noncom = 'enlisted person'

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 20 04:20:11 UTC 2014

On Sun, Jan 19, 2014 at 6:40 AM, W Brewer <brewerwa at> wrote:

> RE: corporals in the NCO club. IIRC, the Army was phasing out the rank of
> corporal c. late '60s. I was a drill corporal at NCO school; but otherwise,
> it seemed the only other corporals were NCOs (sergeants) that got busted
> down to E-4, but in consolation it was to corporal & not SP-4, and so could
> still go to the NCO club. To further confuse the ranks, the Army introduced
> lance corporal E-3 briefly, and fiddled with the chevrons & rockers.
> Basically, it was a royal snafu.

In my day - the late '50's - early '60's, corporals (E-4) - two chevrons on
each sleeve - were definitely NCO's (E-4 through E-9). There was an
anecdote about "seeing a corporal herding 200 head of EM," wherein "EM" was
understood to include recruits (E-1), privates (E-2), both "slick-sleeves"
- no chevrons -and privates first class, who wore "mosquito-wings" - a
single chevron on each sleeve.

We specialists (E-4 through E-9) received the pay and the privileges of
NCO's of the relevant grade, but lacked the authority. In fact, in combat
units in which specialists were as rare as NCO's, specialists *did* have
the authority of NCO's and were treated as such.

However, I was in a unit made up of "linguists" in the Army Security
Agency." Such units consisted entirely of a couple of hundred specialists 4
and 5, so we cleaned the latrine, stood guard, worked the burn-bag detail,
and did all of the other stuff that "true" EM did.

In West Berlin, specs 4 and 5 - those of us in the Security Agency, anyway
- had a choice of the NCO club - a dull, dreary, sad place with a
half-dozen or so lifers drowning their PTSD in alcohol - or the EM club, a
swinging scene non-distinct from the better class of stateside nightclub.
It even had a real name - the Stork Club.

Coming home, the troopship had to be GI'ed - cleaned - from stem to stern
on a daily basis. Specialists had too much pswaydo-rank to be put onto a
work-detail, but not enough real rank to be put in charge of such a detail.
Large, but not in charge.

The specialists got to hang out with the higher-ranking NCO's, while the
other EM and the few corporals worked their asses off.

Very seldom does a situation in the military come to what is known as

Anyway, IMO, an EM is not at all the same as an NCO.
All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society -

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