Putting the spotlight squarely on leadership development, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey warned senior noncommissioned officers early last month of the “tough changes” coming as part of NCO 2020 and the updated NCO Professional Development System during an NCO and Soldier forum at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
“What it’s really about is getting our noncommissioned officers to a place we need them to be for 2025 and beyond, and maximizing the equivalency in the education we get in both the academic field and credentialing perspective so that we can sustain the all-volunteer force for the future,” Dailey said. “There are some tough changes coming ahead in the Army. Some of those affect Soldiers both positively and negatively. What I can assure you, though, is [that there is] a very good, comprehensive plan for the future.”
NCOs and Soldiers gathered Oct. 3-5 to not only tell the Army’s story and share it with the public and corporate supporters, but also to educate and share leadership development strategies with Soldiers, Dailey said. Gen. Mark A. Milley, chief of staff of the U.S. Army, has called readiness the Army’s No. 1 priority, and Army leaders agree that leadership development is central to building readiness.
“We have to sit back, take our blinders off and ask ourselves what it takes for every single Soldier in the Army to be ready,” Dailey told NCOs.
Dailey said Army downsizing is still underway to reach the goal of 450,000 Soldiers by 2018. Talent management will play a large part in deciding future promotions.
“We’re going to keep people based upon talent,” Dailey said. “We are going to promote people based upon talent, and we will slot people for advancement in the United States Army based upon talent. That is exactly what we are going to do to make sure we maintain the quality of Soldiers and noncommissioned officers who are in place to fight our nation’s wars.”
Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, command sergeant major of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, told NCOs about changes on the horizon to enhance professional military education.
“We are looking at all the programs of instruction, with all of the proponents, and we are integrating common core standards,” Davenport said. “We’re investing in our facilitators, our instructors. We are going to consolidate all the various instructor courses into one. Just like we advise to grow noncommissioned officers based on experience and education, same goes for our instructors.”
Davenport also trumpeted the release of three applications to help guide Soldiers through PME ─ Army Career Tracker, the Digital Job Book and the Digital Rucksack.
Davenport encouraged NCOs to take a look at Army Career Tracker online, a leadership development tool that integrates training and education on one website. Career maps have been updated and follow the five lines of effort ─ military life cycle, education, assignment/experience, credentialing/experience and self-development. Lines of effort link multiple tasks and missions to focus efforts toward establishing operational and strategic conditions.
Davenport praised the Digital Job Book app for its ease of use.
“What is really important about it is [it] allows organizations ─ commanders and sergeants major ─ to add up to 10 tasks that are specific to your organization so that you can battle track it,” he said.
The highly touted Digital Rucksack app will work with tablets and smartphones Soldiers bring into classrooms, Davenport said.
“Our Soldiers scan a QR code, and it puts all the material that they are going to need for the PME,” he said. “We think [the apps] are really going to help us connect Soldiers and organizations to leader development.”
Retired Gen. Carter Ham, president and chief executive officer of AUSA, thanked noncommissioned officers during the forum for their continued and sustained leadership and acknowledged their vital role in the Army.
“Sergeants major are what makes the United States Army the strong power that it is,” Ham told senior NCOs. “We should never lose sight of that, and the investment in you, the investment in those Soldiers who aspire to be noncommissioned officers, we owe them the best possible development that we can afford them. So that when they follow you to lead this Army, they will build on all you have achieved to keep the United States Army as the premier land force on this planet. That is only possible because of the people in this room.”
Did you know it’s possible for an enlisted Soldier to earn a degree by the end of his or her first term of enlistment? The framework is in place and the degree programs are available, but Army officials say Soldiers often don’t learn of the opportunities until they have been in the Army for years.
According to Jeffery Colimon, chief of the Learning Integration Division at the Institute for NCO Professional Development, NCOs need to not only make sure their new Soldiers are aware of the degree programs, but also inspire them to take action early in their careers. They can do this by mentoring each Soldier and by pursuing their own educational goals to provide an example, Colimon said.
“The real vision is that, by the time a Soldier reaches the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, they should be working on an advanced degree,” Colimon said. “But you cannot get this advanced degree if you do not ‘build a bench’ and start early.”
On average, active duty Soldiers take from 4 to 6 years to complete an associate’s degree, Colimon said. However, NCOs who encourage new Soldiers to set educational goals for themselves and start on a degree plan as soon as possible set those individuals up for success in their Army careers and in their retirement as well.
SOCAD Army Career Degrees
Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges, or SOC, is composed of more than 1,900 academic institutions that pledge to deal fairly when evaluating for credit Soldiers’ military training and experience, academic residency, credit transfer, and testing.
SOC Army Degree, or SOCAD, colleges and universities award credit for military experience and training based on American Council on Education, or ACE, recommendations and standardized tests, such as the College-Level Evaluation Program test and the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support program test, and provide distance learning course options for Soldiers to complete remaining requirements. Soldiers can receive ACE college credit recommendations for the typical training experiences in their MOS — from basic training to the Sergeants Major Course.
A select group of about 120 SOCAD institutions offer Army Career Degrees — degree options directly related to a Soldier’s Military Occupational Specialty. Army Career Degree plans are available for more than 95 MOSs and new ones are being developed, according to the SOC website. To view SOCAD Army Career Degrees listed by MOS, click here. Printed copies of the SOCAD Army Career Degree plans are distributed to students during Advanced Individual Training, but Colimon emphasized that it is the first-line supervisors who need to make sure new Soldiers are aware of the opportunities related to their MOS.
“We expect the first-line supervisor to know, based on their MOS, what degree programs will yield the largest number of credits for that Soldier,” he said.
To maximize the number of credits a student can transfer and use toward a degree, colleges and universities within the SOCAD network have agreed to take credit from one another. Individuals do not have to physically attend the university, allowing for both online and traditional face-to-face class options, no matter where a student is stationed.
“For example, let’s say my degree program requires a class in [the programming language] Visual Basic. A course like that will probably require a high level of instruction — more than a virtual online course. I may be able to find a Visual Basic course taught by a partner college on my installation, then go and take it as a face-to-face course, and I’ll receive full credit for it through my host college,” Colimon said.
Each post usually has a number of colleges with agreements to teach on the installation, Colimon said. To find out about classes at a particular installation that will meet the requirements for a specific degree program, Soldiers can contact their post’s education center. Counselors at post education centers can also help Soldiers review their options to make sure they choose the path that will grant them the greatest amount of recommended credit.
College of the American Soldier: Credits for combat arms MOSs
Some career management fields, such as medically or technically oriented ones, provide training that closely mirrors a civilian college classroom, allowing Soldiers to earn a greater amount of credit. Soldiers with an MOS in infantry or artillery, on the other hand, are given a great deal of training, but their areas of expertise do not relate to a particular civilian degree. To remedy this, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command created the College of the American Soldier as an extension of the SOCAD program. According the SOC website, CAS was developed to “identify specific college and university degree programs that enhance Soldiers’ leadership and warfighting capabilities and grow the multi-skilled NCO characteristics.”
CAS degree programs are open to Soldiers of any MOS. However, they offer Soldiers in combat arms specialties in particular the best opportunity to earn credit from their military training. The Army has pre-negotiated the amount of credit to be awarded by CAS institutions for NCOES courses, but students are limited to certain business- and management-related degree programs designed to leverage the leadership skills an enlisted Soldier acquires while in service.
There are two programs that fall under the College of the American Soldier: the Career NCO Degrees Program and the Enlisted Education Program. (Click for a complete list of degrees offered through each program.) The Career NCO Degrees Program maximizes credit for military training and education, minimizes residency requirements and allows for flexibility of completion time to provide NCOs with degree options not tied to an MOS. The Enlisted Education Program offers entry-level Soldiers in Career Management Fields 11 (infantry), 13 (artillery), 14 (air defense artillery) and 19 (armor) the opportunity to achieve an associate’s degree during their first term of enlistment.
“There have been problems in the past with colleges accepting credit, and I was a prime example of that,” said Colimon, a retired sergeant major. “At one point when I was in uniform, I had well over 180 hours of recommended credit, but I still didn’t have a degree. The schools said, ‘We can only give you 40 out of your 180.’ Now, through the College of the American Soldier, we negotiate the credit upfront. An NCO who has completed the Advanced Leader Course, the Senior Leader Course, Structured Self-Development and so on must be given a certain number of credit hours [from a CAS institution] toward a specific degree program. So there is no guessing game when they present their paperwork to the school.”
In CAS degree programs, Soldiers receive credit for the training and experience they’ve gained as part of their Army careers, including Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training, the Warrior Leader Course, ALC and SLC. In addition, there are three universities that give credit toward a master’s degree for completion of the Sergeants Major Course through the College of the American Soldier Advanced Degree Program.
Colimon encouraged NCOs to lead by example and pursue educational goals for their own good. Roxanna Taylor, the education adviser at USASMA at Fort Bliss, Texas, agreed, noting how beneficial it is for NCOs to complete undergraduate degrees sooner rather than later.
“I hope NCOs will realize the importance of getting their undergraduate degrees before they get to this stage [SMC] of their career, so that when they get to the Academy, they are ready to go with their master’s program,” Taylor said. “They will have about 10 months while they are here [to concentrate on their education], and then they are back out in the field doing their jobs. It will be a lot harder for them to complete their education at that point.”
Utilizing the Army Career Tracker
If NCOs begin talking about educational options with new Soldiers right away, those individuals will be more likely to reach their goals during their time of service, will become better-developed Soldiers and will find more employment opportunities once they leave the Army, Colimon said. One of the best ways for first-line supervisors to mentor their Soldiers is through the Army Career Tracker, he said.
ACT is a leadership-development tool that allows Soldiers to search multiple Army education and training resources, such as goarmyed.com and the SOC website, manage their career objectives, and monitor their progress. It allows leaders to monitor a subordinate’s education, career and goals, as well as send career and training recommendations. It is always the Soldier who should make the final decision as to the course of their own education, Colimon said. But squad leaders can use ACT as a tool to help them discover what opportunities are available.
Goarmyed.com and the SOC website provide degree maps for each degree plan, with the institution’s contact information listed at the top of each. To search for degree maps by school or degree within the Goarmyed.com portal, click here.
Once Soldiers identify the colleges and degrees they want to pursue, they can contact the military education department at the institution for more information and apply through goarmyed.com. According to Taylor, most institutions will provide Soldiers with an unofficial evaluation to get an idea of the credit they have earned through their military training and other courses. Once they apply to the university and submit their transcripts from other institutions and their Joint Services Transcript, the student will be given an official evaluation.
Taylor said she sees many NCOs come through USASMA who have cobbled their education together piecemeal: a history class here, a music class there. NCOs can help streamline their Soldiers’ education, she said, by encouraging them to start with the core classes — English, math and science — that will be required no matter what degree they end up choosing. It will be easier for Soldiers to move forward if they begin taking classes with a plan and an end goal in mind.
“The main thing is for NCOs to start this with their Soldiers early on,” Colimon said. “With new Soldiers, they should be going into the Army Career Tracker and assisting them in building an individual development plan — setting those goals and objectives for educational and professional development. We provide the framework through the Army Career Tracker, but we need assistance from the NCOs to assist the Soldier, coach and mentor them, and review their progress on an annual basis to ensure they achieve those goals.
“The chain of command needs to make education a priority and not look at it as something that happens after 5 o’clock, but instead as part of the overall development of the Soldier,” Colimon said. “It’s a win-win. It’s a win for the Soldier and a win for the Army if we provide the individual the opportunity to develop while serving.”
Taylor said she is glad to see so many NCOs at the Sergeants Major Academy who prioritize education – for themselves and for those they lead.
“As senior NCOs, they pay attention,” Taylor said. “They are really schooling themselves on what they can do to help their Soldiers, and that is absolutely what we want.”
Several initiatives are under way to let Soldiers develop personally and professionally while they’re in the Army and to better prepare them for life after their service. And the Army Career Tracker is there to help. The online portal, originally launched in June 2011, is continually being updated to assist Soldiers and their leaders to define career goals, create and ensure timetables are met for those goals, and help fulfill objectives both inside and outside the Army.
“The idea here of the Army Career Tracker is to support what we call the lifecycle of the Soldier,” said Jeffrey Colimon, a project officer with Training & Doctrine Command’s Institute of NCO Professional Development. “In other words: to provide a development program and development opportunities with a timetable that must be formally instituted as soon as individual service members enter the military to ensure not only that they are military-ready, but that they are also career-ready.”
The ACT encourages Soldiers to develop an Individual Development Plan, with both short- and long-term goals related to their military careers and their careers after the Army. The IDP can be used by Soldiers and their leaders to track training, military education, civilian education and a host of other development paths. The ACT is also open to Department of the Army civilians.
Sgt. Maj. Jerry Bailey is the course manager for Structured Self-Development, based at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. The ACT has become an important part of his briefings when he’s telling Soldiers and leaders about SSD.
“The No. 1 way I tell them to access SSD is through the Army Career Tracker, because it eliminates a lot of steps and gets Soldiers where they’re supposed to be at the level they’re supposed to be. It takes out the guess work.”
That’s one of the big advantages of the ACT — it consolidates information from several systems and presents it at one central site, said Master Sgt. Chadwick Wormer of INCOPD’s Learning Integrations Division, which oversees the ACT.
The ACT “is still up and coming, he said. “There are still a lot more enhancements that we’re working on. But as far as what it can do and what it’s really designed for, it’s a leadership development tool. It will integrate training, education and on-the-job experience, and it puts everything into one easy-to-use interface. It gives you search capabilities, mostly for other systems that house education and training resources. It’s more efficient and effective for a Soldier to use it to monitor their career development. It’s something that I never had when I was a young Soldier. I was only as good as my first-line leader, so what my first-line leader knew is all I knew. What the Army Career Tracker does is it
puts younger Soldiers on a level playing field.”
The ACT includes the Integrated Total Army Database, GoArmy Education, the Army Learning Management System, the Army Training Requirements and Resources System, and nearly a dozen other resources. And the LID is constantly working on including more systems, Wormer said.
Among the latest improvements to the ACT being worked on is the full integration of available credentialing, which will help Soldiers obtain private-sector certifications they qualify for based on their military occupational specialties and work within the Army.
In June 2012, President Barack Obama announced the “We Can’t Wait” initiative, which is intended to let service members obtain civilian credentials and licenses for manufacturing and other high-demand skills they received from attending military schools. “Our economy needs their outstanding talent,” Obama said in his address in Golden Valley, Minn., announcing the initiative.
Under the president’s direction, the Department of Defense established the Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force, which identified military specialties that readily transfer to high-demand jobs and worked with civilian credentialing and licensing associations to address gaps between military training programs and credentialing and licensing requirements.
In October, the Defense Department launched a pilot program that included five occupational areas — aircraft mechanics, automotive mechanics, health care, supply and logistics, and truck drivers. Seventeen military specialties are included in those occupational areas.
“What we’ve asked the services to do … is to look at those five areas. Look at their specific military occupational codes, marry them up and get some people into the pilot program,” said Frank C. DiGiovanni, the Defense Department’s director of training readiness and strategy.
The program began in October, he said, and as it progresses, officials will examine whether existing military training is sufficient to qualify service members for civilian credentials. Where the current training is found to be insufficient, DiGiovanni added, the department will determine if the program can be adjusted or if training from external sources is necessary.
The pilot is one of several Defense Department Credentialing and Licensing Task Force initiatives, Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said.
“We’re looking at how we can better document and translate military training and experience so that civilian credentialing agencies and states can better understand the nature of military training and award appropriate credit,” she said.
Although the credentialing program is still in the pilot phase and Colimon said MOS-credentialing information won’t be completely integrated until 2014, the ACT already includes a bevy of information on civilian accreditations and their relationships to military MOSs.
“We’ve been working a lot of things with [credentialing],” Wormer said. “Because we link to training, and we link to not only the training you’ve completed in the past but the training you’re scheduled for, we also show other training that you might want or need to enhance your career. And some of that training is credentialing.
“Credentialing is, for some MOSs, very specific. For instance, the Army has truck drivers; well, civilians have the CDL, the commercial driver license. It pretty much goes hand-in-hand. What we work to do is to bridge the gap between what the civilian equivalent and the military is training. In other words, when you go to school to be a truck driver in the Army, you’re going to get about 90 percent of the training and you would need an additional 10 percent to finish your CDL. Army Career Tracker is working to bridge that gap, so that you’re receiving almost 100 percent. So when you complete your AIT in the Army, it’s a done deal: You’re CDL qualified. And it’s not just the truck drivers; it’s many MOSs. And some of them are more obvious and more comparable than others.”
A complete list of MOS-specific credentialing opportunities is available at the Credentialing Opportunities On-Line site, www.cool.army.mil, and that information is also available through the ACT.
“The idea of the IDP inside the Army Career Tracker to support the military lifecycle is actually to provide [users] an integrated approach — an integrated approach to supporting the Soldiers’ personal and professional development that capitalizes on the mutual needs of lifelong learning,” Colimon said. “So the Soldier does not concentrate on trying to get a degree, trying to get some credentialing at the point of transition or at the point of departure. Instead they start throughout their career, whether they’re a one-term Soldier or going to retire from the Army. They actually supplement the military training with civilian training and education so that, at the point of the departure, they are more credible. This approach is mutually beneficial to the Army because it gets a better-prepared Soldier while he or she is serving and potentially a better civilian at the exit point — whatever that is at the point of transition, whether it’s separation or retirement.”
In addition to promoting the ACT as a tool for SSD, Bailey has used the system to track his Soldiers’ and employees’ goals.
“It builds a counseling report for you, so that you don’t have to guess,” Bailey said. “It gives me that information that I can use to provide the positive feedback or the things that I think we need to get after. Then I can provide that input into the Army Career Tracker. It provides a lot of data.”
Soldiers and their leaders build goals together in the ACT, and Soldiers can also request that users who are not necessarily their supervisors act as mentors through the system.
“Soldiers had asked me to be their mentor when they signed up,” Bailey said. “Now I can look at those Soldiers, and the same things that I do for my employees, I can do for those Soldiers as a mentor.”
That reinforcement from mentors can be invaluable, Bailey said. “If you see information and direction from a leader and a mentor, you’re more apt to do it.”
Bailey has also used the system for his own professional development.
“At USASMA, we’re not doing MOS-material things. It’s all educational stuff,” he said. “I’m an Army engineer, and there’s not an Army engineer department over there. So I’m not necessarily keeping up with all the different gates or things that engineering has to offer. But through the Army Career Tracker, it keeps me in tune with: Here are upcoming things for engineers, here are what engineers are now doing, or here are the credentialing classes or schools or courses out there for engineers. I don’t have to go through GoArmy and all this other stuff to find out this same information. It’s already there on that site.”
Colimon said growth in users of the ACT has grown quickly, with the site adding about 4,000 users a week and more than 25,000 goals already created. And Wormer said reaction to the site has been universally positive.
“We have very good reviews. Our hardest part is getting the word out there about our system,” he said. “We use a profile communication, where we are able to target certain profiles of people, whether it’s by installation, whether it’s by MOS, whether it’s by their rank, or maybe we just want to target somebody Armywide. … When we send the profile communications out, we often get feedback: ‘Hey, what’s this? I’ve never heard of it,’ or sometimes we just assume they’re deleting it because we don’t get anything. But we send these out, and the users who have never seen it, the very first time we show them the functionalities, immediately you can see a lightbulb come on: ‘Hey, I wish I’d known about this. It’s amazing.’” ♦
The American Forces Press Service contributed to this story.
Top Army Career Tracker questions
What is an Individual development Plan? It is a document completed by individuals to track self-development, both short-term (a year or less) and long-term. This plan is then reviewed and discussed with a leader or mentor to match the individual’s goals with an organization’s goals. Various options and approaches to achieve the plan are discussed. This plan is reviewed and updated at a minimum annually.
Why is it important to have an IDP? IDPs can be a win-win strategy because they benefit both the Soldier and the Army as a whole. Implementing an IDP helps Soldiers enhance their knowledge, skills and experiences. The Army benefits by developing improved Soldier capabilities and enhanced communication. IDPs also support a Soldier’s lifelong learning and transition lifecycle by allowing him or her to plan and track development from enlistment to transition.
Why do you have to create an IDP? The Secretary of the Army Memorandum, “Army Transition Policy,” dated Aug. 29, 2011, established mandatory use of the IDP. It ensures first-term Soldiers receive counseling within 30 days of arrival to their first permanent duty station; part of the process is creating an IDP.
How does the ACT help Soldiers develop an IDP? The Army Career Tracker allows users to plan and track their development in concert with their leaders and mentors. ACT provides an easy-to-use interface for users and supervisors to create, approve and track an IDP.
NCOs must adapt to meet the needs of the Army of 2020
By COMMAND SGT. MAJ. DANIEL A. DAILEY
U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command
Since 9/11, our Noncommissioned Officer Corps has truly lived by the NCO Creed. During more than a decade of combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, NCOs demonstrated time and again that they are the backbone of our Army. In countless small-unit actions, we proved our technical and tactical proficiency while executing our two primary responsibilities: accomplishing the mission and taking care of Soldiers. We can rightfully be proud as NCOs, leaders and American Soldiers.
Yet, there are many challenges ahead. We concluded our combat mission in Iraq and began drawing down our forces in Afghanistan while transitioning the mission to NCOs in the Afghan National Security Forces. Our nation’s leaders published a new strategy, one focused on preparedness for a wide range of military operations potentially anywhere in the world.
We must be prepared to lead Soldiers and teams for humanitarian assistance missions at home or abroad. And we must be equally prepared to lead them to deter and defeat enemy forces in the Asia-Pacific Region, the Middle East or wherever else conflict erupts. The requirement to deploy almost anywhere and execute the full range of military operations is a significantly different challenge than that of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan — not a harder or easier challenge, just a different one.
In order to meet the challenges of the Army of 2020, we are adapting doctrine, organizations, training and leader development. We are leveraging technology for both warfighting and training, and we are evolving our procedures for readiness, deployment and operations. As we transition to the Army of 2020, we are leaning forward to prepare the NCO Corps to lead that Army. Here are some of the initiatives the Army’s NCO leaders are taking to ensure that you remain the leaders our nation and our Army needs.
The NCO development timeline
To prepare our NCO Corps to lead the Army of 2020, we structured our NCO development timeline so that each NCO is proficient in the competencies necessary for the four NCO roles of leading, training, maintaining standards, and caring for Soldiers and equipment at the skill level they are entering, the leadership position they will hold and the organization they will lead. This timeline is a synchronized relationship between professional military education, promotions and assignments in a way that is deliberate, continuous, sequential and progressive. During their careers, all NCOs will progress successively through NCO Education System courses, developmental assignments, and Structured Self-Development.
The NCO development timeline is designed to ensure that each NCO is prepared for new challenges and increasing responsibilities. While it assists NCOs to understand their role in their own career progression, it more importantly signals to leaders their roles in developing subordinates.
For example, for a number of reasons during the last decade of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, we could not always ensure our subordinates attended the next NCOES course when scheduled. But, as the pressure of short dwell time and manning deploying units eases, each leader should ensure subordinate NCOs are scheduled for NCOES courses on time and are able and prepared to attend. We must reduce our backlog of NCOs who have not yet attended the courses they need to be promoted and assume positions of greater responsibility. As leaders, that is our responsibility in taking care of Soldiers and our Army.
Warrior Leader Course
Shortly after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, our Army recognized that the NCO Education System was not meeting the needs of our leaders in the challenging environment of warfare in the 21st Century, when any unit could be required without warning to transition to active combat against smart, capable enemy forces. One of our key initiatives was transitioning our initial NCOES course, the Primary Leader Development Course, to the Warrior Leader Course. The focus of the Warrior Leader Course was just that — preparing NCOs from every branch to be warriors leading warriors.
WLC has served us well, as for a decade our NCOs have successfully built cohesive and effective teams and led our Soldiers to victory in combat in every imaginable situation. We continue to improve the WLC to meet the needs of our NCO Corps and our Army.
Over the past year we gathered feedback on NCOES and the WLC from units downrange, from NCO leaders, from schoolhouses and from Soldiers. Based on that feedback, we have piloted an improved course. Slightly longer, the course will add more land navigation, more physical fitness and the Army Physical Fitness Test, and will increase education in counseling and assessing subordinates. The new WLC will provide our newest and youngest NCOs the education they need to develop and lead Soldiers and teams for new missions in new locations under a variety of conditions.
Developing NCO Instructors
“Competence is my watchword,” the NCO Creed states, and we achieve such competence through quality, effective instruction. Each of us as NCOs has a responsibility as an instructor — whether in NCOES courses, in organizational training, or in individually coaching and mentoring our subordinates.
As NCOs we develop our subordinates in six major areas: the Army as a profession, comprehensive fitness, professional competence, adaptability, team building and life-long learning. Yet, the environment in which NCOs instruct and Soldiers learn has changed considerably in recent years. Formal and informal simulations, social networks, and learning communities affect how we conduct instruction and achieve learning. Each of us as NCOs must master these instructional tools.
To improve these capabilities, we proposed developing a cadre of expert instructors through an Instructor Development Program. We will formally select NCOs for participation; develop those selected to achievement at three levels: instructor, senior instructor and master instructor; continuously assess instructor abilities; and manage our instructor cadre to ensure the Army’s instructional needs are met in both the institutional and operational force.
Army Career Tracker
The Army Career Tracker enables Soldiers, NCOs, officers, and Department of the Army civilians to understand and map out their individual career path, and helps supervisors to assist subordinate’s self-development.
The ACT supports individual NCO development by providing a framework for the creation and management of an Individual Development Plan. The system allows leaders, supervisors and mentors to make recommendations for the next step in each Soldier or NCO’s career. The ACT supports planning and managing individual training, both mandatory and suggested training opportunities.
Beyond training, the ACT supports each individual’s management of their education and life-long learning, to include transition to civilian life without loss of educational credits. The ACT truly is one-stop shopping for each Soldier and NCO to manage their own training, education and development throughout their career.
The NCO development domain in which we have made the greatest progress is that of self-development. Though improvements have been made to NCOES in the institutional domain, and our NCOs are gaining incredible depth of experience as leaders in the organizational domain, it is the self-development domain where our NCOs can broaden their knowledge base and competencies.
The first initiative I’d like to address is Structured Self-Development. We’ve known for a long time that there were gaps or delays in our individual development — primarily the years spent in between schools, such as the gap between completion of One Station Unit Training or Advanced Individual Training and attendance at the Warrior Leader Course. SSD enables us to fill those gaps while developing knowledge and competencies that build the confidence of our Soldiers to lead at the next higher level.
Soldiers and NCOs conduct SSD entirely online. It is self-paced to account for different schedules based on MOS, duty position, rank and unit schedules. We deliver SSD to each individual through interactive multimedia instruction, accessed via the Army Learning Management System. SSD topics range from combat operations to administration and logistics to training and leadership.
For example, SSD-1 for Soldiers preparing for WLC, consists of 36 distinct distance learning packages totaling 80 hours of instruction. We fielded SSD-1 in October 2010 and SSD-3 in May 2011 for NCOs who have completed the Advanced Leader Course and are preparing for the Senior Leader Course.
Thus far, over 21,000 Soldiers have completed SSD. Our current rate of completion is over 2,000 Soldiers and NCOs per month. But we can and must do better.
SSD is self-paced, but it must be completed in order to attend the next level NCOES course. Online instruction at first may seem challenging, but those who have completed SSD demonstrate for all of us that it can be done. For further information on SSD contact the Institute for Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development at (757) 501-5637/5446 or www.tradoc.army.mil/INCOPD/contact.html.
College of the American Soldier
A second initiative in the self-development domain is the College of the American Soldier. It provides the opportunity for virtually all training and education in an NCO’s career to be translated into college credits at colleges across the nation. Examples of training and education that can be converted into college credits include Initial Military Training, NCOES courses, Army correspondence courses, functional courses, self-development and, under certain circumstances, experience in operational units.
Today, almost 40 civilian colleges and universities are integrated into CAS, and NCOs can earn degrees in management, business administration, organizational development, human resources management and organizational leadership. CAS provides opportunities to earn college degrees despite the incredibly busy schedule our NCOs encounter, whether deployed or at their home stations.
NCOs have achieved much during the past decade, accomplishing missions and taking care of Soldiers. Yet, our job is never done. We must continue to adapt ourselves and our teams for new challenges in new environments.
As we transition to the Army of 2020, the initiatives discussed above represent our path to strengthening and adapting our NCO Corps. Each of us must continuously strive to develop ourselves and our subordinates in the three domains of organizational experience, professional military education, and individual self-development. I look forward to serving and working with you as we provide outstanding leadership to each and every Soldier.
Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Dailey is the command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Eustis, Va.
The official magazine of noncommissioned officer professional development