The Russian invasion of Ukraine has all but stalled due to no shortage of challenges. Weak supply lines, low morale, fierce Ukrainian resistance, but most importantly, poor front-line leadership.
The United States Military is one of the most elite fighting forces in the world. But how does such a force maintain it's edge? There are many factors, but one has proven itself over and over: the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO).
The U.S. dedicates an astronomical amount of resources into training and educating it's servicemembers. As they promote through the ranks, these men and women become NCO's and they are essential to the operation of the U.S. military.
The Russian military does not have an NCO corps:
“They don’t organize their military the way we do,... They don’t have an equivalent to a noncommissioned officer corps, for instance, and their junior officers don’t have the same wherewithal, flexibility. … we put a lot into an E-4 and an E-5 and an E-6 to make decisions literally in the moment on the battlefield. They don’t have that kind of a tradition, they don’t have that structure.”
The Russian military relies on men between the ages of 18 to 27 years old who are drafted into service, whereas the U.S. military is a volunteer force. Apparently, only about half of the drafted Russian soldiers even show up. Most Russian troops serve for less than a year with no real career path or progression system.
Contrast this with the U.S. military NCO corps which is the progression of every enlisted servicemember. Achieving the status of an NCO is a rewarding experience with real world applications in the civilian job market. These NCO's typically look to serve in the military for 20 years or more and preserve a huge pool of knowledge.
“Without my NCOs, it’s impossible for me to be able to effectively lead my team,... I wouldn’t have the right guidance, I wouldn’t have the right expertise and leadership on the team to be able to motivate, track, and really do the impossible for our soldiers. They’re the connective tissue to the mission.”Retired U.S. Army Capt. Florent Groberg
The Russian military's lack of an NCO corps or something like it is likely a major weakness. Inversely, the U.S. military's NCO corps is one of it's greatest strengths and would lend itself to a decisive advantage over Russia in a direct conflict.
Check out this incredible video detailing the U.S. military rank structure: