State of NCO Development Town Hall 2 will focus on leader development

Previously in the NCO Journal

NCO Journal

After every great movie, there is a sequel. So, it’s time for NCOs to get ready for the State of NCO Development Town Hall 2.

After the resounding success of the first town hall from U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command in March, Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, command sergeant major of TRADOC, decided to have another one. In fact, Davenport has announced plans for three more.

“The first town hall was an overview of what was coming their way, and it was such a big success,” Davenport said. “We touched more than 1 million social media accounts. We had on average 3,000 people in our chat rooms, and we went out to 18 countries, so it touched a lot of Soldiers with just a couple hours of hard work.”

The next town hall will take place this week, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. EDT on Thursday, June 23. The chat room will open at 4 p.m. to allow the questions to start rolling in. With a focus on leader development, NCOs are again encouraged to ask questions in the broadcast chat room at http://www.emc.army.mil/broadcast/, or on social media using #TRADOCtownhall.

The town halls are focused on the overarching NCO 2020 strategy, Davenport said. For the town hall this week, the focus will be on line of effort one, leader development. In the fall, Davenport plans a town hall on line of effort two, talent management. A fourth town hall will take place toward the end of the year focused on line of effort three, stewardship of the profession.

“For the coming town hall on development, we’re going to have Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, the commandant of the U.S. Sergeants Major Academy, there; we’re going to have the Combined Arms Center sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. David Turnbull, there; we’re also going to have Army University sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Clowser, there.

Having set themes and topics for the town halls should allow for a discussion that is more relevant to the total force, Davenport said.

“Toward the latter part of the last town hall, it really got into specific Soldier concerns about themselves,” Davenport said. “What I’m trying to paint a picture for the force is, we’re looking out to the year 2020. … It’s not necessarily about them, here and now.”

As before, NCOs are encouraged to send in video questions before the town hall to be played during the event. NCOs can post a video question to Facebook or Twitter using #TRADOCtownhall.

“I encourage Soldiers to go to my blog site, tradocnews.org, and they’ll see ‘Straight From the Sergeant Major,’” Davenport said. “They’ll have to scroll back a couple of articles, but we hung the video, and the chat log from the first town hall, to be as transparent as we can to the force. All of that is still there. They can go back and review. And I ask that they read the NCO 2020 strategy, to really understand those items contained under the development line of effort, so we can have a great discussion.”

Davenport announced that the town hall will again feature a few special video appearances, with messages from Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Schroeder, command sergeant major of U.S. Army Forces Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“It’s going to be a fantastic event,” Davenport said. “I’m looking forward to it. I rearranged my whole schedule so that I can spend time with the leaders that are coming here, so we can be prepared when we go in there to talk to the Soldiers of our great Army.”


What: State of NCO Development Town Hall 2

When: 5-6:30 p.m. EDT on Thursday, June 23 (Chat room opens at 4 p.m.)

Where: www.emc.army.mil/broadcast

Social media: Find U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command on Facebook at facebook.com/USArmyTRADOC and Twitter @TRADOC. Ask questions or make comments using #TRADOCtownhall


USASMA course prepares husbands, wives for new responsibilities as spouses of senior enlisted

NCO Journal

At the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, the Army’s newest sergeants major are not the only ones preparing for major life changes. The students’ spouses are also developing their own leadership skills in the academy’s Spouse Leadership Development Course.

Dody Myers, right, joins other spouses of USASMA students for a lecture on the American Red Cross. Throughout the Spouse Leadership Development Course, the spouses learn about programs available to Army families. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Dody Myers, right, joins other spouses of USASMA students for a lecture on the American Red Cross. Throughout the Spouse Leadership Development Course, the spouses learn about programs available to Army families. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

The 42-hour course prepares spouses of senior enlisted Soldiers for the leadership support positions they will take on within their military communities. Lectures and small group discussions focus on topics such as conflict management, protocol, public speaking and team building. Senior spouses’ roles within the Family Readiness Group are discussed in detail, as well as military benefits and the multitude of programs and resources available to Army families. Examinations are not conducted, but the students are required to give a presentation. The course’s vision is to expand senior spouses’ leadership capacity, broaden their opportunities and recognize their significant contribution to readiness.

“Among the many topics in SLDC, we introduce spouses to the aspects of senior level protocol and etiquette, media engagement, and the use of social media,” said Sgt. Maj. Melissa O’Brien, SLDC director. “They are about to be the face and voice of a new command supporting their military spouse during changes of command, changes of responsibility, memorial ceremonies, along with a whole host of other installation events. Our goal is for spouses to understand how their role transitions into one of leadership support beyond the company, battery, or troop level where many of them actively served as Family Readiness Group leaders. They bring a wealth of experience and knowledge, but now it is time for them to mentor young spouses to carry on the role as FRG leaders.”

The course, offered about once a month, is almost always full. Though it is designed for the spouses of students attending USASMA, the course is open to spouses of sergeants first class and above at Fort Bliss. Spouses from other installations, the Army Reserve and National Guard are also welcome to attend, but they are required to pay for their travel expenses.

“I’ve been a command sergeant major coming up on a dozen years now,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, USASMA’s commandant. “Depending on talent and ambition, Soldiers may spend 30 or 40 percent of their entire career as E9s. That is a long stretch for the spouse, too, with those kinds of community obligations. Having this training will make it a lot easier on that spouse from the start.”

A new role

Much of the information covered in SLDC would benefit any military spouse, Defreese said, but the course also addresses the specific commitments and social changes facing the spouses of sergeants major.

Barb O’Neill attends a lecture during the Spouse Leadership Development Course at USASMA. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Barb O’Neill attends a lecture during the Spouse Leadership Development Course at USASMA. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“You are going to be a senior leader within your community, even if you don’t wear a uniform. Those spouses are a part of the senior culture and social group of a community on post, so that’s why it’s a little different for them,” Defreese said.

One of the major changes a senior spouse faces is that of his or her role in the FRG, said Jane Defreese, the commandant’s wife. Spouses of senior enlisted Soldiers are no longer leaders, but instead advisors, she explained.

Each company/battery/troop has an FRG, and the leaders of each are “down there in the nitty gritty, doing everything they can,” Jane Defreese said. Advisors at the battalion, brigade and division levels, on the other hand, are there to make sure the leaders have the right information and the support they need.

“I love the first day when my husband and I go in and talk to the class and tell them, ‘You are no longer going to be the FRG leader. You are now going to be an advisor,’ and they get wide-eyed and a little nervous about that term,” Jane Defreese said. “But by the end of the course, they are more comfortable, and they know what their roles are going to be. They know it is important for them to step back and let the FRG leaders do their thing.”

Rochelle Blue, who attended the first SLDC of Sergeants Major Course Class 66, said she learned so much in the course, even though she had been a senior spouse for seven years.

“Before I took the class, I thought I had to go in and be in charge of all these things,” Blue said. “But now I know I’m more of an advisor; I’m the one who goes in and looks over things. I am supposed to see how I can make things better, how I can help spouses and their families. And I absolutely love it; because it takes a strong military family to support their Soldier. And now that I know the best way I can help, I’m excited about it.

“I know it is difficult because there is often no one to explain your role as a spouse and how it changes when your spouse is promoted,” Blue said. “I think if more spouses had this class, they would feel more comfortable stepping up into that leadership position. If you go in blind, of course you are going to be afraid. You are afraid you might embarrass your spouse because you don’t know what is going on. This course has opened my eyes and made me more confident. Now I know and understand not only how to help support my husband, but I know what to do on my end.”

‘Resources, not rescues’

If a family has an issue, especially during a deployment or when their Soldier is away for training, senior spouses within the FRG will point them in the right direction to find the help they need. SLDC strives to arm the spouses with the resources they need to address any situation.

Some of the programs overviewed during the course include the Association of the United States Army, bereavement clubs, the American Red Cross and Survivors Outreach Services.

Nadia Wheeler attends a lecture as part of the Spouse Leadership Development Course at USASMA. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Nadia Wheeler attends a lecture as part of the Spouse Leadership Development Course at USASMA. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“I wish I had taken this course when I became a senior spouse seven years ago, because I gained so much valuable information that I could have been using,” Blue said. “For example, I hadn’t realized the depth of what the American Red Cross has to offer. And Survivors Outreach Services – I never even knew they existed. I was so excited to hear about it, because they offer so many things to help families get through those hard times. I really learned so much. I hope more spouses want to jump in and take this course so we can support each other and build a stronger military – both on the spouses’ side and the Soldiers’ side, together. It takes both.”

Learning from each other

One of the goals of SLDC is to create an environment where the spouses can learn from each other. Though their husbands or wives all hold the same rank, the spouses in the class come to the table with many different experiences. Some have been military spouses for 20 years. Others, like Mike Menold, are new to the Army.

“It makes for a very interesting group,” Menold said. “My wife works for U.S. Army Recruiting Command, so we are new to living on post. And being a newbie spouse, and a guy – I was the only guy in our class – I brought a different dynamic in the sense that it’s a different world outside of the military. Most of the spouses are used to living on post and accustomed to moving every three to five years. A lot of them talked about what they want to do with their lives now that their kids are grown. Some of them are grandmothers. And here is this 50-year-old guy saying, ‘Yeah, I’ve got a 4-and-a-half-year-old, and I’m just starting.’ Talking to them about what it is like becoming a parent later in life and how much more I appreciate it, they embraced that. We really did learn from each other.”

Not only do the spouses in SLDC learn from each other, they build a support system. Before they leave USASMA, they have forged a network with other spouses on whom they can rely for help and guidance.

“I loved meeting all the other spouses,” Blue said. “I learned that I am not alone, that we have a lot in common. I built new friendships and a new support group – even after the course, we still talk and come up with new ideas. I know I can count on these other spouses who went through the course with me.”

Adapting the course to student’s needs

To make the class accessible to as many spouses as possible, USASMA offers two evening courses each semester from 5 to 10 p.m. The late course is the only option for many spouses, who, like Blue, work or attend classes during the day.

“It was tough because I was at school all day and then at SLDC at night,” Blue said. “I am glad they offer that though; because in today’s military, a lot of the spouses are not stay-at-home moms or dads. They have careers or school; they are working toward things. I am really glad they offered the night course so I had the opportunity to attend.”

The academy also offers a condensed course for international spouses that focuses more on the social and team-building aspects instead of U.S. programs and resources that would not be available to them in their countries.

“In most countries, spouses have no involvement with the military,” Dennis Defreese said. “Even England – their spouses are not involved with the military at all. However, attending this course still benefits them, because it goes back to being an effective communicator. It’s about being part of a social group and understanding other people’s reactions and personalities.”

Theresa Murch, who is at Fort Bliss with her husband while he attends the Sergeants Major Course, said that even though the dynamics between spouses in Australia are completely different, she learned a lot in the course that will be helpful to her back home.

“I enjoyed hearing about how America does it, because your Army is run quite differently from ours, and if I can learn something to take back to my country, all the better,” she said.

Murch said her favorite part of the course was when she and her classmates were required to give a presentation on a topic of their choice.

“I didn’t know what to talk about, but it made me step out of my comfort zone. And the other women who don’t speak English as well – they all got up and did such a great job. I was so proud of them.”

Murch’s class brought together spouses from the United States, Turkey, Jordan, Brazil, Bosnia, Japan and Macedonia.

“In some countries, spouses have no involvement in the Army whatsoever,” she said. “But I think, even for those countries, learning a little bit – even if you know just one person who you could help – it is a productive course.”

The Spouse Leadership Development Course at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, prepares spouses of enlisted Soldiers for leadership support positions within the military community. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
The Spouse Leadership Development Course at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, prepares spouses of enlisted Soldiers for leadership support positions within the military community. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)



Editor’s note: The NCO Journal is a forum for the open exchange of ideas pertinent to the NCO Corps. Although the poem below, written by former Staff Sgt. Jeffrey T. Brierton, is not in the format we normally publish, we found it worth sharing.


Where do you find all the courage
in the terrible dark of the night?
How do you find the strength you need
to steel yourself for the fight?

At your back the sun is descending
and the shadows are growing tall.
You know when the daylight fades to black
they’ll rage through the breach in the wall.

What do you say to your soldiers
who remember their brothers who died?
How do you tell them how scared you are?
That your stomach is churning inside.

You can’t help but see ’cross the sand bags
and try not to count all the dead.
But you notice a look in your Soldiers’ eyes
and try not to see all the dread.

How do you tell them you’ll carry the day
and pull them away from hell’s door?
When they know that too many have already died
and you can’t lose a single man more.

So you tell them it’s time to lock and load
and saddle up for the fight.
You tell them that everyone’s going home
and that nobody dies tonight.

So where do you find all the courage?
Could it come from deep down inside?
In a place only history’s heroes have known
Where the heart and the soul collide?

We learned where you find all the courage
in the terrible dark of the night.
You find it alongside your brothers
back to back in the thick of the fight.

Jeff Brierton served for 10 years in the U.S. Army Reserve as an Armored Cavalry Scout (19D) in the 2/338th 85th Division in Waukegan, Illinois, leaving the service in 1993 as a staff sergeant. He holds a Ph.D. in American history from Loyola University Chicago. He recently retired as a high school principal after serving for 37 years in public education. He is currently an associate professor of educational leadership at Concordia University Chicago and has recently published Ethics and Politics in School Leadership: Finding Common Ground.

Photo: A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to the Washington National Guard, uses his body to create an opening in a wire obstacle so his team can assault a position during the August 2015 Exercise Grizzly Defender in Alberta, Canada. (Photo illustration by Spc. James Seals, using photo by Sgt. Matthew Sissel.)

Then-Sgt. 1st Class Tyler Bell facilitates a hot wash with a Czech Republic Artillery Battery after conducting a Situational Training Exercise lane at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. (Photo courtesy of 1st Sgt. Tyler Bell)

NCOs challenged, rewarded by training in multinational environments

2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division

A multinational environment provides a noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Army with a fulfilling yet challenging mission at home station, overseas or on the modern battlefield. To be successful, one must be doctrinally sound, flexible, adaptable and a professional.

A recent call-for-fire class with a partner nation at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) provided an example of how all of these tie into one training event. The class was scheduled for 90 minutes. However, about 15 minutes into the class, it became evident that it was going to become a map-reading session. To use the time efficiently with the limited number of English speakers, the class broke into two groups. One group focused on the basics of map reading while the other continued to followed the established lesson plan. This is one of the unique abilities of the Army’s NCO Corps. Our core competency training allowed the instructor to teach the lesson plan as well as conduct other training to a high standard without hesitation.

Although the original lesson was altered, new training was conducted on demand to meet the needs of the soldiers, in addition to the call-for-fire class initially started. As a result, the trained unit came out of that class with two distinct groups of certified trainers who were able to go back to their units and train on map reading as well as calling for fire.

To make Soldiers effective in combat, the crawl-walk-run method is essential to training. The trainer must understand the unit’s tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs). Obtaining copies of the partner nation’s doctrine, translating it, and understanding it thoroughly beforehand is crucial. Unlike most U.S. military units that go through a large-scale training exercise, the majority of multinational units are not working toward the validation of their TTPs or tactical standard operating procedures (TACSOP). They may not even have a strong grasp of their training objectives. If they do, you must strive to learn them before you put together your training plan, along with any training objectives identified by the command team in advance, if applicable.

By pre-planning the intended training, as well as remaining flexible throughout the unit’s progress, the instructor will enable the unit to get the most from the training. Again, try to base the training or classroom instruction off the partner nation’s doctrine, if available.

Understanding partners’ leadership is critical to understanding the nature of the decisions being made during the training. Are the junior leaders allowed to make decisions or is it all top-driven from the commanders? This can often turn into a friction point for a trainer. A lack of understanding of units’ command structure and order flow can discourage and confuse both the unit and the trainer.

During a mounted react-to-contact lane, this lack of understanding was demonstrated quite painfully. A platoon-sized element was on patrol with the platoon leader in the mounted element, and the company commander was at the headquarters. When the platoon became engaged in an unblocked ambush from small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire, the platoon leader sent up reports to the commander and waited to receive the next order. However, the commander wanted more information than was necessary to tell that unit to move out of the kill zone. Because of the lack of decision-making authority, the platoon sat in the kill zone for more than 10 minutes and continued to receive the barrage of fire. During the after-action review, the platoon leader was questioned about his decision to stay in the kill zone, to which he responded that he was neither given the order to break contact nor was he given a new position to occupy. The U.S. military is structured in such a manner that this scenario should never occur because leaders are empowered to assume command and control when necessary. An in-depth understanding of the mission attained through briefs and rehearsals ensures that the transition occurs seamlessly.

When employing unit elements from different nations, conducting mission analysis and proper planning are crucial, especially in a multinational training environment. When a Czech Republic artillery battery falls under a hybrid Bulgarian-American mixed battalion, under an American brigade, the command and control relationship becomes difficult to manage. The key to success is understanding how different units operate.

Again, this goes back to learning their doctrine before execution. Given the command structure stated above, one may already know that it takes the Czech artillery battery about 10 minutes from the receipt of a fire mission to rounds-on-target. Would that be a good option for targets of opportunity? Most likely not, when you have the American battery that can provide fire support much faster. Knowing this, the trainer may be able to recommend a superior course of action for each element. Maybe the Czech battery can cover time-on-target and pre-planned missions for different phases of the operation, while the American batteries can focus on counterfire and targets of opportunity. It is unreasonable to expect units from different backgrounds and capabilities to be able to accomplish the same mission. However, knowledge of units’ operations can help everyone find their place.

Try to pinpoint friction points that may arise because of cultural differences. Look for things a U.S. unit may overlook. A multinational unit may stop training and become engaged in 20 questions, all of which can be attributed to training scenario limitations. Cultural differences play a significant role when working with multinational partners. Time permitted, it is best to have training resources lined up well in advance. The Training Support Center (TSC), Class IV yard, and Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) will become a best friend. An example of a “show-stopper” would be ensuring dummy weapons are available for a simulated cache, rather than the unit’s soldiers’ or the opposition force’s weapons. One may run into the issue of a partner nation unit asking, “Why do we have to give the weapons back to them? We have found them. If they are given back they will be able to use those against us later.” There is sometimes no clear translation for “training purpose and training purposes only,” which is why there is the TSC.

Plan as much specialty training as possible into the schedule — for example, Call For Fire Trainer (CFFT), High Mobility-Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) Assistance Trainer (HEAT), Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 (EST 2000) and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) awareness training. Finally, check with the home station/training area for a list of available training enhancers. If video assets are available and one can plan a script from a partner nation’s doctrine, consider making a training video to send to the units. Never miss an opportunity to take pictures of the group and the training taking place. The assets the U.S. military has at its fingertips for training are cutting edge, and most of it is mandatory training for Soldiers. These training events are held in high regard by many of the Army’s partners and going through it together can strengthen the bond among units.

Then-Sgt. 1st Class Tyler Bell facilitates a hot wash with a Czech Republic Artillery Battery after conducting a Situational Training Exercise lane at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. (Photo courtesy of 1st Sgt. Tyler Bell)
Then-Sgt. 1st Class Tyler Bell facilitates a hot wash with a Czech Republic Artillery Battery after conducting a Situational Training Exercise lane at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. (Photo courtesy of 1st Sgt. Tyler Bell)

Ensure that during the planning process the unit understands the right questions to ask when working in a multinational environment. What assets are available to help accomplish the mission? Indirect Fires, Close Air Support (CAS), military working dogs, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)/Information Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) are all examples of assets that can be brought to the fight. Some units may only plan for what they have and not inquire as to what is available.

It’s important to help multinational units develop their NCO corps. Suggest the idea of empowering their NCOs as the U.S. military does. Teach them how to certify the intermediate leaders as trainers. That way they will be able to teach the junior enlisted and subsequently build trust in their NCOs. In turn, this will instill trust in their leaders such that they no longer need to actively manage the training at that level.

Introduce them to the 8-Step Training Model and teach them how to properly use it. Work on the concept of rehearsals all the way down to the team level. Rehearsals are a powerful tool, not only for war gaming, but also for leaders to ensure everyone is on the same page. A good tactic to use during rehearsals is to call on members of the team and ask them to go over a battle drill, or ask them the communication PACE (Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency) plan. This does several very important things. First, it disseminates the information to the rest of the group so they are aware of the plan or drill. Second, it reassures you that this soldier has paid attention and is ready to execute to mission. Finally, it allows lower enlisted soldiers to be a part of the rehearsal by having an active role in briefing their leaders, peers and subordinates.

Placing an emphasis on safety throughout training is one of the most important leadership responsibilities at all levels. When working with our partner nations, one will often find that some of the safety measures the U.S. Army has in place are not observed. It can be difficult to impress upon our partners the importance of high standards for safety. Some of this is because of lower standards, but most of it is directly related to a lack of equipment and the knowledge that such measures can be put in place to reduce often fatal accidents. Enforcing that all personal protective equipment (PPE) is not only worn, but worn properly is paramount in ensuring safe operations. Introduce equipment and ideas that may be new to these units, such as the Gunners Restraint System. Pre-combat checks and pre-combat inspections (PCC/PCI) are a great way to empower the lower ranks in the preparation process.

Expectation management is critical when working in an ever-changing multinational environment. A unit or trainer must ask, “How much of a lesson or training exercise do you think you will accomplish?” and, “What are the significant takeaways you want to come of the lesson/training if you get derailed for one reason or another?” The practice of educating, coaching and observing will allow the trainer to draw conclusions and create expectations for the partner nation. One way to manage expectations for training is to give the unit a mission and sit through its planning process. After the mission is planned, rewind and walk through it. Ask leading questions and tweak the plan slightly by suggesting doctrinally sound guidance. It may be surprising how many units take the plan and develop it. Then help with preparation and be engaged during rehearsals. Take a step back, observe the mission and oversee an AAR afterward. You will find a lot of the U.S. military doctrine does not mesh with these units’ command structure or culture. Keep in mind how a unit uses our TTPs and starts to blend them with its leadership style. This is a great way to see if a unit is learning and adapting to the threat environment. Always force units to create a standard for their battle drills. They will probably become a hybrid version of our battle drills.

The end state of all the lessons and training is to update or create a TACSOP for the unit to use and add to. Most of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Doctrine does not cover actions below the company level. It’s the trainers’ responsibility to force the action of implementing these guidelines to partner nations, along with providing as many resources as possible to aid the unit in building its TACSOPs. Before disseminating any information, consult the foreign disclosure regulations (what can and cannot be released and to whom) for any products, TTPs or doctrine. There are a few options to ensure the right information is released. The trainer should contact a Foreign Discloser Representative (FDR) at battalion or a Foreign Discloser Officer (FDO) at brigade or division.

Some kind of a gift exchange after the training is complete is commonplace. Many U.S. units rely on the Certificate of Achievement (CoA) as the standard. A multinational counterpart will more than likely have something that is representative of its country or unit. If it can be arranged to present them with something that represents one’s state along with a CoA, it will be received with great respect. In turn, unit patches are always acceptable and are looked upon the same as a military coin.

Embrace the willingness to learn, the thirst for knowledge and the challenges presented in the multinational community. It is an ever-changing environment, the partnerships and bonds made with these brothers-in-arms is a rewarding experience that will endure. If you challenge yourself and your team to take on the responsibility of preparing and shaping the future of combat operations, one will find that members of both parties emerge as stronger leaders.

First Sgt. Tyler Bell is the battery first sergeant of A Battery, 1-7 Field Artillery, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. Bell has served in the artillery for 14 years, 10 of them in the 82nd Airborne and two and a half as an observer/coach/trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. Bell was recently selected as a Dagger Brigade Distinguished Leader.



Policy change will force 3,000 NCOs out early but open promotion opportunities

NCO Journal staff report

In one of his first major policy changes, Army Secretary Eric Fanning signed a directive to return enlisted Retention Control Points to their 2007 levels.

That will mean about 3,000 senior noncommissioned officers will leave the Army earlier than expected, but it also means increased opportunities for mid-grade NCOs to be promoted.

“This is the best course of action to right-size the Army with regards to a readiness perspective for the future,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey said. “It’s the right thing to do. This is not a small decision. It was eight months of running numbers, projections and outcomes.”

RCP_ChangesThe changes are part of an effort to right-size the Army for its current mission, reduce the need for forced separations and create increased opportunities for promotion, Dailey said.

Dailey told the Army Times that the changes create upward mobility; increase promotion rates for sergeants first class, master sergeants and sergeants major; and reduce the need for Qualitative Service Program boards.

The Army, via QSP, screens for NCOs in overstrength specialties or those who have stagnant promotion opportunities, or both.

“QSP does right-size the Army in regard to numbers, but things like deployability, talent management, they’re harder to determine when you’re looking at files,” Dailey told the Army Times.

The new ETS, or “expiration, term of service” dates for some senior enlisted Soldiers with the new RCPs will begin Oct. 1.

The changes apply to sergeants first class and above who are in the regular Army or serve in the Active Guard Reserve program. Their RCPs, which indicate the upper limit of years of service for each grade, will be shortened by two or three years.

Army Secretary Fanning, who was confirmed May 17, will oversee a reduction in force to 450,000 Soldiers by 2018.

Since 2012, when the drawdown began, more experienced Soldiers have been more likely to get the ax from active duty, Federal News Radio reported. Soldiers with more than 20 years of experience who held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel or Colonel and those in the upper echelons of the enlisted ranks made up the majority of the service’s members who were separated, according to a congressional report.

In total the Army involuntarily separated 494 Soldiers between July and December 2015. The Army let go 238 lieutenant colonels and colonels and 206 sergeants first class and master sergeants. Of the nearly 500 Soldiers let go, all except for 31 had 20 years or more of service, the report states.

The specialties of those involuntarily separated ranged from electronic warfare specialist to public affairs officer. Logistics officers took the biggest hit: the Army cut 33. Other specialties that took the brunt of the layoffs were aviation officers, with 21, Corps of Engineers officers, with 20, and infantry officers with 18, the report states.

“Over 50 percent of those we were asking to separate involuntarily had two or more combat deployments, so these are all soldiers that have answered the call of the nation; they have served admirably and because of the program force structure we must separate [from] them,” said Gen. Daniel Allyn, vice chief of staff of the Army, during a March 15 Senate Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee hearing.

Allyn told the subcommittee the Army is doing everything it can through its Soldier for Life program to provide them a seamless transition into civilian life.

The RCP for sergeants first class, including those who are promotable, will change from 26 to 24 years. For first sergeants and master sergeants, the RCP will be reduced from 29 to 26 years. For first sergeants and master sergeants who are promotable (upon graduation from United States Army Sergeants Major Academy), the RCP will drop from 32 to 30 years. The RCPs for command sergeants major and sergeants major will also drop from 32 to 30 years.

The changes to RCPs will be applied incrementally to those affected over the course of three years, ensuring all Soldiers affected will have at least a year’s notice to plan for their retirement. Every Soldier affected is already retirement-eligible, with more than 20 years of service, and will be able to take advantage of a full military retirement.

The benefit to mid-career NCOs is already evident.

Sergeants first class seeking another stripe saw increased opportunity during the fiscal year 2016 master sergeant promotion board, as the selection rate jumped 35 percent, from 8.4 percent in FY15, to 11.8 percent in FY16.

Those increased opportunities came as a result of projected openings in the master sergeant ranks to come because of the RCP changes.

Similar increases in selection rate to sergeant first class are also expected during the 2016 board. Last year’s board selected about 25.4 percent of the staff sergeants considered.

Dailey said the Army hopes to maintain upward mobility for Soldiers in the middle of the NCO ranks by putting the RCPs for senior enlisted back to where they were in 2006-2008.

“You have got to create upward mobility,” he said of opportunities for mid-grade NCOs. “These are highly-qualified, very motivated individuals; they are aggressive seekers of further responsibility. That’s exactly what we trained them to be. If you don’t provide that opportunity, there is a risk you could lose talent.”

Dailey said that back in 2007, the Army needed to grow in size to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We were at war, and the Army needed to get bigger, quick, and build more brigades and battalions,” he said.

The Army used recruiting and retention tools to help grow the Army. Another tool they used was to increase the RCPs for senior enlisted personnel.

Now that the conflicts in the Middle East have drawn down significantly, and the Army has been told to shrink its force size, the Army is reversing the tools it used almost a decade ago to grow in size, Dailey said.

“Now we are in the inverse,” he said. “We were directed to make the Army smaller, historically consistent with every post-war era.”

Dailey said the Army is “focused on doing a talent-based drawdown.” The changes to RCPs are part of that drawdown.

“We wanted to keep those with the benefits of the wartime experience they gained for the last 10 to 12 years of war, and we wanted to make sure we transitioned our Soldiers appropriately,” he said. The Army also wants to “maintain the skills we needed in an Army that was going to get smaller, and doing it appropriately in regards to mitigating the risk against the Soldier, the family and readiness.”

The 3,000 NCOs required to leave the Army earlier than they expected will not all leave at the same time, said Sgt. Maj. LeeAnn M. Conner, senior Army career counselor. The Army will stagger the RCP adjustment over a period of about three years. Most of the affected NCOs will retire with more than 20 years of service, Conner said.

The senior-most NCOs in the Army, the sergeants major, will be offered the opportunity to serve longer than their RCP requires — provided they are at Headquarters Department of the Army or Army command level, in a nominative position, and are rated by a general officer, member of the senior executive service, or equivalent.

A sergeant major who is serving as the command sergeant major at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, for instance, or as executive officer to the Sergeant Major of the Army, will also be authorized to serve beyond 30 years.

But once they leave those positions, they will need to go to similar jobs if they want to continue to serve beyond 30 years.

“If a sergeant major is past 30, they have to keep competing for a nominative positon,” Conner said. “If they are not selected for another one of those positons, it’s time for them to retire. It fits the Army’s promotion modeling system.”

Other NCOs will also get exceptions to the new RCP policy as well, if a command requests an exception to policy and if that request meets the needs of the Army.

“We expect to approve some justified exceptions to policy in the first three years,” Conner said. “We will publish a message that addresses exceptions for reasons such as assignment service obligations and promotions service obligations. For example, if a sergeant first class is on assignment to Germany for a three-year tour, with this change that Soldier may only be able to go for two years and some change. Human Resources Command will have to decide if they want to give an exception to policy for the assignment, an exception of policy for the RCP, or delete the assignment.”

C. Todd Lopez of the Army News Service contributed to this report.


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