Technically, Tactically, and the NCO Creed


As one of the co-authors of the History of the NCO Creed, I occasionally get pinged about the inexplicable recent transposition of the words tactical and technical in various writings of the Creed, so I thought I would try to clear the air for those who still may be confused.

The NCO Creed was not a standardized Creed for most of our Army history. It was not created until 1973 and not officially published in any Army doctrinal publication until 1986 when a new edition of the NCO Guide was printed. It just showed up, inside the front cover and with no explanation or details. The person credited for the recommendation to finally add it was the Commandant of the Sergeants Major Academy, COL Ken Simpson.

The Creed never had a known author, many Vietnam-era vets seemed to think “it just showed up.” One day there’s nothing, next there is a Creed. It didn’t seem to come with any fanfare, there was no official Army news release, no chain teaching or Powerpoint class explaining it. It was a Creed, the NCO Creed, plain and simple.

It was sometime after SMA Gene C. McKinney became the Sergeant Major of the Army that I recall any collective interest on the origins of the NCO Creed. The Army NCO Journal led the hunt for any background information on the creation of the Creed in at least two print editions. They also published a story “SMA McKinney Launches each day with NCO Creed,” in the Fall 1995 edition where McKinney offered the challenge “Give me one word from anywhere in there [the NCO Creed] and I’ll be able to pick up and finish it for you.”

After a few data calls the Journal claimed it was going to be difficult to find the authors and basically said it is what it is, and that we may never know. I was on staff at USASMA (the NCO Journal proponent) in DOTE when the 1997 Spring edition claimed that the author was still unknown. After talking with my cubemate SGM Felix Sanchez about the mystery, he seemed to think that with all the data and technology available to the staff that finding the authors should not be this hard. So we set out to find the answers.

After a number of months researching, emails, calls and personal meetings we believe we narrowed it down to the NCOIC and his team who by name were responsible for the development of the current NCO Creed, and we wrote a paper on it. We thought the story was put to bed, but a few years later intrigue and conspiracy came to light when one of the named team members claimed sole authorship and attempted to discredit all others. Short of sitting in the room at the time to be 100% sure, all indications point to the team of Earl Brigham, Jimmy Jakes, Lester Cochran, Raymond Brown, and later Michael Woodward. NCOIC was John Cato and OIC MAJ Gerald Weigand. During my research I spoke to four of them in 1997 and recorded their responses for posterity. I feel our research and archives are pretty solid on the topic.

Well, now there is another mystery that apparently bugs the hell out of professional noncommissioned officers, and that is is the recent transposition of the two words in the third paragraph (actually the second paragraph, but whose counting) tactically and technically. Okay, first off let’s at least agree in concept that if you have to put the two in priority order that we want our noncommissioned officers to be tactically competent first, and then technically competent. But I know as soon as I publish this someone is going to remind me that we  we want both, but humor me for petes sake. 🙂

So what’s the major malfunction you ask? Instead of repeating, below is how I addressed this on the NCO Creed’s Wikipedia entry, reprinted below:

‘Tactically’ and ‘Technically’ Discrepancy

“For almost the first 20-years many [every] Army Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer in publication had the second sentence in the second [third for some] paragraph as “I will strive to remain tactically and technically proficient.” However in 2001 the Army had a team of Contractors who created FM 7-22.7, The Army Noncommissioned Officer Guide who apparently transposed the original sentence to “I will strive to remain technically and tactically proficient.” To compound the problem the NCO Journal printed a story in the May 2010 edition which correctly identified that a Field Manual has precedence over other forms of publication (e.g., DA Pamphlet), so it [the current NCO Guide] must be right. No historical research appeared to have been conducted, and it is unknown if any of the sources cited in the original research by Elder or Sanchez were consulted.”

Poor Sgt. Robert McFadden. He asked the NCO Journal to help resolve the confusion, and the staff boned it up even worse.  So, if you believe me that the NCO Sub-Committee wrote the NCO Creed in its current form, then you have to believe that they had it right. In a Jul-Aug 1975 article in the Infantry magazine SFC Mike Woodward set the stage for  the provenance of the Creed, and attributed authorship to the Leadership Department team (see above). In that 1975 article they clearly have it listed as “tactically and technically.” Though it is fun to note that Woodward also wrote a line in the body of the article as “technically and tactically,” it was not related to the Creed.

So, simply put this issue is a non-issue, its always been “tactically and technically,” one screw up doews not change the 40-year precedence.  I know, in the big scheme of things this topic seems hardly worth wasting the space to print it on, but in my mind it is another example of a well-meaning rushed and often haphazard period that the Army is trying to recover from. It’s the nuances like this that eventually needs to be fixed, and here at the NCO Guide we want to give them their due. Meanwhile there is probally a sergeant getting his ass chewed at a board somewhere or answering a self-development question wrongly because he didn’t get the line right. Its time to set the record straight, so let’s get it right with the next edition of the NCO Guide.

CSM Dan Elder, USA, Retired

2 thoughts on “NCO Creed SNAFU

  1. Matthew Foldenauer

    I greatly appreciate the scholarship that went into this piece. I know well that I am not the only NCO who has passionately debated this seemingly small issue. I am proud that we as a corps have placed such important upon this detail, and respectfully, I submit the following response to your article: until the NCO Guide is revised and republished, it doesn’t matter at all what the original intent or order of precedence was for these two words. Whether the contractor “haphazardly” transposed the two words or not; whether the NCO Journal “boned it up” or not, the current approved doctrine says that the creed is “technically and tactically”. NCOs uphold and enforce the standard. We do not create or revise it. If you’re an NCO that is teaching Soldiers the NCO Creed the way you think it should be written, rather than the way it appears in it’s official approved form, then you may want to reflect upon your understanding of the creed, as well as the charge. In my respectful opinion, you are falling short of both.

    1. If I for one was teaching soldiers, I would in fact teach them the the way it is written in doctrine. But with that said, and because I know the history, I would still work the system to correct the obvious oversight. And that is what I am doing. It doesn’t make one any less of a professional leader by trying to right a wrong. By bringing light to a problem that a change was imposed that was neither staffed, discussed or approved by anyone with the authority to make such a change is troublesome, meanwhile I will march to the “technically and tactically” drum.

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