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Perry Says NCOs Set World-Class Standard

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

FORT BLISS, Texas, Aug. 22, 1996 – Technology, tactics and training add up to an effective fighting force. But it takes leadership, especially at the NCO level, to make the U.S. military "the best damn military in the world," according to Defense Secretary William J. Perry.

"The quality of America's NCOs is one of the defining factors that sets the standard of our military forces above all others and makes our military forces the envy of the world," Perry recently told students at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy here. Perry attended opening ceremonies Aug. 15 for the academy's incoming class of 475 senior enlisted.

Perry said since he took office nearly three years ago, he has visited enlisted personnel every couple of months with the senior NCOs of the four services and the Coast Guard.

"We travel as a team to get a look at the situation on the ground -- the training, the equipment, the quality of life," he said. "The information flow goes both ways. I give them my policy perspectives, and they give me the hard truths about how these policies are really working out."

Perry said he's often asked if he has any trouble getting the troops to level with him when he's in the field. "The answer is no. No trouble at all!"

The enlisted trips are invaluable, Perry said. "This is the best investment of my time, because I see firsthand how our missions are going."

As a result of his base visits, Perry said, he's learned America's NCO corps is unmatched anywhere in the world. "That is not just my opinion," he said. "It is an opinion shared by senior military officials from around the world."

Two years ago, a high-ranking Russian officer spent two weeks visiting U.S. military bases, Perry said. "At the beginning of his visit, he was convinced the NCOs he saw at work were really officers. At the end of the visit, he came to realize they were real live NCOs doing the kind of work they do every day. [He said to me] 'No military in the world has the quality of NCOs that he found in the United States and that's what gives America its competitive military advantage.'"

Perry said that's why the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Poland and other nations have asked to learn about the American military NCO system, and why foreign NCOs line up to attend U.S. senior NCO academies. The Fort Bliss academy, for instance, is host to 18 NCOs from 16 countries.

"It is why I say with complete objectivity that we have the best damn military in the world," Perry said.

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