The Best NCO I Ever Worked With In My 15 Year Army Career

I should have written this post a LONG time ago.  I’d like to take few minutes today and talk about the BEST NCO I ever served with during my 15+ year Army career.  Although I worked with some superb NCOs during my career, one really stands out.  To protect his identity (he would probably be embarrassed to read this and not want the credit), I will just call him SFC T.  The “T” is the first letter of his last name.

To anyone who ever served with me in the 1/175th Infantry of the Maryland Army National Guard, I’m sure you know who SFC T. is. He’s THAT good!

SFC T. was my Readiness NCO while I was a Company Commander.  When I first took command he was deployed to Iraq, but he returned home after I had been in command approximately six months.  From the time I first met him, I knew there was something special about the guy.  And for some reason I knew he would have a positive impact in my life.

So, why was SFC T. the best NCO ever?  What made him stand out?  What I want to do below is share some stories and share some of the qualities that made SFC T. so great.  Enjoy.

# 1 Talent: SFC T. was good at many different things.  By trade, he was a mechanic, but this guy knew just about everything about everything.  He was good with weapons.  He was a tremendous leader.  He knew the regs.  And whenever he didn’t know something, he knew where to get the information.  I remember running a Small Arms Range during Annual Training and he was my Range NCOIC.  He just amazed me at how knowledgeable he was about all of the different weapon systems we were using. Everything he did, he excelled at.

# 2 Passion & Heart: Talent is required to be a great leader, but heart is even more important.  SFC T. had talent AND heart.  This guy just loved being a Soldier, and it showed.  I think it was in his blood.  He always had a good attitude and was proud to wear the uniform.

# 3 Work Ethic: SFC T. put in some long hours at work.  He definitely sacrificed a lot of family time to take care of his unit.  Every day he would set priorities and get the most important things done.  He almost always took a working lunch and you NEVER had to worry about him slacking off.  He was a machine!  He trained to standard, not to time.  I used to have to “force” him out of the office.  While I was away from the armory, I would have to call in and “order” him to go home.

# 4 Warrior Spirit: SFC T. was/is a man’s man and a Soldier’s Soldier.  He lives the Warrior Spirit and Army Values.  He is mentally tough and physically tough.  When I think of “Soldier” I think of SFC T.  He also instilled this attitude into everyone he worked with.  His warrior spirit was contagious.

# 5 Self-less Service: As far as I’m concerned, SFC T. has the potential to be the Sergeant Major of the Army.  He would have also been a fine officer.  Despite his amazing talent and potential, his career was never about him.  He always put the troops first and did whatever it took to help the unit succeed.  He would come in early, stay late, and always put his Soldiers’ and unit’s needs above those of his own. He was never worried about his next promotion or next award either.  He just wanted to get the mission done and take care of the Soldiers: nothing else.

# 6 Reliable: If SFC T. said he was going to do something, he did it.  I never had to EVER worry about him dropping the ball, being late, or messing something up.  Simply put, I could count on him in any situation.

# 7 He Spoke His Mind: One of the things I really admired about SFC T. was that he spoke his mind.  He never sugarcoated things and he wasn’t scared to tell the General what he was thinking either.  If something NEEDED to be said, he said it, even when it was not politically correct or expected.  If something was shady, or a soup sandwich, he would be the first one to let you know.  AND, he would even offer a solution to fix what was wrong.

Final Thoughts

I would like to close this post by saying “thank you” SFC T.  While we worked together I told you many times how much I appreciated you.  But, I should have said it even more.  You really impacted my life on a personal and professional level.  I owe you a HUGE amount of credit for helping me have such a successful Company Command.  It was truly an honor to serve with you.

And I know that when you hang up your boots for good when you retire, it will be a sad day for the Army.

What are your thoughts?  What do you think is the most important quality I covered that made SFC T. so great?  Also, please leave a comment and tell me about the best NCO you ever served with.  What made them so great?  I look forward to reading your story.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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21 thoughts on “The Best NCO I Ever Worked With In My 15 Year Army Career”

  1. It is great that you write about a man of great distinction and character. We need more leaders in our world like this! Sometimes I have to wonder about people; their work ethic, morals, and service orientation. In a society that seems to have gone from a ME society to a WHY ME mentality it is refreshing to know there are more warrior spirits out there blazing a trail for others to follow suit. Thank you for sharing this. MSG T sounds like someone I would be proud to know.

      1. Brains, brawn and service oriented? How do we bottle people like that up and market them? :) Seriously though: I am a psychology student and I guess my question is this: Is it nature or nurture that made him this way? Just curious on your thoughts.

  2. I hope that there are more who follow in the steps of now MSG T. Our Armed Forces always need and desire men like him. I can tell that with the family that supports him, he grew up with great morals. When a child is brought up with morals such as he was, we end up having a person that is a great leader, and more importantly, a great person.

  3. I am the SFT T’s older brother. I am Major in the US Marine Corps. My brother has taught me a lot from growing up and the time we have served. He has taught me to do your job 100% the best you can no matter what it is and take care of your people. The rest will fall into place. Mission accomplishment will be the byproduct of those two things. He also showed me in childhood when people tell you that you can’t do it, work twice as hard and you will accomplish anything you put your mind to. My only regret is that I will never serve with my brother, I know we would have made a great team! I am proud of him and use him as an example to talk about to my Marines. God Bless and thank you for posting this article. He will never take the credit, but that is just who he is.

    Semper Fi,
    Major T.

    1. Candace Ginestar

      It’s rare that we even have a leader like that around us during our career, but it is even more rare to call that person a family member. Sir, you are very fortunate to have a great NCO like this as your actual brother. We are lucky to have him in the Army!

  4. I am proud to say that i have worked with SFC T, now MSG T, and I’m happy to say that I learned some good stuff from him.

  5. SFC Joseph Tress

    Many thanks for SFC T. He was a great help and mentor. In this day and age we have many false leaders. It has been a pleasure to know him from my time with the 175th. I hope that what i was able to learn from him will be handed down to the soldiers that I am try to mentor here in Afghanistan.

    1. I’m sure you are doing a great job mentoring your Soldiers! I always enjoyed working with you and know that you do a lot of good things for the Army. Thanks for your service.

  6. As the parents of SFC T we are very proud of him always. We appreciate all the kudos and feel that he rightly deserves the recognition for all his hard work . Thank you for recognizing him in this very busy time for our military men and woman. God bless America and all who serve!

  7. While you had the pleasure of serving as his commander, I had the pleasure of serving under him and I could not have described him any better myself. What I learned from SFC T that has stuck with me the most, was highlighted in #7. He understood the power of an NCO, never abused it, and always used it to better his soldiers, his unit, and complete whatever mission assigned to him while balancing the welfare of his soldiers. The guy is one man wrecking crew who is capable of succeeding at any assignment, but will always take the time to ensure his subordinates are capable of the same success. I recently saw a quote that as soon as I read it, I immediately thought of him…. “When you’re good at something, you tell everyone. But when you’re great at something, everyone tells you”. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Candace Ginestar

    Chuck, one thing that stands out to me above all else is how all of our top NCOs that we have all worked with have these things in common. I could take out SFC T’s name and insert it with the CSM of the ARNG (CSM Conley) and my husband- and while all of these NCOs are different in certain ways, they all have a lot in common. There is a reason they stand out to us above all others.

    I think the most important quality you listed would be work ethic (followed shortly by heart and passion). We all have times where our heart may be lacking a little bit (nobody is perfect), but our work ethic is what gets us through those times.

    My favorite story about my husband is one that my friend CPT B tells. When he was a new LT, he was lucky enough to get SFC G as his PSG. We had an AT where we just got to go to Gowen Field and train on our MOS. The Troops did gunnery tables, the snipers ran a sniper range, etc. Everyone was happy and productive. My husband used to run the sniper section, and even after he became PSG, he still took charge of the section until they found a SSG to run with it.

    When the advon arrived at the training center, they were told by range control that the sniper range was already built. They lied. It needed to be built from the ground up. then-LT B was playing cards with some other LTs and didn’t pay much attention, as my husband had told him that he would take care of setting up the range and it wasn’t a big deal. LT B didn’t understand that it meant that SFC G would be out there for 15 hours, hauling the generators out along the entire range, by himself, to set up the range, to standard. SFC G came back to the tent later, covered in dirt and sweat, and told LT B that everything was finished. LT B asked him why he was so sweaty and dirty, and SFC G explained that he had to set up the targets. He is so humble that he didn’t explain all the work he had to do all day. He just knew that the range had to get done, and he knew how to set it up.

    I admit that my husband works longer and harder than I do. I usually have to be the one to tell him to stop, and we need to go home. I am ALWAYS waiting on him, when we finish training. He is the first to arrive, and the last to go home. He never asks his Soldiers to do anything that he wouldn’t do first and better than them. If he asks them to exceed a standard, he will exceed their standard. Hands down I admire his work ethic, and all the other qualities you listed about SFC T, in him. I learn a lot from him every day, and I am beyond thankful that there are NCOs like these that are still in the Army!

  9. Wow, I would love to meet this man. He sounds like the kind of person I wish all people could be.

    As for the strongest suits, I have always believed work ethics (#3) is very important. When a person shows strong work ethics, any mistakes they make are usually taken lightly.

    Passion and HEART are tops too. If you like what you do, you will do it well. Having no fear to attempt things never done shows heart.

    I have also always had a strong respect for people who speak their mind. I would like to think I do the same, but??? Sugarcoating things can just make situations worse in the long run.

    The next time you see SFC T, tell him thanks from someone that doesn’t know him personally, but now knows him mentally.

    Great post Chuck!

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