By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2013 – A collaborative effort to create the first book of its kind may not have been possible without the cooperative efforts of a unique team of senior enlisted service members, two of the book’s leading contributors said.
Dr. Albert C. Pierce, professor of ethics and national security at National Defense University, and retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Curtis L. Brownhill both served as co-leads to guide and coordinate the writing team for the book, titled “The Noncommissioned Officer and Petty Officer — Backbone of the Armed Forces.”
Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will roll out the new guide at the Pentagon on Dec. 17. As the rollout approached, Pierce and Brownhill shared their perspective on how it all came together during an interview with American Forces Press Service.
“I knew Sergeant Major Battaglia when he was at Joint Forces Command,” Pierce said. “He and I had worked on a couple of projects together. He knew that I had been part of the team that produced the book ‘The Armed Forces Officer,’ which was published by NDU press in 2007.”
Pierce said Battaglia liked the book and asked him if there was such a book written for noncommissioned officers. “I said not that I’m aware of,” Pierce said. “He [asked], ‘Do you think there should be such a book?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely. What do you think?’ And he said, ‘You bet.’”
Once Battaglia became the chairman’s senior advisor, Pierce said, he was able to bring his idea to fruition.
“He went to the chairman with it, and the chairman enthusiastically approved it,” he said. “Then [Battaglia] asked Curt and I to be the co-leads on the project.”
From the beginning, Pierce added, this would be a book of, by and for NCOs and petty officers. “And that’s what it is,” he said, noting he’s the only person involved who has not been a noncommissioned officer or a petty officer.
Pierce said the group received advice from Battaglia that proved essential to its successful completion.
“I think at our very first meeting, Sergeant Major Battaglia said, ‘Check your egos at the front door, because it’s going to be a team effort,’” Pierce recalled.
In addition to the co-leads and group of writers from each service component, including the reserves and National Guard, Battaglia reached out to service senior enlisted advisors for suggestions.
“The team, overwhelmingly, was cooperative, collegial, rolled with the punches, accepted comments, criticism and suggestions,” Pierce said. “Everybody was focused on the mission.”
Brownhill, who served as senior enlisted advisor for U.S. Central Command from 2004 to 2007 and retired after 34 years of military service, explained the book’s writing process.
“What it really kind of took was a team of writers representing each of the services — all senior NCOs and senior petty officers — with a broad spectrum of experiences, both conventional and Special Forces,” he said. “There’s just a whole broad range of talent that was brought to that grouping. The book has gone through countless reviews and revisions by the team and by the co-leads.”
Brownhill described the group contributors as “unique” and explained why the process went so smoothly.
“Sometimes, you just get lucky,” he said. “We were very fortunate to have a very incredible team that was very open-minded [and] very non-egotistical in a sense that there’s always a pride of ownership, and nobody hung onto that. That’s probably the beauty of the book.”
Another unique aspect of the book, Brownhill said, is it’s the first time a book for NCOs and petty officers has been written from a U.S. armed forces perspective.
“I think it’s the first time it was ever approached, through Sergeant Major Battaglia’s vision, to try to do this from an armed services perspective and not a service-centric perspective,” he said. “We didn’t use this book as a how-to or an instruction manual to teach you to be a good NCO.”
This book, he said, was written in such a way that it will appeal to multiple audiences. The team wanted to holistically characterize and define what it is to be a noncommissioned officer and a petty officer in the United States armed forces, he added.
“We defined them organizationally in the armed forces — how they relate to officers, how they relate to the force, how they relate to mission accomplishment,” Brownhill said. “Then we started to characterize them in terms of their consistently applied traits, qualities, competencies and those kinds of things.”
The book should appeal to any past, present, or future NCO or petty officer, Brownhill said, adding that international militaries might also gain from this book. And parents of aspiring service members might also be interested in it, he said.
“If … you have a grown child that’s thinking about joining the military,” he said, “I think Mom and Dad would be very interested in who’s going to be leading, caring, developing and otherwise taking care of their son or daughter.”
Both co-leads reflected on their participation in the project.
“We didn’t make any of this up,” Pierce noted. “All we did was look back at [NCOs and petty officers], who they are and describe them and characterize them. Had there not been a couple of centuries of stellar service by noncommissioned officers and petty officers, we wouldn’t have been able to write this book.”
Brownhill said the team accomplished a tough task.
“Defining and characterizing a grouping of servants to the nation — that’s a complex notion,” he said. “It’s easy to get lost in the loftiness of that notion, but to the team’s credit, they got it [right].”
(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallAFPS)
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