Rank inflation pops up as a side topic in some posts on Defence and Freedom and I'm not motivated to write an encompassing post about it yet, but I'd like to redirect some attention at the casualties lists from recent conflicts with involvement of Western armies; Iraq and Afghanistan.
One such casualty list is here.
What's striking about these lists is that almost all KIA (and WIA) are either officers or non-commissioned officers. This applies to the casualties lists of several involved countries.
Deployments into distant dirtholes are somewhat special and may end up having a lower share of enlisted personnel than the deploying force has overall, but this effect cannot explain the ratio of officer - NCO - enlisted casualties.
Germany had this rank inflation issue for a long time, and it accelerated during the 90's when the force had to shrink without the system having the ability to shed the long-serving troops (8 years for NCOs, 12 for officers, two decades for officers who turned professional) as easily as enlisted personnel.
Tasks which were done by conscripts for decades were increasingly assigned to junior NCOs.
New personnel had to be recruited to keep the force young enough, and gifting NCO ranks to 8-year volunteer recruits ("Neckermann Stuffz") became a regular embarrassing fact of life instead of a rare occurrence.
NCO courses were watered down and senior leadership lost the Cold War's zeal to fire up training. This in turn resulted in junior NCOs being about as much trusted as were Cold War non-conscript enlisted personnel. Our Feldwebel (lowest rank of senior NCO, requiring a special course and traditionally a mainstay of German armies) became as trusted as were our junior NCOs during the Cold War. I recall some big brass guy bragging about how Feldwebel (previously platoon leader rank) shall lead all of our squads in the future (=now). It didn't cross his mind that this required watering down the same.
So basically today's Western armies use junior NCOs as enlisted personnel.
Just in case anybody doubted that our military bureaucracies need a major shake-up and it would be a good idea to do this during this magnificiently low threat era: This doubt should be gone.
edit - related (hat tip to Eric Palmer blog):