What is NCO Business?

Ready for NCO Business
Soldiers stand in formation at the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy during a graduation ceremony in Grafenwoehr, Germany. Led by academy cadre, students complete an 18-day Warrior Leaders Course which includes physical readiness training, drill, oral presentations and other disciplines to learn what it takes to be outstanding NCOs. Since 2008, the cadre has topped Europe-wide and U.S. Army Best Warrior competitions. (U.S. Army photo by Gertrud Zach)

Recently at the NCO Historical Society I was asked:

I would like to know the origin of the phrase "That's NCO Business". 
I found a reference to it as Sergeants Business during the 1989 Year 
of the NCO article but no definitive start or reason for the phrase 
and it's prevalence.

I had to tell the person that unfortunately there is likely no known answer to that. The idea that there is separate and distinct “NCO business” is not an official Army position now, or in the past. As a statement or theory as far as I can tell the Army has never quantified NCO Business from other business, though people or groups likely have. Some could interpret NCO business in one of the areas that Army Command policy clearly points out that the noncommissioned officer is responsible for (emphasis added) is the “planning and conducting the day-to-day unit operations.” You could define officer business, specifically commanders “are responsible for everything their command does or fails to do.” So if you look each’s basic responsibilities with a narrow view some could try to say there is sub-element distinction. But even in regard to the 10 functions of the NCO support channel, NCOs have always been expected to “assist the chain of command in accomplishing” them, the reg tells us so. Though our commissioned officers empower us by subdividing responsibility and authority and assign (delegate) their authority to us and other staff members, NCOs have always been in a supporting role.

There was in fact a periodical, the predecessor to the NCO Journal, known as Sergeants Business. It was absorbed and replaced in 1Q, FY 90 by the Journal based on recommendation #17 of the NCO Leader Development Task Force in June 1989. The idea was that NCOs should have a “professional journal or other forum that focuses on leader development issues.” Sergeants Business was published every other month for “unit commanders, key officers and noncommissioned officers…” It was part of the Command Information package and had sister publications Officers Call, Soldiers’ Scene and Commanders’ Notes, and the proponent for all was the Chief of Public Affairs.

There may be people, articles or documents that have used the term or phrase NCO business, but I have never seen articulated a list of and a specific delineation and title of things regarded as such. A recent example is the 7 Apr. 2015 edition of TC 7-22.7, the Noncommissioned Officer’s Guide. It states on page 1-8 in para. k. that  Written in 1973, the [Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer] provides SGTs with inspiration to lead while creating a “yardstick by which to measure themselves. (12) The creed implies responsibilities for conducting NCO business. If you read footnote #12 you will note it refers to an article I co-wrote describing the history of the NCO Creed. However, I did not use the term NCO Business, nor did I imply that the contents of the NCO Creed was “NCO Business,” though many may seem to consider the contents as just that. And even there I am not sure the current NCO Guide’s author intent of the term. For the sake of the discussion the “yardstick” reference I was using was a quote to me by one of the original authors of the creed Earle Brigham. That italicized quote is not in the 24 Aug. 2014 pre-release version of the NCO Guide and it wasn’t in the previous editions of the NCO Guide.

Here is one authors take on the term NCO Business.

Here are a few quotes from senior leaders on NCO Business:

You could fill bookcases with everyone’s interpretation over the last 10 to 15 years of the term, “Sergeant’s Business.” It is really simple. It is leader’s business. . . . When you get right down to it, everything Soldiers do—on duty or off—is NCO business.
—SMA Glen E. Morrell,
“As the SMA Sees It,” Army Trainer, Fall 1984, p. 21

The good NCO has never been short in confidence, either to perform the mission or to inform the superior that he or she was interfering with traditional NCO business.
—SMA William G. Bainbridge,
“We Have Met the Challenge,”
ARMY, October 1978, p. 27

The care and cleaning of lieutenants is NCO business.
—GEN Frederick J. Kroesen,
quoted by SMA William A. Connelly,
“For NCOs: Leadership, Hard Work and Training,” ARMY, October 1980, p. 24

The above is my historical take on the term NCO Business, and some of the facts and data that supports them. As for Command Sergeant Major Dan Elder, US Army, Retired take on things, I believe we only have Army Business. And that business is to fight and win wars in defense of the United States of America.

CSM Dan Elder, USA, Retired


One thought on “What is NCO Business?

  1. P Edwards

    Ahh, NCO Business! The term used as both shield and sword, applied broadly and with little clarity. It is the business of the NCO to execute the duties and responsibilities given, to accomplish the mission, to train and empower others to accomplish the mission, and to care for their Soldiers. Their Soldiers – subordinates, peers, and superiors alike are their Soldiers and when the NCO cares about each one unit’s function smoothly.

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