Communication in the military is key to adapting to the rapidly changing external environment. It is significant for any military unit and at every level of leadership since it ensures that the commander’s intent is met entirely and timely. In the shop environment, effective communication is also crucial to make sure that shop operations are conducted according to standards. Shop operations are among the duties of the maintenance unit that is responsible for repairing and maintaining the military weapons and equipment. Maintenance non-commissioned officers (NCOs) or sergeants organize teams for providing on-site maintenance, diagnose faults, and schedule equipment for repair. They also provide the maintenance team with comprehensive information about the type of equipment, the signs of malfunction, the expected repair, the location, and the enemy situation before dispatching people to perform the work. For NCOs to be able to transmit this information correctly and clearly, thus ensuring that the task is accomplished as required and the commander’s intent is followed, they should possess effective communication skills. This paper will discuss the significance of communication for NCOs and outline some communication strategies that NCOs should and should not use.
NCOs are expected to be leaders, and, as such, they should have a range of leadership skills. Effective communication is one of the core leadership skills, which helps establish relationships with subordinates and superiors and ensures the successful completion of specific tasks or entire missions. Poor communication may lead to problems and decrease the effectiveness of the unit. For example, if NCOs lack proper communication skills, their subordinates may misunderstand the task because it was explained to them unclearly. Or, NCOs may undermine soldiers’ positive attitudes toward them if their written communication, such as memoranda, has many mistakes. Finally, NCOs may fail to establish trusting relationships with other soldiers if, instead of listening attentively, they do all the talking. Thus, ineffective communication may hinder the timely and successful completion of tasks and negatively affect relationships within the unit.
Military communication is also distinguished by the necessity to follow a strict chain of command. In poor communication, NCOs fail to do so by being over-familiar with their superiors. It sometimes happens when NCOs have friendly relationships with those of higher ranks. However, NCOs should avoid over-familiarization between them and their superiors to ensure that the subordinate relationship is maintained. At the same time, NCOs should not go to the other extreme when they believe that they should communicate with fellow soldiers only in the line of duty. Assuming such a stance makes NCOs appear unapproachable and aloof. On the contrary, communicating with other soldiers is welcome because it helps establish good relationships.
While it has been discussed that poor communication is detrimental in the military, it is also important to state the benefits of effective communication. First of all, effective communication ensures that NCOs can convey the commander’s intent correctly and clearly. Nowadays, military communication is facilitated by technology that allows for receiving real-time intelligence and sharing data rapidly. However, the advantages of using technology will only be obtained if NCOs are able to express the received intelligence clearly with words. In the shop environment, for example, NCOs should be able to provide the true picture of the repair to be done. It is especially important in field maintenance because the maintenance team should be given correct and clear information about the current threat and the enemy situation, along with other data.
There are several strategies that can help NCOs improve their communication skills and, thus, increase the possibility of accomplishing tasks and the commander’s intent. First, NCOs should never assume that their listeners have understood what they have been told. One piece of information can be interpreted differently by various people; therefore, it is important to confirm that the other person’s understanding of the information coincides with the intended meaning. Further, effective communication implies using simple and concrete words to keep the chance of misunderstanding as low as possible. NCOs should also keep in mind the individual characteristics and communication styles of the recipients of their messages and adjust their communication accordingly. For example, if a person is reserved or easy-going, he or she probably should not be approached with aggression. Finally, it is important for NCOs or sergeants to be accessible to their superiors and followers. It means that they should answer the phone and respond to e-mails promptly. It is important because, by being accessible, NCOs demonstrate to others that they are reliable and can be counted on whenever a problem occurs.
In conclusion, communication has a significant impact on the effectiveness of military units and the fulfillment of the commander’s intent. As leaders, NCOs should possess strong communication skills to ensure the correct and timely completion of tasks and establish trusting relationships with others. They should strive to confirm the recipient’s understanding of their message, consider individual characteristics of their listeners, and be accessible. At the same time, they should not be over-familiar with their superiors or be aloof from other soldiers.