The NCO Corps is known as the backbone of the Army for a reason. I, for one, am extremely thankful for my NCOs and for the NCOs I have had the pleasure of working with. I am also thankful that I got to serve as an NCO before I went to OCS. My enlisted years have greatly influenced my leadership perspectives and goals for the rest of my career. I think very fondly of my time as an enlisted Soldier, and I hope I never to forget where I came from, as well as to remember it as I look forward to where I am going.
One rank that we don’t see a whole lot of, but that has been a part of the Army since it was established, is the rank of Corporal. It is equal in pay to Specialist (E-4), but is considered to be one of the NCO ranks. This is very special, because not everyone gets the privilege of being a Corporal before they are promoted to Sergeant.
Only those who demonstrate the most potential get selected to become a Corporal, and for good reason. Essentially, a Corporal is an NCO in training (for lack of better terminology). By the time you make Sergeant, your leaders will expect you to know what you are doing. Hopefully, you have good mentors. The same is expected of ALL Sergeants, however, as a Corporal, you will get a head start on your Specialist peers.
I personally think that Corporal rank should be utilized like the Marine Corps uses it – as a junior NCO rank, that has to be earned by everyone. An E-4 promotion should not be automatic anymore. The Army doesn’t have “specialists” in the literal sense of the word anymore, which is how that rank came about after the Korean War.
While this could be a beneficial thing in some units (non-combat arms, or units that wouldn’t have the old green tabs), the majority of the Army could be better served by having Corporals. I don’t think we need as many E-4s as we have currently. Make Privates earn that E-4 rank, it is something to be very proud of.
It is a stepping stone to Sergeant, and those Soldiers are given a lot of NCO type tasks anyway (Especially when there aren’t a lot of NCOs in that particular platoon). If Soldiers had to work harder to earn a coveted Corporal spot, and if it were treated a lot like going to the board for Sergeant, I think it would improve things greatly.
I do not think this is a combat arms only thing either (although the Corporal rank is VERY necessary in those units). In the FSC, particularly in my platoon, we made a couple of our high speed Specialists into Corporals because it was necessary. We didn’t have enough Sergeants and they were more than stepping into those roles and excelling. Making a Soldier an NCO gives them more authority and sets them apart from their peers when they are in a leadership position. I am a huge advocate for the Corporal rank, when necessary.
My husband also believes in the use of Corporal rank. He thinks that team leaders are the ones who really make things happen in a platoon. He remembers his days as a Corporal, his leadership skills were forged in Iraq in 2004, and that foundation absolutely led to his success later on.
Half of what he had to do wouldn’t have been as effective if he had worn the Specialist shield, especially when he was given 2 new Sergeants that showed up over halfway through the deployment and weren’t infantry by trade. He was responsible for training them on top of his other duties.
The bottom line is that the Corporal rank is very important and I think the Army should treat it that way.
What do you all think about the Corporal rank, and my suggestions?