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Feature Stories

NEWS | Nov. 13, 2020

The Best of Both Worlds: Newberry Army Officer and Former NCO Retires

By Courtesy Story U.S. Army Central

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Most Soldiers spend their military career enlisted or commissioned. A small percentage of military professionals, with the exception of the warrant officer, have the opportunity to serve as both a non-commissioned and commissioned officer.

Maj. Paul Sheppard, a native of Newberry, South Carolina, is part of the small percentage who served as an NCO and CO before retiring from the military after 39 years.

“I made the switch from NCO to CO early in my career when I was Staff Sergeant in 1998,” said Sheppard. “I wanted to have more control of my destiny, and being an NCO, I wasn’t able to do that. When I became a CO, I was able to make decisions for myself.”

Sheppard said that because he was able to experience both leadership roles, he gained a better understanding of the Army’s mission and how to support troops effectively.

There are three types of officers in the military. Commissioned Officers are responsible for developing plans, non-commissioned officers are enlisted and accountable for executing those plans, and warrant officers are the technical experts who guide and advise.

“As an NCO, you’re more hands-on with the training of the troops and the execution of the plans,” said Sheppard. “Being an NCO before becoming an officer helped shape my thoughts by giving me an understanding of how NCOs and Soldiers get the job done.”

Becoming a CO was something Sheppard always wanted to do, but he understood that after giving up his NCO stripes, things would change.

“I had to learn how to take my NCO hat off, take a step back and allow NCOs to do their job,” said Sheppard. “That was one of the many things I had to learn after becoming an officer, along with learning my job. I couldn’t micromanage, even if I knew what both leadership roles were like.”

After serving for almost four decades, Sheppard was proud to help guide, mentor, and share knowledge with Soldiers coming up through the ranks.

“To NCOs who decide to commission, take the skills and knowledge you gained as an NCO and put it to good use,” said Sheppard. “The number of things you learn from the military will help you out in life no matter if you're staying in or getting out and finding something you’re talented at.”

For Sheppard, it was important for him to begin and end his military career in South Carolina.

“It means a great deal to me and my family to be able to start and finish my career here,” Sheppard stated. “My family has been here throughout all my achievements and challenges. Now that I’m retired, I’m looking forward to giving time back to them and watching my little girl grow up.”