Officers and Gentlemen

"Officers and Gentlemen"
By George "Sonny" Hoffman

The military is broken down to Commissioned Officers (Officers), Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), and "The Men." "The Men" now includes women who are not Officers or NCOs.

An NCO will tell you that a Commissioned Officer is a gentleman by an act of Congress, then smile wryly. A Commissioned Officer will agree and smile smugly. The Men could care less, so long as they get paid on time and get their mail.

In my nine years of military service, I served under officers and gentlemen, but never both embodied in one person. Congress can not make a gentleman. A gentleman, like a virgin, either is or is not. A gentleman puts others before self; an officer puts the mission above all else. The two are mutually exclusive traits.

My experience has taught that lieutenants are an evenly mixed bag of both. Some lieutenants put the welfare of their men above all else with little or no regard to their careers; some think only of the mission and their careers. The latter will most assuredly rise within the system. The former make great fathers, teachers, lawyers, and pastors.

Some gentlemen make it into the field grade officer ranks of major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel. Very few make general. I can think of only one, Omar Bradley.

There is that very rare gentleman who appears to have merged both into one, combining the Patton/Bradley traits. He was General Robert E. Lee.

The Men love a gentleman; they fear or respect an officer; they will follow both into hell. They despise an officer posing as a gentleman; will not willingly follow him to a cock fight; and given the chance, will send him straight to hell. Most of the gentlemen in the military wear stripes.

As a soldier, I prefer the gentleman; as a citizen, I prefer the officer. I wish every platoon and every company were commanded by a gentleman, every division and corps, commanded by an officer. I wish the commander in chief were an officer and a gentleman.

Copyright: 1994 By SSG George "Sonny" Hoffman