According to Department of Defense (DOD) Instruction 1315.09, Utilization of Enlisted Personnel on Personal Staffs of General and Flag Officers, enlisted aides are authorized for the purpose of relieving general and flag officers of those minor tasks and details that would otherwise be performed at the expense of the officer’s primary military official duties. Enlisted aides assist with the care, cleanliness, and order of assigned quarters, uniforms, and military personal equipment. They also act as the point of contact in officers’ quarters, receive and maintain records of telephone calls, make appointments and receive guests, and assist in the planning, preparation, and conduct of official functions and activities.
Enlisted Aide Selection and Management
Enlisted aides often hold military occupational specialty (MOS) 92G (food service specialist), but it is not a requirement. In the Army and Air Force, general and flag officers who are authorized enlisted aides can choose Soldiers and Airmen from any MOS. (The Marine Corps, the Navy, and the Coast Guard require enlisted aides to be culinary specialists.)
Officers in all services make their selections through an interview process that includes a records review and recommendations. The requirements to become an enlisted aide include:Being in the rank of E–5 or above. (E–4s are admitted into the program on a case-by-case basis.)
Having 2 years of cooking experience.
Submitting paperwork and documents to volunteer for the program, including the servicemember’s last five evaluations.
Having at least a secret security clearance.
An “Enlisted Aide Packet Check List,” including instructions on how to submit the packet and who to submit it to, is available on the Internet at http://www.quartermaster.army.mil/jccoe/Special_Programs_Directorate/
In July, six Army enlisted aide authorizations were vacant. Since these vacancies change all the time, the Army Enlisted Aide Manager, whose contact information is available in the checklist document, can be contacted for the most up-to-date information.
A Short History of the Enlisted Aide
Individuals have served as enlisted aides since the Revolutionary War. General George Washington had an enlisted aide on his staff before he built his artillery and infantry. However, the individual performing the functions of the enlisted aide did not have this formal title. He was instead known as a “servant.”
Enlisted aides continued to “serve” officers in all ranks until the program was halted in the second half of the 20th century. In 1959, Senator William Proxmire began raising concerns about racial prejudice, enlisted aides acting as personal servants, and the high cost of the Enlisted Aide Program. (There were more than 3,000 enlisted aides across DOD.)
“He [Senator Proxmire] was trying to bring up to Congress and the Department of Defense that enlisted aides were being underutilized and that they were being pretty much abused,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Frank Davila, an Enlisted Aide Training Course instructor. “He shed the light on the program and . . . the program actually was disestablished.”
DOD Directive 1315.9, which has recently been replaced by DOD Instruction 1315.09, was rewritten with the help of then President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The word “servant” was replaced with the newly created term “enlisted aide.” Language also was added to the directive to ensure against the abuse of enlisted aides.
In 1973, a General Accounting Office (now Government Accountability Office) report found that the program was cost prohibitive. (In the year before, the Quartermaster Center and School had trained 6 classes of 24 enlisted aides. A total of 1,915 enlisted aides were trained across the services.) As a result, the Secretary of Defense ended enlisted aide training.
In 1974, the program was reestablished, and Congress mandated that the authorized number of enlisted aides be reduced. Once reductions were completed in 1976, the program was left with 300 authorizations—85 percent fewer enlisted aides than before the program’s disestablishment. Today, Title 10 of the U.S. Code continues to limit enlisted aide authorizations to 300 (65 joint, 81 Army,
21 Marine, 58 Navy, and 75 Air Force positions.)
shows a student
of setting up
a general officer’s
a practical exercise. (Photo by Julianne E. Cochran, Army Sustainment)
The Evolution of Enlisted Aide Training
After its reestablishment, the enlisted aide program employed on-the-job training (OJT) to qualify its force. Navy enlisted aides did OJT on board ships to support executive dining rooms. Enlisted aides in all services received OJT in the Pentagon’s executive dining messes, the White House, Camp David, and the C20 Program [where enlisted aides acted as flight attendants on jets used by general and flag officers.]
To provide additional experience, the Navy regularly sent Sailors to Starkey International Institute in Colorado and other personal services schools because no formal military training was available.
While schools like Starkey helped to develop the personal services and culinary skills of enlisted aides, their civilian curriculum ignored important aspects of military household management. After attending such schools, enlisted aides still needed training on uniform maintenance, antiterrorism, operational security, community security, and the DOD rules and regulations applying to their field.
Finally, in 1992, workshops for enlisted aides began at Fort Lee, Virginia. Army enlisted aides were the first to attend, and the Navy began to send their enlisted aides shortly after. Though the workshops filled some training gaps, a formal training program still did not exist.
A Formal Program Fills the Gaps
In November 2003, the Chief of Staff of the Army determined that there was a need for a program to select, train, and manage enlisted aides. In March 2004, Sergeant Major Jamey Ryan was assigned as the Senior Enlisted Aide Advisor and designed a modern Enlisted Aide Training Course (EATC), which was then taught at the Army Center of Excellence, Subsistence and now at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence (JCCoE) at Fort Lee. This formal program addressed military-specific areas of household management.
Initially, classes were only available to the Army. Navy enlisted aides began attending in 2008. The program continues to gradually improve based on input from the enlisted aide community, and it is receiving additional support from all of the military services. In fiscal year 2013, all services, including the Coast Guard, are expected to send enlisted aides to the course.
While the course is still not mandatory, having all branches involved improves the credibility of the program and increases the likelihood of it being chosen over civilian alternatives. This saves DOD money and ensures standardized training for enlisted aides.
Students attending the EATC receive instruction on a wide variety of subjects. Most importantly, they are exposed to the DOD and service regulations pertaining to enlisted aides.
“When an admiral or a general gets promoted to one or two stars and they’ve never had that privilege of having an enlisted aide on their staff, they don’t know what they [the enlisted aides] can and can’t do,” said Senior Chief Davila. “And, that’s why we feel that it’s very important that all those enlisted aides that are identified or are going to be enlisted aides that they come to this training first. . . [where] we can give them those necessary tools that they need to go out there and be successful.”
Addressing the gray areas.Senior Chief Davila said that the push for formal training was initiated because of the need to address the “gray areas” enlisted aides face.
“When you have an enlisted aide show up at the doorstep of a general [or] flag officer and they don’t have the proper training or they’re not qualified, then things happen,” said Senior Chief Davila. Though regulations exist to guide enlisted aides as to what they can and cannot do within the scope of their duties, some areas still require careful handling because clear-cut answers are not available. In order to better equip enlisted aides to deal with these gray areas, instructors provide them with DOD and service instruction on what duties are permissible and impermissible. Through role play, students are taught the skills needed to address tough situations.
Senior Chief Davila said that it is very important for everyone, including the general or flag officer, his spouse, the enlisted aide, the aide de camp, the flag aide, and all other personal staff, to be familiar with the instruction so that gray areas do not exist.
Interpersonal role play. Because enlisted aides spend 90 to 95 percent of their work hours inside the officer’s quarters, it is important for them to have a healthy working relationship with the spouse and any other family members who may spend a lot of time in the home. Students are taught to not be afraid to open up and ask for a dialog with the spouse or officer if they feel that something is not right. Social role play helps students work on interpersonal relationships and the challenges that may arise.
Continuity book. The most essential physical tool enlisted aides need is a continuity book. This book should include at a minimum the officer’s biography, the officer’s likes and dislikes, dietary restrictions, medications, and any health issues the officer has that may require intervention by the enlisted aide in an emergency. It also includes family members’ likes and dislikes and the dates of special occasions, such as anniversaries and birthdays.
The book also should include the DOD and service instructions to refer to if there is a question about the enlisted aide’s duties or responsibilities.
Uniform assembly diagrams and a photo of the officer in his uniform also are advisable to guide the enlisted aide in proper uniform setup.
The book also needs to include essential phone numbers, such as the base locator, base ambulance, base clinic, laundry facilities, commissary, medical center, fire department, the headquarters (aide de camp, flag aide, and secretary), legal, and base police.
Guides for hosting formal events and a schedule of what areas of the house to clean on what days can also be helpful for enlisted aides. Students are asked to develop time-management schedules for their other tasks.
Field trip. To give students an idea of the operation of single and multi-aide homes, classes take field trips, sometimes to the Washington, D.C., area and other times to Norfolk, Virginia, where current enlisted aides give them tours of general or flag officers’ quarters and answer any questions they may have about their duties. This gives students the opportunity to observe the pace of operations in a home and to note any tasks that they may be required to perform that they may have overlooked.
Uniform assembly. Enlisted aides are responsible for setting up the uniforms of their commanding officer. As enlisted aides serve in many interservice assignments, sometimes on short notice, it is important for them to be familiar with the uniforms of all the services.
EATC instructors provide hands-on training and a practical exercise in uniform assembly to familiarize enlisted aides with officers’ dress uniforms. In the exercise, each student is required to set up a uniform from each service.
Financial management. Enlisted aides learn recordkeeping and accounting procedures to help them manage the two types of funds that they are accountable for: official representation funds (ORF) and personal household accounts (or petty cash funds). ORF are funds used for official events, and petty cash funds are used in the daily duties of maintaining the household. In the class, students are taught to use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to execute basic accounting and financial management of the funds.
The enlisted aide will meet with the general or flag officer monthly to discuss how much money will be needed to cover household expenses, such as having the officer’s uniforms cleaned and buying groceries at the commissary. Enlisted aides must maintain receipts for all expenses. EATC students are taught that it is a requirement to meet with their boss at the end of each month to audit these records so that both parties know where the money went.
Meal preparation and planning. Culinary skills are also evaluated during the course. Students plan, prepare, and present a 4-course meal, usually in the JCCoE laboratory.
“It’s not a graduation requirement, but we want to see their skill level—where are they in regards to their culinary skills—and then we help them along the way,” said Senior Chief Davila.
The Enlisted Aide Training Course is open to all military personnel. Those in and pending assignment to enlisted aide positions have first priority for the class, as they are the ones who need the information provided in EATC most immediately. Individuals interested in or who have questions about EATC should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (804) 734–3112.
—Julianne E. Cochran