Former Army Officer Wishes He Was a NCO Instead

I spent about 12 years as an Army Officer in the Active Duty Army and Army National Guard.  Prior to earning my commission through the Green to Gold Program I spent about three years as an enlisted Soldier, plus another 1.5 years in the Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP), while in ROTC.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time as an Army Officer, especially while at the small unit level.  My experience as a Platoon Leader was really humbling and challenging, since my leadership skills weren’t all that good and my attitude wasn’t much better.  My time as Battalion S4 was good and I loved my experience as a Company XO.  As I matured and got some experience, I learned my job and improved my leadership skills and attitude significantly.

By the time I reached Captain, I was a much better Officer.  Finishing out my time as a Captain in Company Command was the most rewarding part of my career.  Once I finished command and pinned on Major I knew I was done being an Officer for good, so I resigned.  I just didn’t look forward to spending the next five to seven years in meetings doing Power Point Slides.

You see, I am about to share with you something that I’ve never shared with anyone else (that I can recall anyway).  During my time as an Officer I was always jealous of my NCOs.  Not in a bad way.

I really admired that they could be hands on with the troops and be busy doing the physical work while I was planning a mission or attending a meeting.  By nature, I am naturally a doer and I enjoy being busy and productive with physical work.

I also admired how they looked out for each other and didn’t play the political game that many officers have to play.

I also like the NCO Promotion Process and like the variety of jobs they can have.

On many situations I would have gladly given up my rank to be a NCO instead.

That might come as a surprise to some of you, but I don’t enjoy “staff work” all that much.  I understand the “big picture” and “strategic work” quite well, but I am HAPPIEST when I am busy doing the technical work.

Maybe some of you can relate to me.  Maybe some of you can’t.

If I was to do it all over again, I definitely would have been a NCO instead of commissioned officer!  After spending a bunch of time as a NCO (after 1SG), I would have eventually gone Warrant Officer.

In addition, I probably would have picked a combat arms MOS and stuck in leadership jobs at the small unit level.  Jobs like Team Leader, Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant and First Sergeant are very sexy to me!  I know I would have done very well in those jobs. These jobs are hands on and they are where the rubber meets the road!

I don’t regret being an officer at all.  I just knew that once I hit Major my days leading Soldiers were pretty much over for good.  I didn’t want to do four plus years as a Major (in staff positions) just to wait to get promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and then wait a couple more years to get a battalion.

I knew that from O4 on I would never work closely with troops again.  Even Battalion and Brigade Commanders don’t get to do that.

My happiest jobs were all “leadership” jobs working closely with Soldiers.  Every other job I had (staff job) pretty much sucked and I hated it miserably!

I guess hindsight is 20-20.  I know that most of us would do things differently in our lives knowing what we know now.

The bottom line is that you need to know yourself.  You need to know what you like and what you are good at.  Trust your intuition!  I don’t regret any of my career moves, but I would definitely do things differently if I was to do them again.

What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

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3 thoughts on “Former Army Officer Wishes He Was a NCO Instead”

  1. Well as a senior NCO that certainly makes me smile to read. It certainly has it's advantages over being an officer especially if the hands on work and more personal touch is your thing. I mean on payday there is a slight boost for that officer rank and once you retire of course.

    I really enjoy being an NCO. For the most part you are respected from all ranks above and below and you don't have the distance that officers end up having from the enlisted corps, especially at higher ranks.

    The political stuff still happens, trust me, especially after you reach E-7. It's different I'm sure, but it's still an annoyance.

  2. Knowing yourself, what you like, and knowing what you can or cannot live with is definitely the key to happiness. That theory works with jobs and relationships! I admire that you took the initiative to cut you losses instead of being stuck behind a job that you would eventually loathe. Things like that are poison. I liken it to being sucked dry – from grape to raisin. When it comes to big, life-altering decisions having a long, hard talk with yourself and your loved ones should be high on the priority list. It is never easy to let something you love go – especially after having so much time invested into that area of your life. Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

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