Category Archives: NCO News

Soldiers, researchers delve into prototype uniforms during German exercise


Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Medium.

Army News Service

About 100 Soldiers wore prototype combat uniforms during a 21-day field exercise this summer while U.S. Army researchers collected their data. Their work will help move the mission to improve the comfort and safety of the garments Soldiers use in the future.

The Army has developed a fabric composed of 50 percent wool, 42 percent Nomex, 5 percent Kevlar and 3 percent P140 antistatic fiber. One goal of textile R&D underway is to create a flame-resistant combat uniform made wholly from domestic materials, said Carole Winterhalter, a textile technologist with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

This research may provide an opportunity to meet this objective.

“We have a lightweight fabric that is inherently flame resistant. No topical treatments are added to provide FR,” Winterhalter said. “We are introducing a very environmentally friendly and sustainable fiber to the combat uniform system.

“We don’t have other wool-based fabrics in the system right now. This is a brand new material.”

Pvt. Antwan Williams, an Infantryman serving as a Human Research Volunteer Soldier at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, models a prototype uniform developed by NSRDEC’s textile technologists. He is also wearing a MOLLE Medium Pack System and a conceptual load carriage vest system called the Airborne Tactical Assault Panel that is designed specifically for Airborne operations but will also be evaluated for non-Airborne operations, including jungle environments. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command)
Pvt. Antwan Williams, an Infantryman serving as a Human Research Volunteer Soldier at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, models a prototype uniform developed by NSRDEC’s textile technologists. He is also wearing a MOLLE Medium Pack System and a conceptual load carriage vest system called the Airborne Tactical Assault Panel that is designed specifically for Airborne operations but will also be evaluated for non-Airborne operations, including jungle environments. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command)

Three Army researchers traveled to Germany from Aug. 26 to Sept. 15 for Exercise Combined Resolve VII to work with about 100 Soldiers in testing and evaluating prototype uniforms composed of this fabric. The scientists joined John Riedener, the Field Assistance in Science and Technology advisor assigned to 7th Army Training Command. The regular exercise brings about 3,500 participants from NATO allies to the region.

“We were in the heat of summer here, and it was very warm during the exercise,” Riedener said. “The uniforms were lighter weight and breathed better. Soldiers were very happy with the material,” Riedener said.

FAST advisors are a component of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.

Soldiers from 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division participated in the 21-day testing and completed surveys before and after the exercise, said Brian Scott, NSRDEC equipment specialist, Soldier and Squad Optimization and Integration Team. The R&D team selected Hohenfels, Germany, because the previous FR wool undergarment evaluation took place there.

Each Soldier received three prototypes. Each uniform was made from the same wool-based blend. One was “garment treated” with permethrin, an insecticide, and another “fabric treated” with permethrin. The third was untreated.

Soldiers wore each of the three uniforms for about seven days in a field environment for a total of 21 days. The testing and survey instructions asked Soldiers not to compare the prototypes with existing uniforms or camouflage patterns. Participating Soldiers came from multiple military occupational specialties.

Their feedback regarding comfort, durability, laundering and shrinkage, insect resistance, and overall performance will help determine whether researchers continue this development effort, Winterhalter said.

Initial results suggest the majority of the Soldiers liked the fabric because it was lightweight and breathable; however, analysis of the survey data is not complete, said Shalli Sherman, NSRDEC program manager for the Office of Synchronization and Integration.

Winterhalter is optimistic about the prospect of a wool blend being incorporated into combat uniforms because of its environmental, manufacturing and economic benefits. She said the United States has about 80,000 wool growers, and the Army would like to include this material in the clothing system.

“Wool is 100 percent biodegradable. It’s easy to dye and absorbs moisture,” said Winterhalter, who is also the federal government’s chief technology officer for the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America Manufacturing Innovation Institute. “The Army has spent quite a bit of time and money to reintroduce a manufacturing process in this country called Super Wash that allows us to shrink-resist treat the wool. It’s been very successful.

“When blended with other fibers, the fabric does not shrink excessively when washed. The Super Wash line at Chargeurs in Jamestown, South Carolina, has exceeded its business estimates. It has revitalized wool manufacturing in this country. Something we initiated for the Army has resulted in economic benefits and new jobs for U.S. citizens.”

The new Super Wash process makes wool viable for combat clothing in nearly any application, including jackets, pants, underwear, headwear, gloves and socks, Winterhalter said.

NSRDEC researchers plan a larger field study with more users over a longer time period of possibly 30 days. More data on comfort and durability is needed as the Army moves forward with this R&D effort, Winterhalter said.

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission is to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

Pvt. Antwan Williams, an Infantryman serving as a Human Research Volunteer Soldier at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, models a prototype uniform developed by NSRDEC’s textile technologists. He is also wearing a MOLLE Medium Pack System and a conceptual load carriage vest system called the Airborne Tactical Assault Panel that is designed specifically for Airborne operations but will also be evaluated for non-Airborne operations, including jungle environments. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command)
Pvt. Antwan Williams, was one of about 100 Soldiers who served as a Human Research Volunteer during Exercise Combined Resolve VII in Germany. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command)

SMA visits, talks professional development with Soldiers in Italy


By STAFF SGT. LANCE POUNDS
U.S. Army Africa

The 15th Sergeant Major of the Army visited Soldiers and senior enlisted leaders assigned to U.S. Army Garrison-Italy tenant units to discuss his Army-wide leader development initiatives.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey hosted two town hall meetings during his visit from Nov. 16-18 to Vicenza, Italy. The first was directed toward Soldiers in the ranks of staff sergeant and below; the second was directed toward sergeant first class and above. The intent was to share with them the changes that have been made, how it affects their careers, and the future of the profession.

Dailey first talked about Soldier readiness, the Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley’s number one priority. Dailey said NCO-led, individual and collective training is vital to the responsible drawdown of the force.

Sustain and retain the best

Dailey said the way to sustain and retain the best enlisted Soldiers is through NCO professional development schools. He said changes were being made to ensure noncommissioned officers throughout the Army received the training opportunities for career advancement.

The first professional development school Soldiers attend is called the Basic Leader Course. In this course, junior Soldiers in the ranks of private first class through specialist, sergeant, and in some cases staff sergeant, receive tactical-level leadership training needed to lead small groups of Soldiers.

The next school is the Advanced Leader Course. The curriculum of this course is intended to develop junior leaders, in the ranks of sergeant through staff sergeant, by exposing them to the operational-level leadership training needed to lead squad and platoon sized units. In addition, this course is branch-specific and is intended to develop the skill and proficiency of a Soldier’s military occupational specialty.

The Senior Leader Course, intended for Soldiers in the rank of sergeant first class through master sergeant, provides leadership, technical and tactical skills, knowledge and experience needed to lead platoon- and company-sized units.

Currently, the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy is the only NCO professional development school acknowledged by military and civilian organizations as an accredited academic institution. However, some colleges do recognize and provide lateral credit for successful completion of BLC, ALC and SLC.

Dailey said there are plans to increase the level of accreditation of all professional development schools. He added that in order to develop leaders “we must take opportunities to invest in the person.”

Investing in the person

“Someone saw the potential in me,” Dailey said, during a flashback story of how he was inspired to serve beyond his initial contract.

According to Dailey, in order to maintain the stewardship of the profession leaders must invest in their Soldiers. He said it is for this reason the Army is changing how leaders are evaluated.

On Jan. 1, the Army released a revised version of the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report intended to better assess the performance and future potential of enlisted leaders.

Dailey said the new evaluation will help restore balance to the reporting system. He added that previous reports indicated 80 percent of NCOs were evaluated as, “among the best.” Dailey said that system took away from those who truly earned top marks on their evaluations.

America’s perception

According to Dailey, last month was the first time in 20 years the Army ranked as the number one choice for civilians seeking a career in the military.

Dailey accredited this to ongoing efforts to change the way Americans perceive the Army. He gave an analogy that explained the perception of pride.

“All Marines, even those kicked out of service, if asked, proudly say they are ‘Marines for life,’” Dailey said. “We can train, educate and promote a Soldier through retirement; then pay them for the rest of their life, and we still suck.”

Dailey further explained perception with word-cloud graphics, which depicted words associated with each service. “Educated” was a word associated with both the Air Force and Navy, while “Dangerous” associated to the Marines and Army. The most disheartening word Dailey said was “Average”, which was only associated with the Army.

Other words associated with the Army were “ordinary” and “low skill,” which led Dailey to ask attendees, “Why is it less than other services?”

One attendee stated that while serving as a recruiter, he noticed people’s perception of the services began the moment they enter a recruiter’s office. Dailey agreed, and then added approximately 69 percent of those who join were influenced by current or former service members.

Setting the example

As the most senior enlisted leader of the Army, Dailey understands that every decision he makes will have an effect on those he leads.

“Good, bad, right or wrong, my presence influences people,” Dailey said, and on Nov. 17 Dailey’s influence would have a lasting effect on one Soldier’s career.

During his visit Dailey promoted Spc. James Sheridon, a USARAF command driver and native of Wayne, Mich., to the rank of sergeant.

“It was an honorable experience,” Sheridon said. “Dailey’s willingness to take time to recognize a junior Soldier sets an example for all NCOs to follow.”

“If he can make the time, we can, too,” said the newly promoted sergeant.

U.S. Army’s most senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey, promotes a junior enlisted Soldier, Spc. James Sheridan, one of U.S. Army Africa’s command drivers, to the rank of Sergeant, Nov. 17, 2016, in front of the USARAF headquarters in Vicenza, Italy. The promotion to sergeant marks a pivotal role change in a Solider’s career from one who is given tasks to one who gives tasks. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds)
U.S. Army’s most senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey, promotes a junior enlisted Soldier, Spc. James Sheridan, one of U.S. Army Africa’s command drivers, to the rank of Sergeant, Nov. 17, 2016, in front of the USARAF headquarters in Vicenza, Italy. The promotion to sergeant marks a pivotal role change in a Solider’s career from one who is given tasks to one who gives tasks. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds)

Ex-Minnesota Guardsman loses controversial decision in latest UFC bout


By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Timothy Johnson sought to climb higher in the UFC rankings Saturday. The trek began with a lofty challenge.

The former sergeant in the Minnesota Army National Guard faced a mismatch in his heavyweight bout against Alexander Volkov as part of the main card of “UFC Fight Night 99 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Johnson was taking on a fighter four inches taller and with more than a two-inch reach advantage in the 6-foot-7 Russian.

But Johnson, an NCO of the 134th Brigade Support Battalion until last month, has not only faced stiff challenges before, he has conquered them. He appeared to do that again Saturday, dropping Volkov with a sizzling uppercut in the opening round and keeping the lanky kickboxer at bay for most of the bout. When the fight went to the judges, one of them scored all three rounds for Johnson. But the other two saw it differently, giving Volkov scores of 29-28 and a controversial split-decision win.

Only winners of the night’s bouts attended the post-fight news conference. While there, Volkov heaped plenty of praise on his opponent.

“It was a great fight with a great opponent and he did a lot in the fight. Basically, I feel a split decision was a good decision because he did a lot too. But I won,” Volkov said.

It was Volkov’s UFC debut, but he entered the octagon with much ballyhoo, having been the heavyweight champion of the Bellator fighting organization some years ago. His lengthy frame and kickboxing expertise was expected to be a big advantage over the burly American and former collegiate wrestling star. Early on, that notion seemed to come to fruition as Volkov tagged Johnson in the opening minute with long combinations and pinned him against the fence. But just as Volkov seemed poised to end the fight, Johnson uncorked a big uppercut that crumpled the Russian. Johnson worked Volkov into the mat and the fence for the remainder of the round, seemingly winning it despite his bad start

Johnson opened the second round with a looping combination and the fighters moved into the clinch. Both fighters traded positions several times with neither really taking control. When they weren’t in the clinch, Volkov showed more offense, but Johnson was the one landing the better blows.

The third round saw Johnson slow down tremendously as Volkov opened with punches before moving into the clinch. He controlled the action the entire round though he never landed a takedown. In the end, it was enough to sway two judges.

The fight was Johnson’s final contracted fight with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He stepped away from the National Guard to focus solely on fighting. The loss doesn’t offer much clarity on his future with the world’s premier fighting organization considering the controversial decision. But he did enter the match ranked No. 15 among a stacked heavyweight division and owning a win over Shamil Abdurakhimov, who will headline a UFC card next month. But Johnson has always displayed a willingness to fight through adversity, whether on the mat, in the field or in the cage. He credits his time as an NCO with developing that fortitude.

“You learn to be Gumby, to be flexible,” Johnson told the NCO Journal in a previous interview. “(Being an NCO) it’s taught me to get in there, it’s taught me to have the mentality of just going and getting the work done.”

Ex-Minnesota Guardsman will fight for his future in last bout of UFC contract


By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

The Army Combat Uniform has recently been relegated to the back of the closet for Timothy Johnson. The former sergeant with the Minnesota Army National Guard received his discharge papers in October. But that doesn’t mean his life no longer revolves around combat.

The 6-foot-3, 265-pound former NCO competes in the UFC’s heavyweight division. He enters his fourth fight with the mixed martial arts world’s premier organization Saturday. Johnson faces Russian fighter Alexander Volkov as part of the main card of “UFC Fight Night 99: Mousasi vs. Hall 2” in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It will be Johnson’s final contracted fight as a member of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

A win offers the potential to vault Johnson into the division’s loftier tier, armed with a new contract. The end of his service obligation provides him a chance to shift his focus primarily to combat inside the octagon.

“I’m kind of focusing all my attention on fighting,” Johnson told the Military Times last month. “This next fight is a contract fight. I’m not sure what’s going to happen after this fight, so I want to keep it open.”

That attention will come in handy given the literal tall task ahead.

Volkov stands at 6-foot-7 and is a dangerous kickboxer. He has parlayed his significant reach advantage into a 26-6 MMA record that includes championship wins in both the M-1 Global and Bellator fight organizations. Volkov’s fight against Johnson will be his UFC debut and his length is expected to present a challenge to the shorter American.

But Johnson is undeterred. He expects to be about 20 pounds heavier than his opponent when they step in the cage and he intends to use his bulk to keep the fight in close quarters with the hope of eventually wearing down Volkov.

“I’m going to be able to bully him around the cage a little bit,” Johnson said.

Keeping the fight close has long been a part of Johnson’s life. Growing up in Lamberton, Minnesota, meant being exposed to the rabid wrestling fan base that stretches to the southwestern part of the state from nearby Iowa.

Johnson entered the sport in seventh grade and quickly found success. As a senior at Red Rock Central High School, Johnson finished fourth in the Class AA heavyweight division of the Minnesota State High School Wrestling Championships. But Johnson’s football prowess earned him a chance to attend college. He began playing linebacker/running back in 2003 at Ridgewater College in Willmar, Minnesota. After his first season, the school’s wrestling coach asked Johnson if he’d give wrestling a try. He obliged.

That decision led to a berth on the 2005 National Junior College Athletic Association Wrestling All-America Team. After attending Ridgewater, Johnson worked in road construction. His job ended temporarily in late 2006 as the frigid Minnesota winter took hold and halted the potential for work. A chance meeting with a friend put him in a different kind of uniform.

“I was literally just talking to friends,” Johnson told the NCO Journal in a previous interview. “I said, ‘I need a change of pace.’ My friend was in the Guard already. I said, ‘Sign me up. Let’s do it.’”

A new kind of fight

Throughout the following year, Johnson worked several jobs while serving with the Guard. He also continued to pursue his degree, enrolling at Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2008, once again turning to wrestling. As a Dragon, Johnson was a two-time qualifier for the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships. He did it all while serving his country.

As his MSUM wrestling career came to a close, Johnson accepted an offer as a rolling partner for area heavyweights at the Fargo Academy of Combat Arts on the other side of the Red River of the North.

It was Johnson’s first exposure to mixed martial arts. He quickly took to it. Soon enough, he was itching to take a bigger bite out of his newfound sport.

“I had zero intentions of fighting,” Johnson said. “But I was doing it for a couple months and I thought, ‘I’m going to give one fight a try, [and] see what it’s like.’”

A local promoter put Johnson on a Halloween-themed fight card Oct. 30, 2010. He won by knockout.

“I was hooked after that,” Johnson said. “I thought, ‘Maybe I want to see how far I can take this.’”

Johnson fought once more in early 2011 before deployment called.

His unit worked convoy security for a Kuwait-based unit as U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq. The call-up put Johnson’s plans on hold. But it didn’t deter him from taking on the mission with the complete effort that he offered every other facet of his life.

“To me, it was whatever you made it to be,” Johnson said. “You could have sat there and sulked or you can just accept it and make the best of it, try to learn something. I think a lot of the guys in our unit did that. So it made deployment a little easier.”

Army/fight promotions

Upon his return, Johnson immediately resumed his fighting career in 2012 while working full time as a truck driver, moonlighting as a bouncer at a local bar and honoring his National Guard commitments.

He reeled off six consecutive wins before facing longtime fight veteran Travis Wiuff on Oct. 25, 2014. Wiuff had 73 wins to his name heading into the fight and had most recently been a part of the Bellator Fighting Championships stable. Johnson needed less than four minutes to dispatch his opponent with a knockout victory. The win turned heads, including those at the sport’s top company.

“It happened really quickly,” Johnson said. “I signed with SuckerPunch Entertainment, my management company, at the end of October. A week later, I was signed with the UFC.”

The year yielded another distinction for Johnson — he was promoted to sergeant.

“I liked it,” Johnson said of becoming a leader. “You can bring your own take to the Army values in how you interpret them and break them down to the guys underneath you.”

Johnson has done that ever since. He says he continues to hone his leadership skills, focusing mainly on trying to do the best thing for his Soldiers.

“The biggest adjustment for me was sitting back and delegating,” Johnson said. “I was really a hands-on, get-in-there-and-get-the-crap-done kind of guy. I try to get the Soldiers underneath me to see it that way, too. I want them to get a different mentality toward stuff — make it suck a little or make it suck a lot. My favorite part is kind of diverting things that are coming down the line and letting my guys handle what they can handle. I’ll take the brunt of everything else.”

In the octagon, Johnson hasn’t had to take the brunt of much. His strong wrestling base has been augmented with growing striking skills. He has deftly been able to avoid heavy damage in fights by maintaining an over-under grip position to wear down opponents and picking smart positions when he stands and trades blows. He did just that in his UFC debut April 4, 2015. Johnson was an underdog against Russian fighter Shamil Abdurakhimov. The fight ended with Johnson’s second consecutive first-round knockout win.

Johnson lost his second UFC bout, a tightly contested unanimous decision to Jared Rosholt in August 2015 before rebounding with a unanimous decision win over Marcin Tybura in April.

Now, Johnson nears a crossroad. Regardless of the outcome, he said he will probably end up donning his ACU again.

“As far as going back and re-upping, I have full intention of coming back in, at some point,” he said.

That timeline will be solidified after Saturday.

Third TRADOC town hall focuses on talent management


By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

In the early days of Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport’s 30-plus year career, the young staff sergeant who was on drill sergeant duty was already weighing the merits of impressing his promotion board by getting an associate’s degree. It took hours of hard work as well as a lot of peer support, but the command sergeant major of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command made it to sergeant first class. He never looked back.

Talent management was the focus of TRADOC’s third town hall Thursday, Nov. 3, at Fort Eustis, Virginia, where panelists including Davenport addressed how noncommissioned officers can get ahead in today’s Army.

“It’s about how you identify the very best noncommissioned officer to do these other things to make them a more well-rounded, experienced NCO, and expose them to different things as well,” Davenport said.

Before the start of the third TRADOC virtual town hall, TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport invites Soldiers to engage with panelists via Twitter. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Before the start of the third TRADOC virtual town hall, TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport invited Soldiers to engage with panelists via Twitter. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

With the Army still in the middle of downsizing its ranks, the Noncommissioned Officer 2020 Strategy aims to prepare and mold NCOs into fully developed leaders. The NCO Professional Development System, which is part of NCO 2020, calls for managing talent to better benefit the Army institution and the individual.

“I think everyone has unique abilities, knowledge and skills,” Davenport told the NCO Journal before taking his seat at the virtual town hall. “What we are trying to figure out is how to maximize that, get the right Soldiers in the right job. Not only a job but also in broadening opportunities, and there are many of them. No longer can NCOs be just drill sergeants and recruiters. They can go work with industry, and they can do academic fellowships. We are really trying to open up the aperture to develop NCOs.”

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey warned NCOs that promotions will be based on talent management during the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C., last month.

“We are going to promote people based upon talent, and we will slot people for advancement in the United States Army based upon talent,” Dailey said.

Davenport acknowledged that NCOs have had a lot of information thrown at them about NCO 2020, but he said that’s why the series of TRADOC town halls were developed. They offer an opportunity for Soldiers to get their questions answered from senior NCOs and to have issues placed into context for them.

“Their voice and their opinion matters,” Davenport said. “After all, there’s 391,000 of us Soldiers (that’s across the active component, Guard and Reserve) and I happen to be one. [With the other panel members,] we are a very small percentile of this group of NCOs who are trying to set the course for the next 20 or 30 years for our NCO Corps, and acknowledge all the great gains and all the sacrifices and the great work that NCOs have done, build upon the success.”

Moderator Master Sgt. Michael Lavigne, from left; TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport; Sgt. Maj. Derek Johnson, deputy chief of staff G1 sergeant major at Headquarters Department of the Army; and Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson, command sergeant major of Human Resources Command, prepare for U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's third town hall on talent management on Thursday, Nov. 3, at Fort Eustis, Virginia. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Moderator Master Sgt. Michael Lavigne, from left; TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport; Sgt. Maj. Derek Johnson, deputy chief of staff G1 sergeant major at Headquarters Department of the Army; and Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson, command sergeant major of Human Resources Command, prepare for U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s third town hall on talent management on Thursday, Nov. 3, at Fort Eustis, Virginia. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

At a time when staying relevant in today’s Army is crucial, Davenport had some advice for NCOs pondering their futures in the Army.

“Stay current, read and ask questions of those who can make the decisions or give you the proper answer,” he said. “Don’t hesitate to engage senior leaders. Don’t hesitate to engage the branch managers, and take advantage of all this stuff. In this day and age of social media and virtual town halls, leaders are very accessible. You need to take advantage of that.”

The NCO Journal will have more news from the town hall in the coming weeks. Until then, you can watch the entire broadcast at: https://youtu.be/xdXGuYSv7Fc