My Experience from New Soldier to NCO

I have been in the Oregon Army National Guard for just over ten years. I enlisted as a PV1, and worked my way up to SGT. I learned a lot over the 7 years I spent in the enlisted ranks before going to OCS and starting a new career path. I am fortunate to have had some good mentors and to have supported a great mission (aeromedical evacuation).  I would like to share what it was like for me moving up through the ranks, as it was probably a little bit different from those in a line unit.

I was a PV1 when I went to Basic Training. If I had been able to secure my transcripts from OSU, I probably could have shipped out as a PFC. However, I didn’t think much of it because I knew I had a lot to learn and didn’t mind starting from square one. While I wasn’t the most trim, fit person, I worked hard and did well at BCT.

My company 1SG said he was proud of the fact that I never quit, even if I couldn’t make it over an obstacle, I kept trying until they told me to stop. My first year in the ARNG, I learned that when people find out you are going to college, they want you to become an officer.

That kind of bothered me at first, because it made it sound like being enlisted wasn’t good enough, and I never felt that way. I even made one of my Drill Sergeants speechless one time when he asked me why I wasn’t going to become an officer, and I told him I wanted to be an NCO and deploy first. It was just my philosophy, I wanted to work my way up and experience more before I made a decision like that. When I first joined, I had no idea that I would end up still in, a decade later, and planning on finishing 20+ years.

Nothing much changed as I made it to PV2 and then PFC. My unit gave me a waiver me at each rank, and since I was a split option Soldier, I made PFC before I went to AIT. I had a good time there and finished the cycle as the student 1SG. I enjoyed that job because I got to stand in front of formation and take accountability. It gave me a little bit of a taste of what I would be doing later on, in a way.

As soon as I got home from AIT, I was advanced to SPC. I spent a little over 2 years at this rank, and in the meantime, switched MOS to 15P. I had a great time at that school, finished college, and got hired as a federal technician working for the State Army Aviation Office. They were a great couple years.

Then the FY08 EPMS came along and I was first on the E-5 list, so I was promoted to SGT on 8 Apr 08. I deployed at the beginning of 2009, so half of my time as an NCO was spent overseas. I really look back fondly on my entire enlisted time, I liked the jobs I did, I never was upset about going to drill, and I was challenged in many ways. I never thought the 5 years between enlisting and making SGT would be so full of change and learning, but they were. I am very thankful for all my mentors and the experiences I had.

Final Thoughts

I value the time I spent working up through the ranks, it taught me a lot and made me a better leader. I am glad I did it the way I did. How did you all work your way up to the NCO ranks? Share in the comments below.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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2 thoughts on “My Experience from New Soldier to NCO”

  1. Even though I’m a civilian I grew up an Army brat and basically all the men in my family have served in one branch or another. Now that my boys are looking at the Armed Services I need to read up and better learn what they’ll be doing!
    Your path is admirable. I say this because by going up through the ranks the perception of you will be drastically changed. I think it commands a more intrinsic and sincere respect. The soldiers under your command will never feel like they’re saluting hollow bars. It does make you a better leader because you’ve “been there” and know what they’re going through.

  2. Very interesting Candace. Thank you for sharing this with us. It moved me when you explained why you didn’t just go to officer training. I wish more felt the same way. I have always thought that a person becomes a much better leader if they move up through the ranks instead of just getting thrown into it. I hope other newbies read this post and learn from it. Thank you again.

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