly turned viral and the Army, through its own publication Army Times, ran a poll asking service members this question:

Should the Army create two new pay grades for senior NCOs who take on more responsibility?

Yes, they deserve the extra pay for all that extra work.

No, they already get paid enough.

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Maybe. It depends on what job they have.

The reasoning behind this “not-yet-official-proposal” is that while officers receive a promotion and a raise when they reach Battalion, Brigade, and Division commands, the senior NCO in each unit, an E-9 Sergeant Major (SGM/CSM) stays at the same rank.

Currently, if a CSM serves with a Major General (2-star billet), he receives an extra $150 per month, plus $75 for each additional star.

 

Army Times did run its poll and got over 9,800 responses.

  • 38 percent of the responders said it was a good idea,
  • 22 percent said they were open to the idea depending on the senior NCO’s job.
  • 40 percent thought E-9s make enough money as it is.

Without trying to sound catty, I wonder how many of that 38 percent were Sergeant Majors? The Army has functioned quite well for the past 242 years with the rank structure the way it is. And I don’t think that this idea would make the Army run any smoother nor increase the morale of the troops. But this is just my two cents.

I have (again this is strictly an opinion) a couple of problems with this and will try to spell out my concerns here. First let me say, I wasn’t a Sergeant Major so if that precludes me from this discussion, so be it.

Here’s Problem #1: The Sergeant Major of the Army is the senior enlisted man in the service. He’s the enlisted men’s voice in the Pentagon and is key for NCO Development, being the sounding board for senior Army leadership on standards, policies, and programs. He’s also the sounding board for military families.

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We’ve had a force that has been at war since 9/11. Soldier suicides, a crushing OPTEMPO of constant combat deployments and the strain that this all places on military members and their families. Is there something that senior Army NCOs could be discussing that is infinitely more important than giving themselves a boost of pay?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not picking on SMA Dailey here, from everything I’ve read about him, he’s a good man and has been a good role model as the Army’s senior enlisted man. But this is just a bad look. Many of the lower enlisted personnel have a hard time making a go of it on what the Army pays while the base pay for the Sergeant Major of the Army is $8888 a month or $94,734 per year.

If I am a low-to-mid ranked enlisted soldier in the Army, I’d expect my senior leadership to be working for me and my fellow soldiers, not looking for a way to give themselves a boost in pay. Don’t we get enough of that already with Congress?

Problem #2: The Army that I grew up in, and it shouldn’t have changed that much in the past few years, had a philosophy about leadership. Leaders and the Army’s backbone is the NCO leadership, worked hard to achieve rank to have the privilege of working with more responsibilities and opportunities to move your unit forward. Pay was never a prime consideration.

Sure, the extra rank and pay grade was a bonus, but leaders didn’t seek out promotion for recognition and pay, they did it to better serve the needs of the unit and the Army

One of the Army’s Core Values is “Selfless Service. And the services’ definition sums it up nicely: Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own. Selfless service is larger than just one person. In serving your country, you are doing your duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain.

Problem #3: It is unneeded. And exactly what kind of political clout will go into getting these positions? Because that is exactly what it sounds like, the politicians will be the ones pushing for and getting these prestigious and utterly necessary billets.

We were blessed with having some great Sergeant Majors in Special Forces. There were too many to list here, but for every two “Macs” or “Fridays” we also get one of the worst kind. The walking, talking regulation master. The one who forgot what it was like to be on an A-team and having chickensh… useless regulations spouted at you like you had nothing better to do.

I won’t repeat the worst of the worst’s names. Because if you say it three times, he may appear again like that a-hole Betelgeuse. Oh, you remember those guys… Conducting a brief back before the Group Commander for a sensitive six-month MTT and the Group Staff asking questions about your mission. When it is time for Betelgeuse, what did he ask the Team Sergeant? “How do you plan on keeping the team’s haircuts within regulation while you’re  down there for six months?” Literally, I shit you not.

Or an early morning manifest call at Luzon Drop Zone in December. We had to show up there for a 4 a.m. manifest call and pre-jump. It was unseasonably cold that morning, nearly New England cold and the boys were wearing their Gore-Tex Jackets keeping the cold breeze off.

We heard a commotion and lo and behold this same guy is walking around making every swinging Richard lift his jacket and uniform blouse to see if any SF team guy (notice I didn’t say operator) was audacious enough to be wearing the highly illegal (at that time) A-7A strap for a belt. When it was my turn, I told him to get a life. It didn’t go over very well.

Those are the guys I would worry about getting those E-10 and E-11 slots. And there are far too many of those kinds in the Army now, the last thing it needs is for a whole new breed of them coming along.

Stick to what has worked for the past 242 years. The system isn’t perfect but it is the best-flawed system in the world. The US Army’s backbone is the NCO Corps. The Army has faced battles from the American Revolution to Afghanistan and everything in-between. And it didn’t need a bunch of E-10s to lead the troops then and certainly doesn’t need them now.

 

Photos courtesy US Army