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The Story of the
The Backbone of the Army
Arnold G. Fisch, Jr.
Center of Military History
United States Army
U.S. Army Center of Military History
Morris J. MacGregor
Albert E. Cowdrey Editor in Chief
John W. Elsberg
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
The Story of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps / Arnold G. Fisch, Jr.,
CMH Pub 70-38
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D.C. 20402
As a tribute to the role of noncommissioned officers in our Army, the Secretary of the Army declared 1989 to be “The Year of the NCO.” The goal is simply to make an outstanding NCO corps even better. In working toward this goal we are emphasizing NCOs' traditional roles, especially in training, and their development as leaders. This volume is a significant contribution to that effort because it honors the dedicated service and achievements of countless thousands of noncommissioned officers over the past two hundred years.
The U.S. Army NCO corps can trace its beginnings to the American colonial experience and to the origins of the new Republic. From their early roles as file closers, quartermaster sergeants, and musicians, noncommissioned officers have evolved into leaders of our soldiers, as their first-line trainers, as standard bearers in our units, and as leaders who instill discipline in the force.
The functions and status of NCOs were not always so clearly recognized in America. Beginning with the American Revolution, the noncommissioned officer corps gradually emerged as a separate group within the ranks. During successive wars, advances in technology and changes in tactics broadened NCO tasks and responsibilities.
Today's noncommissioned officers are professional volunteer soldiers with clearly recognized duties and responsibilities. They hold positions of trust and command the respect of officers and enlisted men and women alike. Clearly, this status reflects their critical role in ensuring that our Army is fully prepared to meet all contingencies. This book is the story of how, beginning in 1775, NCOs came to be recognized as the “backbone of our Army."
JULIUS W. GATES
CARL E. VUONO
13 June 1989