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Turkish noncommissioned officers fight for their rights

Turkish noncommissioned officers are standing up to the high military command for their rights — and they appear to be winning.
A Turkish non-commissioned officer secures the road for a convoy of
Dutch army trucks carrying Patriot missile units and system parts as
they leave the southern Turkish coastal city of Iskenderun March 1,
2003. The second part of a Dutch patriot missiles system arrived in
Turkey to be deployed in southeast Turkish bases for protection against
a possible Iraqi strike. The Turkish parliament is due to hold a
crucial debate on Saturday to discuss the deployment of 62,000 U.S.
troops on its soil for a possible

Nowadays, Turkey usually makes headlines with reports of authoritarian trends, but from time to time, civil society shows its prowess. One interesting example is the two-year power struggle between the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) — known as Turkey's most rigid, disciplined and hierarchical body — and the noncommissioned officers serving in its branches. Who is winning?

Today, 96,228 noncommissioned officers (NCOs) serve in the TSK's land, navy, air and gendarmerie forces, in addition to 100,000 retired NCOs. When you think of the serving and retired NCOs and their families you are talking of a mass of about 800,000 people. NCOs are intermediary leaders who serve as a bridge between the conscripts and officers. Technical and maintenance personnel and logistics experts are all NCOs. NCOs like to describe themselves as follows: “Take the NCOs out, and the battalion will starve, planes won’t fly, ships won’t sail and tanks will break down.”

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