The chain of command in the military, for the most part, is rigid. There is not much room for interpretation. It is designed that way for a reason and the reason is a pretty good one. There is enough stress on the battlefield already. Adding the stress of who is in charge is unwelcome. Everyone in the organization is required to learn the rank structure and to follow it without question. With that in mind, it is also important to be able to look beyond the rigidity of that rank structure when the situation calls for it and to listen to the people that know. Just because you are an officer, doesn’t mean you have all the answers, and just because you are the lowest ranking enlisted member, doesn’t mean that you don’t know more than some officers.
Situational awareness is a critical aspect of any service. You need to understand who to go to under what circumstances and situations are always evolving. Officers make decisions, but the quality of their decisions is based on the information that they have access to. There are plenty of officers that have less experience than enlisted members and the quality of those officers is determined by their ability to make the best choices possible. A good leader is one that listens to everyone and gains as much information as possible within the time available and makes informed decisions. A good leader is humble enough to admit they need help when they don’t know and asks questions. This is where Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) come in handy.
NCOs are the backbone of every branch. These are the service members that have the most field experience, by rank, and the most job knowledge for whatever specialty they occupy. They attend special schools and training to earn the title of NCO and to ensure that they are the most proficient at whatever their occupational specialty is. These are the men and woman that officers go to when they need answers or for something to get done. These are the men and woman that lower ranking enlisted members strive to be. If anyone other than an NCO has a question, it is expected that any NCO will have the answer or the ability to get that answer for you. Most importantly, becoming an NCO is a path that requires experience and knowledge to attain. It is not a rank that is given for any other reason than the receiver having done their time at the bottom of the rank structure and putting in the effort to earn the privilege of leadership and responsibility.
I am not saying that officers do not go through any kind of training program or that that they are clueless, though the actions and decisions of some might convince you to feel differently. I am identifying that there is a separation between officers and enlisted members, and it serves a valuable purpose. Officers learn about the academic portion of the military, which is important, and how to strategical implement decisions while taking multiple other aspects of various situations into account. They are looking at a bigger picture that requires their attention to be more divided to consider the long-term goal. NCOs and even some of the lower ranking officers focus on the individual mission and get the job done that contributes to the overall big picture. Both have a roll to play but while the vision of the battlefield belongs to officers, it is the NCOs that are in the field turning that vision into a reality.