Posted on Jan 27, 2015
SFC Instructor/Writer  Alc Cc/Ssd 2
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"In setting up the American Army, General Washington relied heavily on the talents of General Baron Von Steuben. During this time, Von Steuben wrote what is referred to as the "Blue Book of Regulations." This "Blue Book" covered most of the organizational, administrative, and disciplinary details necessary to operate the Continental Army.
While Von Steubon outlined the duties of such NCOs as the Sergeant Major, Quartermaster Sergeant and other key NCOs it was the Company First Sergeant, the American Equivalent of the Prussian Feldwebel, that he directed most of his attention. This noncommissioned officer, chosen by officers of the company, was the linchpin of the company and the discipline of the unit. The conduct of the troops, their exactness in obeying orders and the regularity of their manners, would "in a large measure, depend upon the First Sergeant's vigilance." The First Sergeant therefore must be "intimately acquainted with the character of every soldier in the company and should take great pains to impress upon their minds the indispensable necessity of the strictest obedience as the foundation of order and regularity." Their tasks of maintaining the duty roster in an equitable manner, taking "the daily orders in a book and showing them to their officers, making the morning report to the captain of the state of the company in the form prescribed, and at the same time, acquainting them with anything material that may have happened in the company since the preceding report," all closely resembled the duties of the 17th century company sergeant.



The First Sergeant also kept a company descriptive book under the captain's supervision. These descriptive books listed the names, ages, heights, places of birth, and prior occupations of all enlisted in the company. The Army maintained the books until about the decade of the 20th century when they were finally replaced by the "Morning Report."

Since the First Sergeant was responsible for the entire company, he was, in Von Steuben's words, "not to go on duty, unless with the whole company, but is to be in camp quarters to answer any call that may be made."

On the march or on the battlefield, they were "Never to lead a platoon or section, but always to be a file closer in the formation of the company, their duty being in the company like the adjutant's in the regiment."

In the Army and Marines, the first sergeant is often referred to as "Top," or "Top Kick." The nickname has obvious roots in that the first sergeant is the "top" enlisted person in the unit, and a "kick in the pants" is a motivation tool (not literally, at least in today's military) to get the troops into gear." (retrieve from http://usmilitary.about.com/od/theservices/a/firstsergeant_3.htm)

First sergeants are generally the senior non-commissioned officers of company (battery, troop) sized units, and are unofficially but commonly referred to as "first shirt", "top", "top sergeant", "top soldier", "top kick", due to their seniority and their position at the top of the company's enlisted ranks. They are sometimes referred to as "second hat" because the Company Commander may entrust them with important responsibilities, even over one of the company's lieutenants.

First sergeants handle the leadership and professional development of their soldiers, noncommissioned officer development, manage pay issues, supervise administrative issues, manage the promotable soldiers within the company, and are the first step in disciplinary actions such as an Article 15 (non-judicial punishment) proceeding. A first sergeant may place a soldier under arrest in quarters in certain cases, as well as manage all of the daily responsibilities of running the company/unit.
Posted in these groups: Leadership-abstract-007 LeadershipTradition-crest Tradition
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SGM Erik Marquez
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Edited 9 mo ago
"In the Army and Marines, the first sergeant is often referred to as "Top," or "Top Kick." Why is so offensive for some?"
1: As has been pointed out by Marines, Marines do not call the unit First Sergeant "Top"
2: In the Army, the only position I ever heard call "Top" was the company 1SG.
3: If someone is calling a SGM/CSM "Top" they are ignorant at least, and likely stupid as well.
4: When I was a First Sergeant, it did not bother me when a troop called me "Top" it is an appropriate nickname, even if not actually authorized term of address. I preferred First Sergeant, but did not even blink at Top.
5: If an actual company First Sergeant E8 is getting his (her, other) panties in a wad over being called "Top" Id bet the BN and BDE CSM have concerns and issues with that 1SG's leadership ability..I know I would...if that is what the 1SG chooses to focus on ....Id bet they expend hundreds of man hours defending the grass from being used to train on, rocks are painted weekly, and gravel is raked into neat lines so the unit CSM is impressed (which by the way he is not, unless he is a turd as well) and not a sqd in his unit can perform all basic individual or squad tasks to standard....but hey, no one is calling him "Top"
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SPC Donald Pierce
SPC Donald Pierce
6 mo
WHEN IN FORMATION, AND BEING ADDRESSED BY THE COMPANY 1SG, I RESPONDED WITH FIRST SERGEANT. WHEN HAVING A PERSONAL CONVERSATION WITH HIM, I ADDRESSED HIM AS TOP.
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CPL Modesto Macia-Perez
CPL Modesto Macia-Perez
6 mo
SPC Donald Pierce - My experience was the same, I had the same "Top" in AIT as in South Korea, in formation, he was 1st SGT, on a one on one or informal gathering, we called him TOPs, never felt any 1st SGT. was offended by being called TOP.
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CPL Modesto Macia-Perez
CPL Modesto Macia-Perez
6 mo
1st SGT Potts I believe was his name, Top at Ft. Gordon, AIT then at Camp Colbern, 83-85, we were all crooks!!!
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CPL Modesto Macia-Perez
CPL Modesto Macia-Perez
6 mo
That's what 1SGT Potts use to call all of us, CROOKS, LOL. Good man Potts, I may have his name wrong, I'll double check, but almost sure I'm right.
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SSgt Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) Intercept Operator/Analyst
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Incorrect. While technically inappropriate, MSgts in the Marines are sometimes addressed as "Top", just as GySgts are addressed as "Gunny". 1stSgts in the Marines are only to be addressed as "First Sergeant". In the Army, the term "Top" has been used to address senior enlisted, and not just 1SGs; I've called a SGM "Top" at times (he was more than OK with it). The term "shirt" or "first shirt" has only been historically used in reference to USAF 1st Sgts and not as a form of address.
To answer your question, some don't like it as they look at it as disrespectful in the sense that it somehow diminishes or cheapens the rank, or by thinking it's unprofessional. It's a matter of personal preference.
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MCPO Forrest Erickson
MCPO Forrest Erickson
9 mo
Much simpler in the Navy, E7= Chief, E8=Senior Chief, E9=Master Chief and that's how you address them. E4 thru E6=PO.
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SSG David Thompson
SSG David Thompson
9 mo
In the artillery, firing battery section chiefs are usually E6. Even though I was in Bn HQ, after I made E6 when I was a firing battery area the soldiers would call me “chief”.
When we trained with the local troops in Honduras, they didn’t have as many ranks as we do, and four stripes was a senior NCO to them, and they salute senior NCOs, so we had to get used to being saluted, and would return the salute and keep on going.
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PO2 Hank Kaczmarek
PO2 Hank Kaczmarek
9 mo
The only time I heard an Army First Sgt. called a Top Kick it was Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity.
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SSgt Charles Freeman
SSgt Charles Freeman
9 mo
In the Marine Corps Airwing Msgts, and Mgysgts are routinely addressed as Top, especially if you have a working relationship with them. Warrant Officers are also routinely addressed as Gunner, not to be confused with Gunny.
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CSM William Payne
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I was a First Sergeant for six years and a Command Sergeant Major for 17 years. Top is a term in the Army that is reserved for the First Shirt or First Sergeant, the top NCO in his company. Could also be used for the acting First Sergeant. As a Sergeant Major, I never had a Soldier to address me as Top.
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SSG Civil Affairs Team Sergeant
SSG (Join to see)
9 mo
Because no one is crazy enough to call a CSM or SGM top
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CSM William Payne
CSM William Payne
9 mo
Apparently, this is not the case!
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MSG Tom Behan
MSG Tom Behan
8 mo
In my day you would not dare to address SMG or CSM as TOP. Most soldiers are well aware of the difference. They know to respect both and one more than the other. No matter which one you see most soldiers know enough to walk the other way unless addressed.
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SMSgt Tom Harmon
SMSgt Tom Harmon
6 mo
As a Senior Master Sargent E-8 my last assignment was JCS Pentagon the Navy addressed me as Senior the Army & Marines as Top and of course AF as Sarge.
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