Leadership: October 11, 2002

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Still short of sergeants, the Army plans to promote 25,032 specialists (E-4, in the E-1 to E-9 enlisted rank structure) to buck (three-stripe) sergeant (E-5) in FY03, a 5 percent increase over the recent-record promotions in 2002. Promotions of staff sergeants (E-6) to sergeants first class (E-7, five stripes) will hit 7,617, a whopping 17 percent increase. The problem is that an entire generation of junior enlisted personnel did not re-enlist after their first tours during the 90s, partly due to the booming economy and partly due to military unhappiness with the Clinton Administration. The Army is promoting people into the gap, but is (unfortunately) finding that the newly promoted sergeants are not as qualified as the sergeants of a decade ago. Senior NCOs (close enough to retirement that they weathered the 90s) complain that the generation coming up includes tens of thousands of "E-4s wearing sergeant stripes" and has lowered the overall quality of the force. This could be particularly difficult in urban fighting, where the key man is the squad leader. During the Gulf War, this man was far more experienced and capable, and had been in uniform several years longer, than the squad leaders of the second Iraq War will be.--Stephen V Cole


 


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