The Three Meter Zone

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Welcome to The Three Meter Zone, the zone where first-line leaders accomplish an organization’s most vital work. The critical leadership in any organization is that provided by first-line leaders. In the military that responsibility falls to Noncommissioned Officers, the group of men and women considered the Backbone of the force. Daily, they train and mold soldiers through expert action and by professional example. Without rock-solid leaders in the Three Meter Zone, the strategic mission fails. The Three Meter Zone challenges you to assess your leadership abilities and provide the crucial leadership your organization needs.

The best way to understand the impact first-line leadership has on organizations and what it entails is to thoroughly study it where it occurs. In the Three Meter Zone.

Foreword By Command Sergeant Major Jimmie Spencer, USA (Retired)

Command Sergeant Major Dave Pendry in his excellent book, The Three-Meter Zone, is doing what noncommissioned officers have been doing forever: teaching, coaching, and mentoring soldiers and other noncommissioned officers. What sets this book apart is that we are provided the opportunity to “sit in” on a counseling session. This makes us all beneficiaries of Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Pendry’s wisdom.

All readers, soldiers, NCOs and officers are getting advice from their units’ senior NCO, with no appointment necessary. This counseling session is conducted in a non-threatening environment and absolutely off the record: it gets no better than this.

Thee Three-Meter Zone doesn’t hesitate to expose common lapses in judgement among NCOs. Pendry gives us examples of what we do correctly, while balancing these with other examples of what not to do. Whether or not we agree with his views, his words are always thought provoking.

Command Sergeant Major Pendry manages to simplify complex concepts and put them into words we all can understand and profit by. His use of examples and diagrams makes it easy to follow. When he adds a few theories of his own, they help to clarify and compliment the more difficult concepts. The end result is a splendid and at times humorous book that once started is hard to put down.

Noncommissioned officers are, at this very moment around the world, leading, training, and caring for soldiers. That’s what we expect of them and it’s been that way for more than 200 years. Most, if not all, of the sage advice from NCOs goes unrecorded, lost to all but a few who pass it on to the next generations of corporals and sergeants. Command Sergeant Major Pendry has corrected this problem by providing The Three-Meter Zone for our future guidance. I hope the book inspires other NCOs to record their own leadership lessons, making it the first of many such publications.

The Three-Meter Zone was written by one of the NCO Corps best and brightest noncommissioned officers. He discusses army values in “user friendly” terms. It is well written with important messages for army leaders, past present, and future.

I highly recommend that all NCOs, both active and reserve component, read The Three-Meter Zone and make it a permanent part of their personal professional libraries.


Reviews and Reader Comments:


Dear Mr. Pendry,

I wanted to express my gratitude to you for the impact that “The Three Meter Zone,” has had on my leadership style. I have always admired the military’s method of developing young leaders and have spent quite a bit of time studying military leadership. Your book has been one of the enduring and practical books about leading the folks under my wing. I read your book over a two week period in a small cafeteria in central Switzerland where I managed operations for ABB’s Power Semiconductor division for nearly six years. I was quite ‘stuck in a rut’ at the time regarding my leadership style and your thoughts gave me a fresh perspective. Not only that, but the daily interaction I had with a military mindset caused me to get off my backside and to start exercising to keep my heart and brain in check. Thanks for that as well.

We have now moved back to the States where I am a CEO with a small security company just outside of Raleigh, NC. I keep your book in my office and reference it for inspiration and share it with my leadership team.

And now that I have seen your blog I’ll be stopping by there as often as I can as well, loved your Feb 2nd post and couldn’t agree more.

Kind regards,
Tom Devine
North Carolina


SGT Le Nutzman
Judge Advocate General’s Corp

CSM Pendry,

I was recently hunting on the web for some “good old Army stuff” when I came across your website. I have to admit, I read your book “The Three Meter Zone” shortly after becoming a Noncommissioned Officer in 1999. I have, to the best of my abilities, lived by it and it’s lessons, even after leaving active duty. I’ve found that after serving in the Army for 10 years, I can’t break the discipline, nor can I shake the unnerving shiver I get when I see your book in a bookstore or online, or even hear the beginning of the NCO Creed. Overall CSM, I wanted to tell you, your book had a direct impact on me, my military service, and my being a noncommissioned officer.

“From the position of respect to the front, lean and rest, once a noncom, ALWAYS a noncom, HOOOOAH!”

Le J. Nutzman


COL Luigi E. Biever
Resident Student
Army War College
Carlisle Barrack, PA

CSM Pendry,

I am currently a student here at the Army War College and really felt this need to write to thank you for your book. I ran across it several years ago and since have passed it out to many of my NCOs and officers. Your philosophies on leadership are so prevalent in today’s Army. Our Soldiers deserve the best leadership we can give them and I do try to live up to the values we attempt to instill in them. This might sound hokey but I just wanted to thank you for your book. I have tried for years to pass on this knowledge but as an officer I was “meddling”. By giving your book to great NCOs who read it and passed out this knowledge has helped improve the units that I have been associated with.

I took your book to class when we were discussing leadership and passed it on to the instructors. It always amazes me how our officer corps believes (or maybe just here in the schoolhouse) they know best. The book opened their eyes to another thought process.

Thanks again.


Chief Warrant Officer Sean D. Clark, CD
Regimental Sergeant-Major
The Queen’s York Rangers, 1st American Regiment
Royal Canadian Armoured Corps

In his book, The Three Meter Zone, CSM (JD) Pendry takes a straight forward look at what you need to focus on as a NCO leader, regardless of your trade or rank. Each chapter rolls out like a wonderfully informal, but highly informative lesson on NCO leadership; the values, morals and traits needed to be an effective NCO. It reads as though JD was standing up delivering it to you personally. In typical NCO fashion, the summary at the end of each chapter confirms the main teaching points before moving on to the next topic. The stories and lessons therein provide an excellent stimulus for all leaders young and old to re-evaluate their own Three Meter Zone.

This book is applicable to everyone who wears a uniform, regardless of service, branch or country of origin.


Steve W. Briscoe
1SG, HHC 66th Bde, 35th ID

I want to tell you it was one of the best leadership books I have ever read… and I have read the FM 22-100 and assorted others. Been to all the Active Component NCOES [Noncommissioned Officer Education System] as well as the FSC [First Sergeants Course] and, after reading your book would make it required reading for all NCOES schools – were it my decision.

I will certainly be reading your book again. So much of what you have said I have thought about but never put it to paper. I went to basic training in 1972 and I remember all the classes that started with, “If you do not pay attention in this class you will die in Vietnam!!!”

I remember the IG [Inspector General] inspections of the early ’70s and I helped the 1SG and Supply Sgt pack things away in the backs of trucks and “special” storage facilities (the garage at home) the day prior to the IG and helped return it the day after… I remember less being brought back than was taken out.

Your book rejuvenated my desire to be a good NCO… I have never been satisfied with being a “tweener” and I hope I never will.


SGT (P) Reginald Cummings
HHC 304TH Sig BN, Camp Colbern Korea

Hello I read your book awhile ago (Three Meter Zone) I loved that book. I recommended your book to the best of my friends in the Army. You honestly have changed my life just by the words you wrote. I just want to thank you. You have helped me become a better NCO. I am just an E-5, I read your book when I was an E-4 and every time I feel that I am in a dilemma I go to your book for help as it was the guide to me being an NCO. Do you have any other books that you have written so I can read them? Or do you have any other reading that you recommend? I am not a reader but once I read the first few pages of your book I had to read the entire book. Thank again. You are helping The NCOs Lead the Way!!!


Navy Chief Dave DiPietro

This is an excellent book for anyone in a leadership position, especially in the military. It very clearly highlights the most important aspects of our job, whatever service you’re in. Finally, another NCO that sees that taking care of our people doesn’t mean spoiling them, while at the same time longing for some of the traditions of old. Although I’m a Navy Chief, the analogy of the three meter zone is easy to understand, and I was able to immediately place all of my Sailors into one of those three zones. I’m recommending this book to all of my new CPO selectees, and am going to buy another copy for the command. Thanks CSM Pendry.


Joey Recker, Plains, GA

Thanks for your book. I bought my copy from about a year ago. I have been teaching NCODP at my unit every month since then and haven’t run out of great quotes, and stories from your book since. It’s very thought provoking. Forced me to look in the mirror, which in turn helped me be a better NCO. Deploying to Bosnia soon and will pack your book right along with my other reference material. Thanks again.


MSG Robert Cowens

CSM Pendry,

Your book was a breath of fresh air. One that drew me in and kept me reading (finished in 4 nights-plus lunches). The topics of concern and ways they were covered were extremely effective. I have to admit there are a couple of areas that I don’t 100% agree with, but have to say that overall it was a counseling session I was overdue for. Focus is back, working on the toolbox inventory, co-missioning, etc.

I attended the Covey Seven Habits workshop approximately two years ago. I picked up a lot of information and insight from this, but something was missing. After reading your book I knew what that was. Thanks for filling the void and providing me with an NCO’s view and some of the knowledge it has taken years of military life-lessons to learn.


SPC (P) Eric Robison

CSM Pendry,

I have learned more from your book than I think you intended to teach. I will pin on my E-5 August 1st, and with the knowledge I have gained from your book, I believe that I will have the right foundation to pursue a NCO career. You book hits the truth in the head and I see now why troops act the way that they do, and the Three Meter Zone couldn’t be more accurate.

I read your book during my down time in the field and I finished it when I came home. I have spoken some of the lessons in the book to my close NCO friends who are now reevaluating how they lead. I already have a line of NCO’s wanting to read your book. I am going to suggest to my unit to bulk purchase your book. It is a need for every NCO in the Army, new or old to read and understand your book. Thank you for giving me a grid to find and an azimuth to follow.


SSG Charles Moening

Sergeant Major,

Some years ago, Summer of ‘96, to be correct, I read an article in the NCO journal. An article about the “Bouncing Betty” and the “Three-meter zone”. At that time, I was a SPC serving at FT Huachuca, AZ. I read the article and I agreed with the thoughts and views about the different types of soldiers. I “borrowed” the Orderly Room’s copy and placed it in my binder with my awards and important military papers. Then in 1999, I read a review in the Stars and Stripes newspaper in Germany about a new book coming out called the “The Three Meter Zone”. Instantly, I recalled the NCO journal article, because I had read it so many times, told others about it, and even used it as a guide when looking at my own soldiers and their need or non-need of direct supervision.

When I went home that night, I pulled out the NCO Journal and had to check the author’s name, which I couldn’t remember. What to my surprise, this was the same man and I know I had to have the book. So using the computer in the office, I ordered it from an on-line bookstore, I will not use the name but it was the one that starts with an “A”. Upon reading the book, I found some very interesting and useful knowledge and tools. I have read the book twice now and have made notes on areas of the book for my future use. But, then today I just read a piece that you did on the Black Beret issue. There were some very interesting points made in your article and I do feel ashamed for being one of those soldiers that said hey these are good ideas the General has come up with and I only hope they will work out, but I said nothing or did nothing about it. Looking back, I now see where no one sent one letter or email supporting the changes the General purposes.

Upon looking at that article and seeing that you are now retired, I did a quick search of the net and found your bunker web site. I must say that I have always found your ideas and views to be pretty much along with my own and they have reraised attitudes and beliefs in me that I had let slip to the way side. I thank you greatly for the time and effort you have put forth to help your fellow soldiers and comrades, both while on active duty and now that you are retired. I look forward to returning to your site and searching it out completely.

Again thanks from the bottom of my heart.


SSG James Vance

CSM Pendry

Approximately two months ago I won your book “Three Meter Zone”. I have enjoyed reading it and am just about to complete it for the third time. While reading it at the Fire Station I work at, I showed it to one of my Chiefs, specifically the “good leader list”. Then I went on a medical run. When I came back an hour later I found him highly engrossed in it. He finished reading it over the next two days. He showed it to other chiefs on the dept, especially the “good leader list” and the welfare Soldiers. There is now a waiting list among the Chiefs as to who gets to read your book next. There are a total of 10 Chiefs on the Dept. and at least 5 that will be or have read your book. I personally would like to thank you and to tell you that I have learned a lot from your book.


MSG Abel Villesca
BNCOC Branch Chief
2/515th Regt. NMARNG

Sergeant Major,

I hope you don’t mind me dropping a note. Today I finished reading “The Three Meter Zone”. I want to thank you for what amounts to the best counseling I have ever received. Your words were thought provoking and right on target. I will use what I’ve learned every day and pass it on to my soldiers and students.


SGM Rick Judy

I have read the book twice. We have used it for NCODP as well as conversational topics. It is an outstanding book that will put you back on track if you have strayed. I believe every NCO should read it and then live it. Great job on a great book…..


SFC Mark Fogel, USAR

CSM Pendry,

I’m an Army Reserve NCO in a Civil Affairs Battalion. After reading your book, I found it to be so good that I bought more copies and presented them to other soldiers in my detachment when they were promoted to either SGT or SSG. I’m not a “know it all”, but I don’t think that I really learned much from your book. Your book served more as a reminder of who I should be, how I should act, and what I should do. The book serves as my conscious. Hopefully, the recipients of your book will read it, and then re-read it. I know that I’m about due for a re-read. Thank you for writing a truly outstanding book, one that needed to be written.


CSM David L. Lady, Command Sergeant Major, US Army Armor Center, Armor Magazine, May-June 1999

The three meter zone is the zone of the first-line noncommissioned leader. It is the zone of the day-after-day, in-the-face, hands-on leadership. It is the most critical leadership zone; if what is done within the zone is done with common sense and high standards, the product will be an outstanding soldier. If what is done within the zone is done poorly and to low standards, the product will be an elimination action or, even worse, an unmotivated, untrained, unfit soldier who is merely marking time until ETS. As our Army is suffering from dramatically high attrition rates among first term soldiers, CSM Pendry’s short book is both timely and useful. He clearly explains how first line leaders can develop themselves and their leadership style, and how they can lead their soldiers to success. I recommend this book be read by sergeants and by company-grade officers. I encourage all battalion and brigade commanders to add it to their unit’s professional reading list.

CSM Pendry focuses first on the leader, and explains how he developed his own leadership style. He shows how he changed many of his opinions over the years, and how he critically examined his values to develop a solid foundation for his leadership style. He includes an interesting discussion on the need for counseling of the battalion CSM by the battalion commander, which can be read with profit by every NCO who intends to become a “command team” member. He relates that it was crucial to his own development to simply sit down and write out what the Army values mean to him (he includes, but goes beyond LDRSHIP). It was not easy for him to do, but when finished, he had his position, he knew where he was going, and he knew how he planned to get there. Another concept he found useful was the “personal battle focus,” his own mission essential tasks, means of assessing where he was, and a plan to get where he wanted to be. CSM Pendry emphasizes the critical importance of being the example of what we want our soldiers to be – never easy, but absolutely essential to success within the three-meter zone.

In the second half of his book, CSM Pendry focuses on standards and discipline for soldiers – knowing them, respecting and rewarding them, motivating them, training them, and physically training them. The longest and most important of these sections covers “knowing them.” Here, CSM Pendry emphasizes that different styles must be used for different people, with the goal of moving the soldier out of the three-meter zone of constant supervision and detailed instructions, into the “fifty” or “one-hundred meter” zones of increased responsibility and autonomy. Readers will find his comments on the need to know and be partners with civilian employees, on the need to welcome newly promoted NCOs into the corps, and on the need to communicate with and participate in low-profile events with soldiers to be very thought provoking.

Finally, every leader should read his comments concerning how too many NCOs and company grade officers have “willed” the Single Soldier Initiatives for Quality of Life to fail; he correctly indicts many leaders for willfully failing to support the program and our own soldiers as the best of them try to improve their style of life.

CSM Pendry has no magical formulas for leaders. He has thought critically about how he leads; he has improved as a leader by applying his insights. Read this book, take up his challenge to critically examine ourselves and our styles. We can become masters of the “three-meter zone” as well. The entire Army will benefit.


SPC John D. Greer

“Mr.” Pendry,

I recently requested and got your book as a Christmas present and was able to read it while I was on leave. I just wanted to let you know that I thought it was an insightful book. It’s given me a few ideas now for personal professional development, such as the “Personal METL [Mission Essential Task List]” which I’m now attempting to complete.

It’s nice to see emphasis on unit level leadership. I’m going to pass this book along to my 1SG today as I know he will enjoy it as much as I have.


SPC Michael T. Krause, US Army

The normal “NCO guide” that is put out these days mostly focuses on getting the “right” schools, the “right” jobs, and overall instructing today’s Noncommissioned Officer on how to “get ahead”.
Well, that is exactly what The Three Meter Zone isn’t.

Instead, this book presents exactly what the title states: common sense leadership. There aren’t any tips in here about “how to max the board” or get all your “tickets punched”. No, inside this book are hard, practical lessons on how to lead and train soldiers, and last time I checked that was the mission of the NCO.

Punctuated and enhanced by real world scenarios, and seasoned by CSM Pendry’s own philosophies, The Three Meter Zone is a veritable encyclopedia of the NCO’s profession. I can only hope the NCOs in my support channel will get hold of a copy (I will certainly be lending mine out), and take to heart all the teachings inside of it. Brutal honesty and practical advice are the methods CSM Pendry uses, and they instruct well. I may not be an NCO yet, but when I do pin those stripes on, I can assure you my leadership will be heavily guided by a dog-eared copy of The Three Meter Zone.


Charles O’Brien, MSgt, USAF

CSM (Ret) Pendry

I came across your book a few years ago and incorporated it into my training program. It is now required reading by all my junior NCOs. Once a trooper reads the book, I start shaping and molding him (or her) into the NCO that I, and the Air Force, can be proud of.

Your book has become the outline for my program. It must work, I’ve turned out some fine lieutenants and NCOs.


SFC Patrick Dyer, Military Police NCO Academy

This is an outstanding book that tells an uninformed reader exactly how NCO’s should motivate, direct, and give purpose for a Three Meter Experience ! FM 22-100 guides soldiers in the Army leadership process through the eyes of Senior Officer Leadership. The Three Meter Zone gives it to you by a Noncommissioned Officer, for Noncommissioned Officers who like to get close and personal. We are in an Army that has sold its soul to corporate America and are being taught to “manage” soldiers instead of leading them. Its good to see a book supporting direct, in your face leadership!! I’ve conducted a Bold site adjustment on my leadership style and am confident that my shot group is now in the Three Meter Zone!


MSG Michael A. Haskins

CSM Pendry,

This was definitely the most rewarding book I have read, it was fantastic. Everything you stated in your book is just how the Noncommissioned Corps should function. It made me reminisce through out every chapter. Finally something I could relate to, and I am still sharing with fellow Noncommissioned Officers.


1SG Gerald J. Schleining Jr.
Co C, 1-162 Infantry
Oregon National Guard

CSM Pendry,

The book is fantastic. You have hit the target “Center Mass” on the issues that are relevant to the Noncommissioned Officer Corps and the Army in General. You title says it all, “Common Sense Leadership for the NCO”. As I read the book and reflected on each chapter, it was amazing how uncommon, common sense is (in the real world of leadership). The book is well written and an easy read. I am finding it a great source of reference material and a common sense check for my own leadership, and development of my junior leaders. Great NCODP material. This book is on my bookshelf right next to 22-100, and there is no dust on either.

I highly recommend this outstanding piece of work to all Noncommissioned officers, it will get your head thinking and your leadership moving in the right direction. CSM Pendry has set this up to ensure that we all succeed, especially our soldiers. A must for every professional NCO’s library.


1SG Richard S. Rosen – Fort Drum, New York

I have had this book since September 1999 and have found it to be the finest book of its category. I am not ashamed to admit that after 20 years of active duty that I have learned more from one source than all that are published. It is a comprehensive guide that enhances all published regulations and field manuals on Leadership. It is truly a First Line Leaders guide as well as that for a Command Sergeant Major. It took me a long time to read this book only because I was relishing each and every word written. I only wish a book like this had been published when I came up through the ranks.


David Leung, MIT, Somerville, MA

Dear CSM Pendry:

I just finished reading your book, The Three Meter Zone, and I just wished to express my appreciation for your book. I found the concepts expressed within your book to be, in a few cases, immediately applicable in my personal (civilian) and professional (software engineer) lives. Certainly excellent food for thought in becoming a better person, and helping others around me.


1SG James Haynes

CSM Pendry,

I recently purchased your book and I must say, it was extremely informative and insightful. As a First Sergeant, many of the issues you spoke about hit home – I have dealt with many of these issues first-hand myself. Thanks for your wisdom and knowledge in NCO Matters, and most of all – thanks for your service!


SSG Joesph P. Ryan

CSM Pendry,

After reading your book it brought me back to my day’s as Cpl. Ryan. My absence as a recruiter made me realize what a change 3 and 1/2 years can make and a need to cut out being baby sitters and be leaders. We as NCO’S will loose what we have gained in respect, honor, loyalty, and commitment to the ARMY if we don’t police our own. Thank you again for the wake up call in your book. It should be mandatory reading for officers, NCOs and enlisted alike.


M.D. Chiviendacz(CD),WO, CSM Admin Coy, 28 (Ottawa) Svc Bn, Canadian Army

CSM Pendry,

I have read your book and wanted to comment. I am a WO (Warrant Officer) in the Canadian Army and purchased your book on a whim when I was having a slight problem sorting out some leadership issues in my Company (of which I am the Sergeant Major). Your book was, to say the least, refreshing and inspirational. As a matter of fact, I have recommended to my Regimental Sergeant Major that your book be purchased by the Battalion as a training aid in the NCO’s Training Program that I plan to institute in the coming year. In addition, It inspired me to write down my own thoughts about leadership. This has turned into a proposal for a monthly “newsletter” to be distributed to all personnel (in my Battalion) between the ranks of Master Corporal and Chief Warrant Officer (the NCO ranks in the Canadian Army). The CF approach to leadership (as it applies to NCOs) is one based on principles (the same ones that your Army uses). Your book has opened my eyes to the benefits of a “values” or “morals” based approach that reinforces the current “principles” based approach. I just wanted to contact you and say thank you.

Thank you.


The Three Meter Zone
Common Sense Leadership for NCOs
A Review By Paul Schneidmill

The Three Meter Zone is a leadership book for all soldiers (primarily the Non-Commissioned Officer) that reads like a Field Manual gleaned from a human heart, truly and unconditionally concerned for the Army and soldiers of our nation.

Clearly transmitted in non-lofty, non-mechanical words and laced with pure, unadulterated reasoning, this book will greatly benefit and motivate every NCO, regardless of grade, experience, or time in service.
My favorite quote by the author is found on page 77 (the last paragraph in “The Mirror Image” of chapter 3). I read it several times when I saw how it powerfully conveyed the fact that every NCO’s influence will have a reflection on the Army’s posture.

The Three Meter Zone should be recommended reading for the Officer Candidate School (to show future officers what they should look for and expect in NCOs) and required reading for every NCO who wants to leave a positive imprint in their particular branch of service and occupational specialty.

The Three Meter Zone has one agenda: Overall betterment for the NCOs and soldiers of our country’s Army.
When this book, this wall locker of leadership equipment, is opened by men and women with a desire to maintain the greatness, integrity, and preparedness necessary to keep our Army eternally strong, they will find in it, a dog that will hunt!


MBdr (Master Bombardier) Mary Bornyi
Detachment Commander
11th Field Regiment (Royal Canadian Artillery)

Sergeant Major,

This is an excellent book that completely embodies what an NCO should stand for. I’ve been recommending this book to my peers and also to my subordinates who one day may fill my shoes. Many of the problems described in your book are also prevalent in the Canadian Forces. Unfortunately, I don’t see it changing anytime soon. I guess as long as those of us NCOs who truly care try and make a difference, we’ll be at least affecting a group of soldiers who will take what we’ve shown them an carry on our work. Now if all junior officers were made to read this book as part of their Basic Officer Training, then we’d be starting them off on the right foot too. Thanks for a wonderful book!


Sergeant Zachary Wriston
U.S. Army

Sergeant Major,

I thoroughly enjoyed your book. More than that I started to apply many of your suggestions to how I conduct myself as an NCO and how I take care of and train my soldiers. I passed the Three Meter Zone Method onto the other sergeants in my squad and recommended your book to just about anyone who I have bumped into.

I have two soldiers on my team one is in the 100m and the other is about the 85m…mostly due to he is young and inexperienced, but highly motivated. The one portion of your book I wish the army would reapply is the standards for promotions, awards. Promotions are far too easy to receive currently, all that is required is the paperwork filled out properly and the promotion is awarded.

Thank you for your book and your continuing service.


Platoon Sergeant
801st CSH Det 1 (HUS)


The only question I have is WHY is this book NOT on the NCO Recommended Reading List in FM 7-22.7?


SGT Jesse Hamilton
Drill Sergeant, USAR
A Co. 1/417th INF

CSM Pendry,

I imagine you probably recieve many emails and letters regarding your book “The Three Meter Zone”, so I will make this short and sweet. I’m a young and fairly new NCO and I would like to thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience in your book because it totally changed how I lead and train soldiers. I have taken much of your advice to heart and use it in my everyday life, both in the military and civilian sectors. More importantly though, the issues and situations you discussed forced me to do a “personal AAR” on my past experiences, thus generating a better leadership perspective so I can improve on how I handle similar situations in the future. I can’t thank you enough Sergeant Major.


David G. Scott
Sergeant, USA
Military Police Corps

Sergeant Major,

I would just like to thank you for writing The Three Meter Zone. You are a great mentor, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from you. Your book has not only inspired and pointed me in the right direction to become a better leader, but I believe that you have helped me with many life lessons outside the Army. I recomend your book to ever NCO that I come in contact with whether I think that they are lacking or not, and I truly believe that it is the best leadership book that I have ever read inside or outside of the organization of the United States Military. Thank you very much and just know that there are a lot of soldiers and NCOs out there who look up to you with a great deal of respect, and appreciate the direction that you have given them.


The Three-Meter Zone
A Review
Larry R. Staton, Eastlake, Ohio,/p>

I found the Three Meter-Zone to be simply one of the best books on leadership that I have ever read. And there have been many such books that I have read. This book clearly rates as one of the top two or three books that I could recommend on this topic.

Although I have a military background (USMC, late 60s – early 70s), I spent my career in law enforcement. I retired a couple of years ago after almost 29 years, to include time as a “first line supervisor (Sergeant and Senior Sergeant) and commander (Lieutenant) in Patrol Operations and police tactical operations (SWAT).

I found it to be very refreshing that this book was oriented “primarily” towards the first-line supervisor level. Although the principles and concepts outlined in the book were clearly applicable toward supervisory and management positions above that first line level, the thrust of its direction made it unique in that approach. Additionally, the use of “war stories’ to demonstrate specific examples of conceptual thoughts of principle allowed the reader a glimpse of practical applications of the various principles.

It was quite strange that while this book was an easy read – easy to follow, well written, and by no means conceptually “hazy” – I found it hard to finish! And that was only because I found myself reading a section, putting the book down and mulling over what I just read (and sometimes mulling it over off-and-on for hours), going back and re-reading it, etc. before going on to the next section. As a result, it took me quite a bit longer to finish the book that I had (egotistically) first imagined!

This book rates an “A+” for no other reason that the author’s identification of one of the key problems facing supervision AND management today: “The Three Ps” (I won’t ruin the surprise for future readers by identifying them). In fact, in my opinion, in today’s area of supervision and management (as I know from first hand observation in the law enforcement field and otherwise see both in the corporate world and in the military) the “Three Ps” is THE biggest problem. Until the cultural climate changes occur that effect the necessary changes in this area, I see no hope for an environmental affected change within the entire organizational structures. But as each great movement starts with individual “small steps”, it can only be hoped that enough supervisors (and commanders/managers) take this book to heart and begin the efforts to “Do The Right Thing”!

And at the individual level you will – ultimately – feel much better personally for having done so.


CMSGT Gilbert Duenas, USAF, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, Aerospace Power Journal Winter 2001 The Three Meter Zone: Common Sense Leadership for NCOs by J. D. Pendry. Presidio Press (, P.O. Box 1764, Novato, California 94948, 2000, 256 pages, $24.95.

The Three Meter Zone provides a comprehensive yet easy to follow review of several fundamental leadership principles for noncommissioned officers (NCO). Not only is the book a work of art, but also it has functional value for today’s NCO. The author addresses the principles of NCO leadership via personal and professional experiences, quotations from political and military leaders, historical military accounts, and extracts from US Army field manuals. Command Sergeant Major Pendry, USA, presents the material in such a way that NCOs in any military service can easily use it to take care of their people and accomplish the mission.

The book is essential reading for the junior, mid- level, and senior NCO, offering a practical prescription for tackling leadership issues in the twenty-first century. The author candidly discloses personal experiences-each striking anecdote lends clarity and realism to leadership concepts such as selfless service, integrity, trust, and confidence. In a sense, Pendry invites the reader into a very natural discussion about leadership philosophy, one that underlies the NCO’s role as mentor, disciplinarian, motivator, and communicator. He declares that an NCO’s influence is indispensable to the character and growth of the military organization, insisting that the NCO is the backbone of the US armed forces.

A second key strategy of the author involves the frequent use of probing questions to challenge the reader to carefully examine the implications of leadership decisions. This in-depth exploration of leadership issues suggests that the NCO may often confront situations which require more than a superficial solution. More importantly, NCOs may need to use a holistic approach to fully understand all facets of a leadership challenge prior to advocating or implementing a decision. Similarly, Pendry suggests that yesterday’s leadership solutions are not necessarily appropriate for today’s peacekeeping, humanitarian, or combat-superiority missions. Such constant questioning is not only welcome, but also essential to the continued physical, mental, and emotional development of the NCO.

A third element that distinguishes this text from other books is the author’s unique writing style. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Pendry tells us what he truly feels about NCO leadership! He candidly discloses his personal and professional perspective on leadership and the role of the NCO: accomplish the mission and ensure the welfare of the soldier. These convictions reflect years of military tradition, tutelage under both good and bad leaders, and training in one of the nation’s finest military branches of service. Furthermore, end-of-chapter summaries effectively encapsulate the principles under discussion, giving today’s NCO the knowledge and motivation to lead, discipline, communicate, and motivate.

The Three Meter Zone is an excellent book that will capture its readers’ attention and challenge them to examine their long-held leadership beliefs and practices. I encourage NCOs in any military service to invest a few hours of leadership-development time in reading this text. In turn, I challenge my fellow NCOs to test his ideas and instill fundamental precepts of leadership and followership. In the final analysis, our subordinates, our military profession of arms, and our great nation ask for nothing less!


SSG Ray Good

CSM Pendry,

I read your book recently and thought it was excellent. Everyone has read the FM’s on leadership and counseling and been quizzed on what the books list as the roadmap to great leadership. Then we dutifully memorize them for yet another trivial pursuit game, or board, whichever you prefer. But your advice to look at all these attributes and skills and evaluate them on our own terms really opened my eyes. You’re dead on when you say that we can’t really claim these qualities or exemplify these values without knowing exactly what they mean to us. Great point and gut check. Once we take to heart and live what we say we do, it makes things more meaningful and satisfying.

I’m no PT stud, but I can grass drill and fireman’s carry just fine. I have always liked doing something different for PT, something that breaks the rut and ties in directly to the mission. This has gotten me comments such as “Please, make the bad man stop” and “This is cool, this is really considered PT?”. I will always have that love/hate relationship with running. But there’s something great about dragging a buddy by his LBE through the grass during the early morning dew that makes you feel like you are training for something real. Your view on PT really struck a chord with me and I was glad to see there aren’t just a select few who think this way. Some of us are out here, and we are trying to train for anything, not just a 2 mile run to the battalion aid station. Also agree with you on weight vs. fitness. I have seen some great, not good, great soldiers pushed out. They had 270’s on their test, but they just never met the criteria of the program. And the knowledge they took with them when they left was irreplaceable.

Your Bouncing Betty 3-50-100 meter ranges analogy in regards to choosing leadership styles, while not a fool proof solution, is the best guide I’ve seen ever. Enough said.

One last note. Your book was fun to read. Not just another boring rehash of what we have heard before. It’s challenging, interesting, makes you think, and funny. Your writing style is great, easy to track, and proof that we enlisted can occasionally possess effective writing skills.

Your book is now making the rounds here at the office.


The Three Meter Zone
A Review By
First Lieutenant Edward Luzadder

Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Pendry’s book is a must read for any Noncommissioned Officer (NCO), as well as Officers, who are either early in the development stages of their leadership style, or reassessing their current style. His book is written in plain, down to earth terms, that make it easy to understand on the first, second or thirtieth reading. The explanations of each point in his book are reinforced by outstanding examples. At the conclusion of each chapter, he summarizes the main points discussed, reinforcing the point again.

I have met many NCOs and officers in my 17 years in the military, and I have seen many examples, both good and bad, to illustrate the points made in this book. As young NCOs and officers read The Three Meter Zone, they should take to heart the many experiences CSM Pendry has referenced. Through good leadership, and training, soldiers will do all that is required of them as the time comes, but without the leadership to train them properly, many will not come home again. CSM Pendry has emphasized this point.

As I re-read The Three Meter Zone, I did another self-assessment, or as CSM Pendry put it, a “Toolbox Inventory”, I realized that Leadership does mean many things to many people. To the average soldier, a leader is the soldier they most want to be like as they progress through their career. In my instance, I wanted to be like a Platoon Leader that I had in Germany as a private in 1985, and because of that, I am a Platoon Leader and Executive Officer 16 years later.

I have been to leadership schools, both as an enlisted soldier and as an officer, and I wish that as I attended these courses I had a book such as The Three Meter Zone.


A Review of The Three Meter Zone
SGM Richard A. Beal
8th Army Noncommissioned Officer’s Academy

CSM (Ret) J.D. Pendry’s shot group falls dead center of target issues facing the Army’s NCO corps today. From the moment you begin reading his book The Three Meter Zone, you become mesmerized by the obvious simplicity of his observations. There are no complicated theories or formulas here, just common sense, sound experience and examples that clearly illuminate a leader’s options and provide a clear sense of purpose and direction.

This is a small book, easy to read and digest, but there are lessons to be learned on every page. Everyone can use this book – from those down at the dirty level of leadership to those at the organizational and strategic levels. CSM Pendry often refers to the NCO Creed and the Army Values, and ties in usable leadership lessons by citing specific incidents and examples. It is definitely the desk side companion of FM 22-100, Army Leadership and TC 22-6, The Army Noncommissioned Officer Guide.,/p>

His book is packed with incredibly thought-provoking discussions of proven leadership examples such as those of the observations and quotes of 1SG Pedro Olivari and of Thompson’s Rules. He renders sobering and historic reminders of NCO leadership failures occurring when purpose and direction is lost, resulting in officers and soldiers loosing trust and faith in their NCO corps. His analysis of the zones of leadership and leadership styles is accurate and inspirational.

If you are a leader or about to become a leader, you can’t read this book without it affecting the way you currently approach your leadership style and the many day-to-day leadership challenges you face. It will influence you to re-look the way you do business for those you serve and encourage you to keep going. I wish I had this book back when I was a Corporal. This book is a must to have and I highly recommend it.


Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard
Vince Patton III

Naval Institute Proceedings Magazine, August 99

If you ever wanted to get into the head of a senior enlisted leader, especially one that serves in a command position, this is the book that will take you on such a journey. The author does a superb job of relating his own personal experiences and tying them into everyday leadership and management principles.

Although the book is written specifically for the U. S. Army audience, it’s not difficult to transfer the understanding to any other military service or civilian application. CSM Pendry’s title, “The Three Meter Zone” was chosen based on his experiences of defining “zones of leadership” from close in at three meters. He calls each level a style or task of leadership that should define from how much to how little attention is given to each.

His interpretation of these “zones of leadership” can also be used as comfort zone levels from the perspective of an individual who mentors others. He defines that most important critical leadership takes place between the soldier and the first line noncommissioned leader. This is the “three meter zone.” As such, he put the book in two sections describing leadership practices at both “The Leader” and “The Soldier.”

In the first section of the book addressing “The Leader,” Pendry describes four parts of the leader, building the foundation, establishing direction, being the example and communicating. Each chapter within this section provides an ample amount of personalized examples both from the author’s perspective and what he learned from his mentors. The author provides a summary at the end of each chapter, addressing key points.

Part two of the book covering “The Soldier” gives good morsels of information on how noncommissioned officers (NCOs) have to know and apply leadership practices, when dealing with their subordinates. This section of the book covers seven chapters of applied leadership experiences, where the final chapter is Pendry’s “final thoughts.” Here he summarizes his writings with a final experience, and a brand of his theory on sharing his thoughts on leadership stating, “The noncommissioned officers of the army owe our thoughts on leading to the soldiers. The on-the-ground perspective is different from the bird’s eye view the officers see. It’s time to fill the void.”

What I found most enlightening throughout this book, was CSM Pendry’s ability to keep you interested in what are normally considered as “dry topics” when discussing various degrees of one’s philosophical approach to leadership. By focusing the reader on living examples of day to day interactions between a senior noncommissioned officer with his soldiers, every event provided plenty of opportunities to describe realistic applications of dealing with problems. A few sprinkles of a wide range of quotes from the Old Testament of the Bible, to “Peanuts” cartoon creator, Charles Schultz, Pendry captured the reader’s attention without straying from the subject.

There are several references to field manuals, regulations, and other specific documents that are exclusively Army. However, each reference provides enough understanding to lead you to follow through the rest of the book without being distracted, if you do not know the Army’s system. The author quotes numerous passages from the Army’s “NCO Creed,” which defines the NCO’s “condition of employment.” Those quotes alone provide a non-Army reader to have a much better view and values of the soldiers’ roles and responsibilities they are faced with today.

The book offered five chapters I felt were well written and right on target with describing today’s leadership challenges for any military leader regardless of the service. The chapters, “being the example. communicating, standards and discipline, know them,” and “motivate them.” Provided the best descriptions of common sense approaches without adding abstract theories or personal opinions.

The author steers away from providing many solutions to problem solving situations. Instead, he offers enough thought-provoking interests allowing the reader’s own personal experiences to apply for a given situation. The approach here is to formulate some ideas and approach a given problem, and use them as the situation dictates.

The book is an easy to read 256 pages. If you’re interested in the subject, you can get through it in two to three days. Good advice would be to have a highlighter handy, as you may very well find some good suggestions to use in a leadership discussion forum. Though the book is written with the senior enlisted NCO in mind, division officers, executive officers, and commanding officers from any military service may also find it helpful to use as well.


SFC Thomas J. Vajentic, Army Magazine, June 1999

The Three Meter Zone will enlighten some noncommissioned officers in every branch of service and frighten others. The author explains how noncommissioned officers should be conducting business on a daily basis. Some NCOs will learn that there are senior NCOs who know how business should be conducted. They will be gratified to know that they are doing the right thing on a daily basis, or they will be reminded of how they should be doing it. Some NCOs will be frightened because they either have never been taught the right way to lead or they do not care about leading soldiers. Now they will realize that some senior NCOs know that some people are not doing their jobs.

This book based on experiences throughout a long and successful career, is about leadership from the NCO perspective. It is about time that we NCOs police ourselves instead of allowing others to do it for us.

I found The Three Meter Zone easy as well as interesting to read. I was able to relate to most of the circumstances that were described in the book. The views of CSM James D. Pendry are the same as those shared by many NCOs today. The author has eloquently described the meaning of LDRSHIP (loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage).

CSM Pendry takes real-life situations in which he participated, and explains and evaluates what happened. This will enable others to apply what they read in this book to everyday situations in their own working environment. The author emphasizes the importance of leading by example throughout the entire book.

I have read plenty of leadership books and find this one to be the most realistic, without the million-dollar words and the psychiatric approach to problem-solving and leadership abilities. This book is down-to-earth, with plenty of scenarios, quotations and situations that can easily be related to a reader’s past, present and future.

I highly recommend this book to all noncommissioned officers and commissioned officers; they need to read it and use it as a guide. The Three Meter Zone will not collect any dust on the bookshelf, for it will be referred to in many situations.


Leadership in The Three Meter Zone
Book Review by Ned Christensen

Command Sgt. Major Dave Pendry paid attention when he attended all those schools that lead to the top rung on the military ladder. He read all the pamphlets and field manuals, the generals’ biographies, and just about anything else he could find on the subject of leadership. And he watched and learned from good and not-so-good leaders over the course of a 28-year Army career that included stints as a drill sergeant and a 1st sergeant.

Throughout that long career, Pendry wrote his thoughts down on paper. He says writing helped him distill his thoughts and synthesize what he had read, heard or seen. Now serving as the command sergeant major of the Fort Myer Military Community, Pendry has assembled his lifetime of leadership ponderings into a book for the rest of us to ponder.

The product of all those writings is The Three Meter Zone: Common Sense Leadership for NCOs, an elegantly simple and eminently readable volume of musings, teachings, war stories and observations on the subject of front-line leadership. It is aimed at midlevel noncommissioned officers, but Pendry notes that more senior and junior NCOs could also benefit from the thought process he hopes to stimulate with this book.

Three meters, for those not intimate with the metric system, is a little less than three yards, a rough estimation of a person’s personal space. Pendry contends that this space is where leadership starts, and he illustrates the point with a quote from Dept. of the Army Pamphlet 600-65.

“Every soldier is a leader regardless of his rank or position. His attitude, opinions and deportment mold the approach to mission taken by those above him and his subordinates. It is the summation of this leadership by ‘every soldier’ that makes our Army a winner.”

This quote is one of many in the book from Army manuals, the NCO Creed, and authors ranging from Socrates to Peanuts creator Charlie Schultz. All serve to illustrate or introduce topics of discussion.

Those topics are grouped under two broad headings. Part one, “The Leader,” is devoted to the fundamentals of NCO leadership–the be, know and do–that starts with knowing your leadership philosophy and leading by example and participation.

“Soldiers don’t learn to lead by reading someone’s theory on leadership. They learn from watching leaders–usually the ones closest to them. Established leaders can also become better by listening to and learning from soldiers. Soldiers talk about leaders–good ones and bad ones. Simply put, soldiers will show you what it takes to be a good leader if you listen to them; you just have to pay attention and decide if you want to be one or not.”

“Part two, “The Soldier,” deals with the things NCO leaders have to know and do as they pertain to soldiers. It starts with knowing them as people and knowing what they need, how to motivate and train them to standards and what to do when they fail.

Pendry blames most failures on leaders who create or perpetuate faulty systems within which soldiers live, train and work. Using the Total Army Quality model, he uses flowcharts to illustrate two approaches to producing the Army’s core product–a fully qualified soldier. One flowchart, which Pendry calls the “Einstein insanity version,” (doing the same thing and expecting different results) shows how the prevalent physical training system sets soldiers up to fail and continue failing. A second flowchart illustrates Pendry’s suggested improvement, in which the system, as well as the at-risk soldier, to find out how and where the system might have failed that soldier. The end result, Pendry says, is a higher success rate for soldiers and less cost to the government in defective “product.”

Some faulty systems are institutionalized within the Army, while others are situational or products of leader noninvolvement or misguidedness. Either way, Pendry has a war story or a “sermon” that poignantly (and often humorously) exposes the gamut of leadership shortcomings or dilemmas.

The goal of good leadership is to develop soldiers so that they progress from the three-meter zone, through the 50-meter to the 100-meter zone, with the zone metaphor referring to the amount of supervision required. In some circles, this is called the level of empowerment, and leaders need to know how much empowerment is appropriate for each individual.

And I should note that the book does not rule out a certain number of cases where a soldier may prove incorrigible and a permanent resident of the three meter zone. The author has some sage advice on that, as well.

The part that may seem lacking to some readers is that Pendry rarely prescribes specific approaches to problems or situations, preferring instead to initiate the kind of thought and discussion that he credits with forming and enhancing his leadership education.

There’s plenty of food for thought in The Three Meter Zone. Members of the NCO corps will find leadership guidance and ideas from the NCO perspective, a perspective that Pendry finds sorely lacking in the literature. He says he’s read a lot of leadership books by general officers and, while they were educational, officers look at a bigger picture. NCOs, especially at the small unit level, need to teach and guide at close range–from within the three meter zone.

I would add to CSM Pendry’s target audience, however. Army civilians, like myself, who supervise or work with soldiers, or just want to become a little more familiar with the Army culture will find this book informative and entertaining.

The Three Meter Zone is available now from the Amazon and the Barnes and Noble websites. It is due in stores, including post exchanges, in April.

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