by Norris Burkes Oct 8 2022

In this column’s 22-year history, I don’t recall rehashing a column from the prior week or apologizing for it. Today, I do both.

In review, I wrote last week about the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) who managed our small Air Force base chapel in the mid 1990s. She was the sergeant in charge who ran our chapel’s business at a mile-a-minute. She was law-and-order, good with regulations and policies.

I explained how our chaplain staff found the sergeant a bit too surly for the high-touch world of ministry and enlisted the help of our base psychologist (Read the full story on my website or request it by email).

It wasn’t a bad story for comparing people-people to those who are more task-oriented.

I’ve likely told that story during a visit to your town and concluded by asking the audience, “Are you a task person or a people-person?”

Normally listeners agree that both personalities are needed to see positive outcomes.

That’s something I failed to say in last week’s column. Sadly, I changed my usual question and asked column readers, “Who do you think was right: me, the people-person, or the task-oriented sergeant?”

Responses came from everywhere.

“Why does everything have to be black or white?” asked Kathleen Conley, a reader from Springfield, MO.

“People should be allowed to be nuanced. It’s a fine line,” Kathleen added. “It needn’t be totally black and white. I don’t like that approach. Everything and everyone needn’t be limited to one spectrum or another.”

Kathleen, a retired Army vet, reminded me that the “…NCOIC’s evaluation report was ‘weighted’ on smooth functioning of the office…. That’s how they got promoted. Yes, that can be accomplished with a warm and caring tone, however, I detest a fake warm and caring tone.”

Ouch. And so very right. I apologize to you, Kathleen and the other readers like my Auburn, CA neighbor, Randy Tattershall.

Randy’s a former (Once-a-Marine-Always-a-Marine) who doesn’t mind telling me, “Norris, I am sure you knew this was coming but yes, you were wrong!”

“There has to be middle ground where both give and receive. We do tend to enjoy being in our comfort zones as that is where we feel the most control.

“It sounds like your NCOIC was carrying the organizational load because the chaplains were too focused on the people. Had the chaplains taken on more of the organizational needs of the office she may have had more time to change hats and be more pleasant in her interactions.

“She probably gave the impression she was in control but inside was likely a mess which is why she was less than friendly.”

Randy’s observations, like Kathleen’s, offer good advice in a political climate where both sides seem decidedly unnuanced.

By the way, Kathleen wasn’t done with me yet.

She promised that if she ever became my NCOIC, she could “…keep an office running and do it with a true warm and caring approach to walk-ins, but it’s not my job to be their chaplain. It’s yours.”

I think that’s a good place for me to stop today’s column, except to say once again, “I’m sorry. I can be better than that.”


An updated version of the NCOIC’s story will be in my upcoming book, “Tell It to the Chaplain.” You can sign up for my weekly column at Send comments to Leave recorded comments at (843) 608-9715 or write 10556 Combie Rd Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602.