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Tactical NCOs help forge officer, NCO relationship at U.S. Military Academy

U.S. Military Academy Public Affairs

Building the relationship between officers and NCOs is important to the Army. The process starts at the U.S. Military Academy, where Tactical Noncommissioned Officers, or TAC NCOs, are assigned to each cadet company.

“The officer and NCO relationship truly matters, and building that relationship has to start here at USMA,” said Command Sgt. Maj. David M. Clark, the 18th command sergeant major of the U.S. Military Academy. “The TAC NCOs here are an integral part of the shaping and molding (of) the Army’s future officers.”

The TAC NCO is the senior NCO within the cadet company of roughly 125 cadets and serves as one of the essential leader developers at the TAC team level. The other member of the TAC Team, the TAC officer, serves as the legal company commander of the cadet company and works closely with the NCO to establish the proper command climate within their respective companies.

Additionally, the TAC NCO assists the TAC officer with his or her responsibilities, and the team usually divides the workload. The TAC officer focuses on the development of the cadet officers, also known as the first class cadets, or seniors. The TAC NCO’s primary focus is the development of cadets holding the NCO ranks, which are the second and third class cadets, or the juniors and sophomores, respectively.

First Sgt. William Coultry, U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School first sergeant and a former TAC NCO, said there seems to be a misconception among the field force about taking a position at USMA.

“Some people think this may be a break from the force assignment, and it most certainly isn’t,” Coultry said. “You are a two-person team, managing 125-plus cadets on a daily basis, and when those cadets graduate from West Point, they become leaders of leaders.”

The duty description of the TAC NCOs states that they are expected to counsel, train and develop cadet corporals and sergeants on all aspects of Army operations, from company to brigade level. They are also expected to teach and supervise drill and ceremony, monitor and conduct military training, and inspect company areas and formations.

Sgt. 1st Class Stuart Corlett, Tactical NCO, 1st Regiment, Company E, inspects a cadet company prior to conducting drill and ceremony rehearsal for a regimental review on Oct. 6, 2015. The TAC NCO is expected to teach and supervise drill and ceremony, along with their other numerous duties, while assigned at the U.S. Military Academy. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Bunkley)
Sgt. 1st Class Stuart Corlett, Tactical NCO, 1st Regiment, Company E, inspects a cadet company prior to conducting drill and ceremony rehearsal for a regimental review on Oct. 6, 2015. The TAC NCO is expected to teach and supervise drill and ceremony, along with their other numerous duties, while assigned at the U.S. Military Academy. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Bunkley)

The ultimate goal of the TAC NCO is to assist in the overall development of the cadets so that they are prepared to assume the position of platoon leader upon graduation from the academy. The NCO does this by assisting each cadet in balancing and integrating the requirements of the academic, physical, military and character development programs.

“It’s such a professional environment,” said Sgt. 1st Class Sara Bradley, TAC NCO, C Company, 4th Regiment, U.S. Corps of Cadets. “Being around such professional officers and noncommissioned officers makes you want to be better.

“You’re supposed to be top in your branch to get here anyway, and now you are with the top,” Bradley said. “You’re around a bunch of professionals, expected to be at your absolute best, and it pushes you past what you’re used to.”

Bradley said the exposure cadets get by interacting with a senior NCO gives them the opportunity to experience a type of leadership they could encounter when they enter the regular Army and reach their first units. The TAC NCO is usually the first senior NCO the cadets will have the opportunity to interact with, and it is the job of that NCO to figure out the best way to engage with the cadets while in the position, Bradley said.

“I feel like I have given the cadets an example of what their platoon sergeant could be like when they head out into the Army upon graduation,” Bradley said. “I try to set a high standard even though all NCOs are different, and I hope I give them a good understanding of what an NCO is and what the NCO role is within the unit.”

Professional development

Although the majority of the NCOs’ time is spent developing cadets, Command Sgt. Maj. Dawn Rippelmeyer, the 23rd command sergeant major of the U.S. Corps of Cadets, said the leadership has not forgotten about NCO professional development.

“We want to make sure that our NCOs don’t lose contact with the operational Army,” Rippelmeyer said. “Although we have a graduating class of cadets each year, we also have a group of NCOs who PCS back out into the force, and we have to make sure that they are prepared to take on those senior NCO roles.”

NCOs have various opportunities to develop at USMA.

“An opportunity that we are extremely proud to offer here is the Benavidez Leader Development Program,” Rippelmeyer said.

The BLDP is a three-week program that allows TAC NCOs to learn some of the same skills their officer counterparts receive when they attend the Eisenhower Leader Development Program. The first week of the course is at USMA, where the NCOs focus on learning study skills and critical thinking. The next three weeks of the course are at Columbia University in New York City, where the focus shifts to leadership, supervision, executive coaching, organizational psychology and organizational dynamics.

Upon completion of the program, NCOs receive 10 graduate credits if they have completed their bachelor’s degree or 12 undergraduate credits if they have not. Rippelmeyer said that this is the pilot year and that the intent of the program is to allow every TAC NCO assigned to West Point the opportunity to participate.

USCC and USMA also have a Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Program in place, which focuses on better preparing senior NCOs at West Point to take on greater roles of responsibility when they leave.

“We have a great NCOPD program focused on leadership and administrative skills an NCO should know, in order to help them be a better first sergeant,” Rippelmeyer said.

Tactical NCOs and Tactical Officers, lead the U.S. Military Academy Class of 2015 as they march to their graduation ceremony at Michie Stadium at West Point, May 23, 2015.  Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff served as the commencement speaker for West Point’s 217th graduating class. (U.S. Army photo by John Pellino)
Tactical NCOs and Tactical Officers, lead the U.S. Military Academy Class of 2015 as they march to their graduation ceremony at Michie Stadium at West Point, May 23, 2015. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff served as the commencement speaker for West Point’s 217th graduating class. (U.S. Army photo by John Pellino)

The NCO Fusion Forum, overseen by Clark, and the USCC NCOPD Program, overseen by Rippelmeyer, focus on bringing the strategic Army perspective to senior NCOs at West Point, while providing them with the knowledge of what a first sergeant is expected to manage and be an expert on when in the field.

“We are looking for NCOs who have a desire to develop leaders, those who will really get after being involved and truly engage with the cadet chain of command,” Rippelmeyer said.

Rippelmeyer reviews every applicant’s packet and said there are certain prerequisites that the command requires its NCOs to possess. The applicant should be in the rank of staff sergeant (promotable), with platoon sergeant time, or sergeant first class, having completed drill sergeant duty, platoon sergeant time or both.

The applicant should have served nine to 14 years of active-duty military service at the time of application and must have a strong desire to serve in a critical and career progressive assignment, while also possessing strong physical fitness attributes and communication skills. Not every MOS is eligible to serve in a TAC NCO billet, but the position is open to the following specialties: 11B infantryman, 21B combat engineer, 21C bridge crewmember, 13B cannon crewmember, 14S air and missile defense crewmember, 14T Patriot launching station enhanced operator, 19D cavalry scout, 19K M1 armor crewman, 25U signal support systems specialist, 91X maintenance supervisor, 88M motor transport operator, 91E allied trades specialist, 92A automated logistical specialist, 31B military police, 88N transportation management coordinator and 15P aviation operations specialist.

TAC NCO positions may become available at any time, but it’s best to start actively pursuing the position once interested NCOs have successfully completed or are close to completing their platoon sergeant time, Rippelmeyer said.

She added that NCOs should work closely with their career branch assignment manager to get the specifics on when the position will be available and if it coincides with their projected PCS timeframe.

All nomination packets are sent directly to the USCC command sergeant major and should include the following documents: a letter stating the NCO’s desire to be assigned as a TAC NCO, a letter of recommendation from the NCO’s commander, a letter of recommendation from the NCO’s battalion commander or command sergeant major, the applicant’s last NCOER, and the current version of the NCO’s Enlisted Record Brief.

“If you’re looking for an experience where you can have a big effect on the Army… definitely look into this,” Rippelmeyer said. “It is extremely rewarding to see these cadets go from civilian, to someone you would want as your platoon leader, being a part of your company… because you see greatness.”

For more information on the program and to find out how to file a nomination packet, visit the U.S. Military Academy website at www.usma.edu, or contact the office of the U.S. Corps of Cadets command sergeant major at 845-938-4601.

‘Screw-up’ NCO highlights history of Midwest’s storied 35th Infantry Division

NCO Journal

The history of every Army division is filled with stories of sacrifice and heroism. These stories are filled with top-notch noncommissioned officers who led their Soldiers through missions with seemingly impossible odds, but great leadership made them possible. The history of the 35th Infantry Division, a National Guard division headquartered at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., is no different.

But the story of one of the 35th ID’s most decorated NCOs is a little divergent. Staff Sgt. Junior James Spurrier was the only 35th ID Soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during World War II. He also received a Distinguished Service Cross earlier in the war.

But Spurrier wasn’t always known to “lead from the front” or to be “on point.” To be blunt, said Ed Gerhardt, president of the 35th Infantry Museum’s board of directors, Spurrier was a screw-up. But that same quality, plus a heart full of bravery, led Spurrier to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on Nov. 13, 1944.

Staff Sgt. Junior James Spurrier was the only 35th Infantry Division Soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II.
Staff Sgt. Junior James Spurrier was the only 35th Infantry Division Soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II.

“Spurrier was always in trouble, and they were about ready to bust him,” Gerhardt said. “One morning, he stole a can of peaches from the mess hall, and while he was eating those, he missed formation. His unit moved out without him, and they were going to go around and take this town (Achain, France) from the other side. Spurrier suddenly realized they had moved out without him, so he grabbed his gun and he headed into town from the opposite direction.”

Whether Spurrier meant to attack from the opposite side, or just didn’t know where the rest of his unit was or understand the direction of the attack, is not known. But his move led to the famous order from Lt. Col. Frederick Roecker: “Attack Achain! Company G from the east, and Spurrier from the west!”

“Spurrier shot the first three Nazis with his M-1,” reads a description of the battle in Attack: The Story of the 35th Infantry Division, published in 1945. “Then, picking up BARs, (Browning Automatic Rifles) Yank and German bazookas and grenades wherever he found them, he systematically began to clean out the town. He crumbled one stronghold with bazooka shells, killed three more Nazis with a BAR, and captured a garrison commander, a lieutenant and 14 men. Another defense point was silenced when he killed its two occupants. Out of ammunition and under fire from four Nazis, Spurrier hurled a Nazi grenade into the house, killing the four Germans.

“That night, the one-man army had charge of an outpost. While checking security, he heard four Germans talking in a barn. He set fire to a supply of oil and hay, captured the four as they ran out. Later, he spotted a [German] crawling toward a sentry, killed him when there was no reply to his challenge.

“According to 25-year-old Lt. Col. Frederick Roecker, his battalion commanding officer, Spurrier killed 25 Germans, captured 20 others. In March 1945, Sgt. Spurrier was awarded the division’s first Medal of Honor.”

Earlier in the war, Spurrier received the Distinguished Service Cross for capturing a hill near Nancy, France. Riding on the top of a tank, firing from the rear with a Browning Automatic Rifle, he moved through German lines, killing an estimated 25 Germans, with another 22 Germans surrendering. Later in the war, Spurrier was awarded his second Purple Heart during the Battle of the Bulge after he was knocked unconscious in the snow by a mortar shell. A display in the 35th Infantry Division Museum states, “His actions repeatedly reflected the motto of his unit, the 134th Infantry, ‘All Hell Can’t Stop Us.’”

35th Infantry Division beginnings

The history of the 35th Infantry Division begins in World War I with Soldiers from Kansas and Missouri National Guard units. Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Newton, the command sergeant major of the 35th ID, said the storied history of the division is something its leaders try to teach newcomers right away.

“One of the things we do at division headquarters is when someone new comes to the division, we go over the division history,” Newton said. “We explain, the 35th ID was founded (at Camp Doniphan, Okla.) in August of 1917, and we went over to World War I (in May 1918). The division only served about a month and a half in combat during World War I, but the combat losses that they had in that short amount of time were just astronomical, over 5,000.” [During World War I, the 35th had 1,298 Soldiers killed in action and 5,988 wounded.]

Captain Harry S. Truman, who went on to become the 33rd president of the United States, served as a battery commander for Battery D, 129th Field Artillery Regiment, 35th Infantry Division during World War I.

Forces of the 35th ID took Vauquois Hill, France, on their first day of action in World War I, followed by Varennes, Cheppy and Very. The next day they seized Valmy, then soon after Montrebeau Woods. In a short period of time, the 35th ID had made major contributions to the final defeat of Germany’s army.

Taken out of active service at Camp Funston, Kan., in May 1919, the 35th again became a National Guard division, consisting of regiments from Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri.

World War II

On Dec. 23, 1940, the 35th ID was mobilized for World War II and began training at Camp Robinson, Ark. In 1941, the division participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers and, after the Pearl Harbor attack, performed coastal defense duties near San Luis Obispo, Calif. In April 1943, the division moved to Camp Rucker, Ala., for advanced training. In May 1944, the division sailed to England where it prepared for invasion.

An exhibit at the 35th Infantry Division Museum in Topeka, Kan., displays letters from the front that Sgt. John Douglas Porter wrote to his wife during World War II. Porter, of  Headquarters Company, 35th Infantry Division, wrote more than 500 letters to his wife, Helen. The "Love Letters from the Front" were donated to the museum by Porter's family. (Photos by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)
An exhibit at the 35th Infantry Division Museum in Topeka, Kan., displays letters from the front that Sgt. John Douglas Porter wrote to his wife during World War II. Porter, of Headquarters Company, 35th Infantry Division, wrote more than 500 letters to his wife, Helen. The “Love Letters from the Front” were donated to the museum by Porter’s family. (Photos by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

By July 7, the 35th Infantry Division had landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, and began combat operations soon thereafter amid the hedgerows north of St. Lo. After fierce battles with the Germans, the 35th entered St. Lo on July 18.

“Three weeks before, the 35th had been made up of green troops still in an English training camp,” reads the history book, The 35th Infantry Division in World War II, 1941-1945. “Now, scarred but battlewise, they were the veterans of their first bitter campaign of World War II. Unheralded, they had entered a situation that ranked with the beachhead landings and had emerged the victors.”

Continuing the advance, the 35th took town after town, including Mortain, Orleans and Sens, finally reaching Nancy, France, by mid-September. During that three-month push, the 35th covered more miles than any other front-line division. The division continued to push its way across France, until, at last, on Dec. 11, 1944, Soldiers reached the Blies River, the last barrier to German soil.

“This ended a period in which the division had fought continuously for 162 days,” reads the 35th history book. “The artillery battalions had maintained fire direction centers 24 hours a day. Staff sections had not ceased operations except to move – 3,888 consecutive hours of operation. This was a record that few, if any, division surpassed in World War II.”

After those difficult 162 days, the 35th withdrew to Metz, France, for a rest. But the Battle of the Bulge quickly interrupted that rest, and the division was rushed 80 miles to the Ardennes forest. From Dec. 27 to Jan. 21, the division successfully held off the German armored columns. One of the 35th’s battalions was among the first units to pierce the ring around Bastogne, Belgium, where the 101st Airborne Division was besieged.

By March 11, the 35th was at the Rhine River. The division began crossing the Rhine on March 26, during a powerful Allied air attack. After crossing the river, the division conquered city after city, rounding up 3,770 prisoners in 18 days. The divisions sped all the way to the Elbe River, making them the American troops nearest Berlin. On Victory in Europe day, May 8, 1945, the division command post was at Dohren, Germany.

In 10 months, the 35th had fought almost continuously over 1,600 combat miles and had suffered more than 15,000 casualties. The war over, the division’s Soldiers moved to Hanover, Germany, for occupation duty.

On display at the 35th Infantry Museum in Topeka, Kan., is a booklet from World War II. “That booklet was given to our troops on occupation duty in 1945,” said Ed Gerhardt, president of the 35th Infantry Museum’s board of directors. “When we put this exhibit together, we found this booklet and found that picture in it. On the back of the picture, it says, ‘To Brownie, Just so you’ll remember the fun we had at Meurvild. Cecille.’ ‘Non-fraternization 22 June 1945.’”
On display at the 35th Infantry Museum in Topeka, Kan., is a booklet from World War II. “That booklet was given to our troops on occupation duty in 1945,” said Ed Gerhardt, president of the 35th Infantry Museum’s board of directors. “When we put this exhibit together, we found this booklet and found that picture in it. On the back of the picture, it says, ‘To Brownie, Just so you’ll remember the fun we had at Meurvild. Cecille.’ ‘Non-fraternization 22 June 1945.’”

An article in the July 3, 1945, edition of the Kansas City Star regaled readers with the tales of a well-fought war. Maj. Gen. Paul W. Baade, the commanding general of the 35th, told the newspaper that the division’s Soldiers had much to be proud of.

“You can tell the mothers and fathers, sweethearts and wives, of the 35th Division boys that no outfit did a better job in bringing Germany to her knees,” Baade said. “There were many divisions just as good as ours, but none any better.

“The fighting spirit of the Midwestern lad never faltered from the day we first went into action in the St. Lo offensive,” he continued. “It was a great privilege for me to lead a division like the 35th. Some of our assignments were the toughest of the war and we suffered many casualties in order that others might be saved. I would like to convey to the relatives of those who will not return the comforting thought that everyone who does not return died a hero’s death, and by so doing has done his bit to prevent another world war.”

Reorganizations and peacekeeping missions

The years after World War II led to several inactivations and reactivations for the 35th Infantry Division. On Dec. 7, 1945, the division was inactivated. In late 1946 and early 1947, the division was reorganized as a Kansas and Missouri division. The division continued to recruit and train until 1963, when it was inactivated, along with three other National Guard divisions.

In early 1983, the Army began the process organize the 35th as a mechanized infantry division from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado and Kentucky National Guard units. The division headquarters was established Sept. 30, 1983, at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. On Aug. 25, 1984, the 35th Division reactivation ceremony occurred at Fort Leavenworth.

After being notified in 2001 that the 35th Infantry Division would be tasked with the command of the stabilization force in Bosnia in 2003, the division’s Soldiers began training for the mission. On Jan. 19, 2003, more than 1,000 Soldiers began the mission in Bosnia. On June 13, 2003, they began “Operation Tornado,” an air and ground assault to secure an area near the town of Han Pijesak. During the mission, they found a series of bunkers hiding a large cache of weapons, missiles and mines. The division returned to Kansas in October after completing a six-month deployment.

In the fall of 2007, the 35th division served as the headquarters unit for Task Force Falcon, a multinational peacekeeping force in Kosovo, where about 200 division Soldiers served for a year. The division also served as a headquarters unit for disaster relief during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 in Louisiana.

“Our division is a pretty busy organization,” Newton said. “Our division headquarters is authorized 722 positions. Our organization is different in that we’re split between two states. The flag is here at Fort Leavenworth, and about a third of the personnel here in Kansas, and the other two-thirds are in Missouri. We share a relationship with two states. Our units are in different states, so we are truly just a headquarters command.”

Santa Fe division’s patch

The history of the 35th Infantry Division is deeply tied to the Santa Fe Trail, which 19th century pioneers used to travel to and develop the West. With the division originally getting many of its Soldiers from states along the trail (Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska), and with their World War I training taking place at Camp Doniphan, Okla., near the eastern end of the trail, the division quickly became known as the Santa Fe Division.

The patches of the 35th Infantry Division are on display at the division museum in Topeka, Kan.
The patches of the 35th Infantry Division are on display at the division museum in Topeka, Kan.

That historical connection with the Santa Fe Trail is nowhere more clear than at its headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, Newton said.

“There’s a spot on Fort Leavenworth where you can still see the wagon wheel ruts in the ground, where the wagons came off the boats going from Missouri to Kansas,” he said. “You can see where the trail starts.”

The division’s patch, consisting of a white Santa Fe cross on a wagon wheel, also harkens back to that history.

“The patch symbolizes the wagon wheel, and the cross symbolizes the path that they had along the trail,” Newton said. “The crosses guided early settlers across the state and to the west.”

Sgt. 1st Class James Knight, an operations NCO for the 35th Infantry Division at its headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, said it’s been special opportunity to serve in the unit he grew up around as a kid in Leavenworth, Kan.

“I’m proud that this division, from World War I to World War II, basically came from the same heart-of-America-type people from Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska,” Knight said. “I grew up right here in Leavenworth, so I remember when this headquarters building was built. I’ve always seen this patch. There’s a ton of history with the 35th. We don’t have the Rock of the Marne or anything like that, but we did do a lot in World War I and World War II.

“It was the first patch I put on when I joined the National Guard,” he said. “I’ve worn a couple of different patches, but mainly I’ve worn this one. Now, my kids, too, have seen it their whole lives, and it means something to them, too.”

Newton said he hopes new Soldiers to the division can appreciate its history and the sacrifices of those who came before.

“What’s important to me is sharing the history and keeping the history of the division alive,” Newton said. “There are some incredible stories. For instance, in the Hall of Fame (at the 35th Infantry Museum in Topeka, Kan.), you’ll see Major General (retired) Charles Browne. He enlisted in the Kansas National Guard in 1926. He went up through all the NCO ranks, then he was commissioned in 1939, just before the war. He held every single NCO rank and every single officer rank in the division. That’s unheard of. Modern day, you would never have anyone like that. He went from private to commanding general of the division.

“Our history really makes me appreciate what we have today,” he said. “When you see what the Soldiers before us went through, the casualty rates during World War I and World War II were astronomical. They faced death every day. But these Soldiers did it because it was their duty. You don’t complain about it, you go out and complete your mission.

“Be proud of the patch you wear on your shoulder, your unit crest. Understand the story behind it. I want to keep the story alive and not forget those who have sacrificed for us. Appreciate what you have today.”

Staff ride connects history to present-day battles for NCOs in Europe

By Staff Sgt. Clareyssa T. Hall
U.S. Army Europe

U.S. Army Europe has used its location — headquartered at Wiesbaden, Germany — to conduct leader-training using historical battles and the staff ride training model for years. For most of that time, staff rides were either conducted for units or senior leaders. Recently, however, Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport Sr., USAREUR command sergeant major, and the USAREUR Military History Office took 21 junior NCOs and specialists to the area of the 1944 battles for the Siegfried Line and used the staff ride’s time-proven techniques to train the future leaders of the Army.

Staff rides, during which Soldiers study important battles while visiting the actual locations of those battles, are a unique and persuasive method of conveying the lessons of the past to present-day Army leadership. When properly conducted, this training experience brings to life, on the very terrain where historic encounters occurred, examples of leadership, tactics and strategy, communication, use of terrain and, above all, the mindset of men in battle. This historical study offers valuable opportunities to develop professional leadership. The staff ride concept is not only a training opportunity — it also paves the way for innovative, confident and competent leaders. In planning the first Junior Enlisted Soldier Staff Ride in USAREUR, Davenport understood just that.

The creation of the junior enlisted ride happened during a senior leader ride to Normandy, France, at the end of March 2014. During the last dinner of that event, former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, retired Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr., hosted historians Andrew N. Morris and John A. Glover, along with Davenport. Together they discussed additional training possibilities, including the concept of conducting an “NCO ride.” As the plan was refined, Davenport chose to focus on junior NCOs to help build and empower junior leaders.

With the assistance of the USAREUR historians and other support staff, Davenport planned and executed the staff ride, maximizing professional development at every opportunity. The staff ride concept can be complex, and until this point had only been executed by officers.

A group of junior NCOs and specialists participate in a staff ride in the area of the 1944 battles for the Siegfried Line in Germany. (Photo by Sgt. Susan Noga)
A group of junior NCOs and specialists participate in a staff ride in the area of the 1944 battles for the Siegfried Line in Germany. (Photo by Sgt. Susan Noga)

Davenport selected Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson, command sergeant major of the USAREUR Noncommissioned Officer Academy; Command Sgt. Maj. James J. Murrin, command sergeant major of the 7th Civil Support Command; and Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney J. Rhoades, command sergeant major of the 21st Theater Support Command, as senior mentors. Davenport also arranged for 21 specialists and sergeants – all of who were either Soldier or NCO of the Year candidates from across USAREUR – as participants. To emphasize that we are “one Army,” Davenport also assigned one Army Reserve Soldier to each group of Soldiers, exposing active duty Army Soldiers to the Army Reserve Soldiers and their career experiences.

While the junior leaders and senior mentors were being selected, the USAREUR historians were developing the study curriculum. The Soldiers and mentors who participated assigned to read, “The Siegfried Line Campaign,” by Charles B. MacDonald, the former deputy chief historian for the U.S. Army. The book detailed both sides of the famous battles, highlighting decisions that led to advancement as well as setbacks. Aachen, Germany, was the site selected for the staff ride. This location provided the facilities needed for the staff ride members to study, have breakout sessions and experience the challenging terrain, all of which allowed for an accurate remembrance of what the Soldiers in 1944 had to endure.

The study portion of the staff ride took place throughout August. Each group was divided into parts to study the infantry units of the battle, with one part focused on the experiences of the 9th Infantry Division in September 1944 in the Hürtgen Forest, one on the 1st Infantry Division’s capture of Aachen in October 1944, and one on the 28th Infantry Division’s attempt to take the town of Schmidt in November 1944. The study phase for this ride also consisted of guided readings, followed by three video teleconference sessions that outlined how the staff ride would be conducted, what the expectations were for each participant, and, using a Fort Leavenworth Battle Analysis outline, briefings on each unit’s role in the battle.

The preliminary study phase of the staff ride ended in August, giving way to the field study phase in September. The intent of the field study phase was to visit the significant sites of the Siegfried Line Campaign emphasized during the preliminary study. As only a portion of the field locations could be visited, the instructor team of Davenport, senior mentors and the historians summarized what occurred elsewhere so that students were able to comprehend the entire campaign.

The route through the sites was taken in the chronological order of the campaign so the Soldiers and mentors could discuss events as they unfolded. Each planned stop was called a stand, and each stand was selected for historical significance, visual impact, and logistical necessity. A few of the Soldiers studied topics beyond the level of general background knowledge, so the stops provided opportunities for the staff ride members to share their findings and stimulate discussion.

Day 0 of the USAREUR Junior Enlisted Staff Ride field study started out with all members taking a bus ride to a hotel in Zweifall, Germany, near Aachen. At the hotel, the Soldiers and mentors prepared and refined their presentations within their respective groups for their stand presentations the next day. All previous meetings and briefings between the groups were conducted through VTC, so Day 0 gave the Soldiers and mentors a chance to combine efforts to make their briefs a memorable learning experience.

Day 1 started at the point where the VII Corps crossed into Germany in September 1944, near the town of Schmidthof, in the military-identified Stolberg Corridor. After viewing the remains of the West Wall, the group traveled to Schevenhutte, where Group A introduced the 9th Infantry Division’s actions. The stand was at the site where the 47th Infantry Regiment encountered the lead elements of the German 12th Infantry Division. Throughout the day, Group A discussed observation and fields of fire, avenues of approach, key terrain, obstacles and cover and concealment (OAKOC) from the German perspective, plus the vehicles used and the Soldiers’ morale. The group also discussed advancement across the battle space and how they would do things differently or keep them the same. One of the most important topics discussed was building strong bonds before you go to war and how to maintain those relationships in war. Davenport and the senior mentors stressed the importance of reconnaissance and rehearsals at every stand.

Day 1 ended in a conference, with participants recapping the events of the day, lessons learned and how those lessons can be applied today. A short after action review (AAR) session concluded the evening. An AAR and review session was conducted each night so that improvements could be made immediately.

Day 2 began with a walk along the Weisserweh, a small creek that the 9th Infantry Division attacked across in early October 1944, while attempting to get to the town of Schmidt. This allowed the Soldiers to see the remains of a company rear area, and get a feel for the steep terrain and harsh tree cover. The afternoon switched to the experiences of the 1st Infantry Division as they fought to isolate and then take the city of Aachen. There were three stands on the second day, where Group B discussed OAKOC and the mission variables of mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available, and civil considerations (METT-TC), and how difficult it is to advance in battle when your enemy knows how you fight. Davenport brought up the topic of integrating Soldiers in a unit and how that affects how a unit fights a war. Many Soldiers gave examples of how they would integrate a Soldier into their unit if they were a team leader or squad leader. The comments marked a turning point in the staff ride, as Soldiers became more vocal from this point forward.

Day 2 ended with an AAR seminar and dinner, highlighted by the attendance of the former USAREUR Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Campbell, retired. The Soldiers appreciated that senior leadership took the time to mentor them and being available for candid conversation to enhance their professional development. Campbell discussed his priorities with the staff ride members and solicited support and feedback from the junior Soldiers.

Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport Sr. (second from left), USAREUR command sergeant major, leads a group of junior NCOs and specialists on a staff ride in the area of the 1944 battles for the Siegfried Line in Germany. (Photo by Sgt. Susan Noga)
Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport Sr. (second from left), USAREUR command sergeant major, leads a group of junior NCOs and specialists on a staff ride in the area of the 1944 battles for the Siegfried Line in Germany. (Photo by Sgt. Susan Noga)

Day 3 started with a trip to the town of Vossenack for the beginning of the November attacks by the 28th Infantry Division to take Schmidt. The walk followed the Kall Trail down a steep, narrow path across the Kall River and up to the town of Komerscheid. Along the way, discussion topics were overcoming difficult terrain, medical issues, rear area security and leadership under extremely difficult conditions. During the last stand, Davenport expressed the importance of being knowledgeable, comfortable and available as a leader. Soldiers must be knowledgeable about their skill sets, be comfortable talking with their Soldiers and be available for their Soldiers to come to you with any problem, Davenport said. Soldiers gave personal accounts on how they would show genuine care for their Soldiers. Day 3 concluded with a final AAR and an award presentation for Soldiers before heading back to their home stations.

The Seven Army Values were discussed at every stand. During the presentations, general knowledge was addressed, as well as how important it is for senior mentors to discuss the foundation of Army principles. Jefferson discussed how Army values are an integral part of the curriculum at the USAREUR Noncommissioned Officer Academy.

“It’s important to address the Army values in our daily discussions with Soldiers,” Jefferson said. “We conduct values-based Physical Readiness Training (PRT) at the NCO Academy. Every three days, we discuss a different value, and the culmination is a discussion right after the cool-down for the Thursday morning PRT session. Having discussions like these with our Soldiers increases the probability of them learning and living the values.”

Davenport said Army leadership asks junior Soldiers to memorize an abundance of information for promotions boards, Soldier of the Month Boards and NCO boards, but that the Army lacks the hands-on training in showing Soldiers the significance of their study. This enlisted staff ride provided a foundation to understanding land navigation, pre-combat checks (PCCs) and pre-combat inspections (PCI), reconnaissance, rehearsals, nine line medevac, call for fire, The Soldiers Creed and the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer.

Building and empowering junior leaders was one of the overarching themes of the staff ride, and judging by the final AAR comments, that goal was achieved. All Soldiers said they would recommend the opportunity to their peers and subordinates because it improved their leadership style. Another goal of the staff ride was for the Soldiers to take the lessons of the past and apply them to future strategic battle planning. Another unique aspect of the staff ride is that the Soldiers played the role of team leader, squad leader and even officer ranks as they gave their briefings at each stand, explaining how they would have made decisions based on each rank.

The USAREUR Junior Enlisted Staff ride was an overwhelming success and marked a turning point in the lives of 21 Soldiers. They will remember this experience long after their military career has ended. Walking the trails, hills and rugged terrain of the Soldiers who fought in 1944 made each Soldier realize the importance of a team effort and why training must be executed to standard. Repetition in training leads to confidence, and confidence leads to mastery. This staff ride empowered competent and confident junior leaders and set the stage for additional training opportunities on talent management and contributed to the life-long learning of the Soldiers.

Staff Sgt. Clareyssa T. Hall assumed her duties as a Foreign Area Noncommissioned Officer at U.S. Army Europe; Office of Command Sergeant Major; Strategic Initiative Group in July 2014. She is a 35F Intelligence Analyst.

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta contributed to this article.

NCOs’ help needed to make Army’s national museum a reality

NCO Journal

The Navy has had one for more than 50 years. The Air Force’s draws more than 1.3 million people to it every year. And the Marine Corps opened its version to great fanfare in 2006. But when it comes to a national museum to highlight the history, sacrifice and contributions of the U.S. Army, there has never been one, despite Congress appropriating funds to construct one — in 1814. But with luck, and the help of NCOs past and present, that will change before this decade is over.

On what used to be part of the golf course at Fort Belvoir, Va., the Army has set aside 45 acres to build a state-of-the-art, $175 million showcase that will finally tell the full gamut of stories of America’s Soldiers. And a large part of the future National Museum of the United States Army will be the stories of the Army’s noncommissioned officers, said retired Brig. Gen. Creighton W. Abrams III, the executive director of the Army Historical Foundation, which is in charge of fundraising for the museum.

The front of the new National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, Va., can be seen in this artist's rendering. (Photo courtesy of the Army Historical Foundation)
The front of the new National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, Va., can be seen in this artist’s rendering. (Photo courtesy of the Army Historical Foundation)

“There aren’t a lot of armies that have relied as much on NCOs as ours has over the years. So, there will be a lot of NCO stories in the museum,” Abrams said. “It’s long overdue. It’s going to tell a lot of different stories that no current Army museum does.”

“We’re the only service right now that does not have a national museum,” said retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, a member of the museum’s board of directors. “We’ve got lots and lots of little museums in posts, camps and stations all across the country. But at the national level, we need this. For us to have a museum here within the Washington, D.C., area, I think, is very, very important. This is the nation’s capital, and there are literally millions and millions of Americans who come here every year. So we need a museum that tells the Army’s story.”

Because many Americans don’t understand the outsized contributions of NCOs in the U.S. Army, the museum can be an unparalleled opportunity to educate the public, Preston said.

“When you talk to most civilians out there, they know privates, they know sergeants, they know colonels and they know generals. For the most part, those are the ranks they know in the Army,” he said. “But they don’t understand the roles and responsibilities that noncommissioned officers play in the Army and, of course, the accomplishments that they’ve had throughout history. When you look at the Army, 85 percent of the Army is enlisted. And specifically, when you look at the breakdown of enlisted soldiers, 50 percent of them are noncommissioned officers. By far, we are the largest part of the Army, and [NCOs] should have the largest representation when it comes to the museum.”

Indeed, the museum — from its design to its interactive exhibits to its educational programs — is being built to do just that, Abrams said.

“The idea of this museum is really to be the Army’s national landmark, the one place where every Soldier and former Soldier, their families, and other relatives can come and see the whole Army story told in a very interactive and interesting way,” Abrams said. “Gen. [Martin] Dempsey (the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) wrote an editorial recently about the importance of an all-volunteer force staying connected to the American people. Well, the museum is also going to help with that.”

The missing piece

Once constructed, the Army museum will, at last, fill a gap among the national museums devoted to each service, Abrams said. The Navy’s, at the Washington Naval Yard in the capital, opened in 1961. The Air Force’s, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, opened in 1971. And the Marine Corps’, just south of Washington at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., opened in 2006.

The Army’s new museum will also improve on the lack of public Army destinations in the national capital region, Abrams said.

The Soldier's Gallery will feature 41 individual displays, each telling the remarkable story of a Soldier in history. The majority of the Soldiers will be NCOs, museum officials said. (Photo courtesy of the Army Historical Foundation)
The Soldier’s Gallery will feature 41 individual displays, each telling the remarkable story of a Soldier in history. The majority of those depicted will be NCOs, museum officials said. (Photo courtesy of the Army Historical Foundation)

“As an Army guy, it’s somewhat galling to realize that, when you come to Washington, flanking Arlington National Cemetery is the Air Force Memorial and the Marine Corps War Memorial (popularly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial), and downtown, you have the Navy Memorial,” he said. “Then there’s the Navy Museum in the Navy Yard, and just south of here in Quantico, they have a terrific new museum for the Marine Corps. But there’s nothing here for the Army — not a landmark, not a museum, nothing.”

Yet, if the success of the Marine Corps’ museum is any indication — the 100,000-square-foot facility attracts more than 500,000 visitors annually — the new Army museum will more than compensate, presenting the Army story to hundreds of thousands of people each year, Abrams said.

“We associate four verbs with the mission of the museum: engage, educate, honor and inspire,” Abrams said. “Engage because if you don’t engage, you don’t get to do the other three. Educate is really the overall mission of the museum. We think if we do the first two well, we cannot help but honor those who’ve served and inspire those who might want to serve.”

To accomplish this mission, the Army hired the same firm that designed the state-of-the-art exhibits at the Marines’ museum; the National Infantry Museum outside Fort Benning, Ga.; and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington. As in those places, designers had to figure out ways to tell stories while capturing the attention of visitors young and old alike.

They were also tasked with selecting and showcasing priceless artifacts from among the Army’s collection of millions, some more than 200 years old.

“It’s amazing to see what we have — everything from weapons to books to manuscripts — very important pieces of our history that not only tell the Army’s history, but also tell America’s history,” Preston said. “If you’ve ever seen the Indiana Jones movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, at the end, they’ve got this crate and are carrying it off with the ark in it. They put it in this warehouse, and all you see are boxes and crates for as far as the eye can see. Well, that’s kind of what the Army museum looks like right now — it’s all in a big warehouse.”

Once built, however, the Army museum won’t look anything like a warehouse, nor a museum of yesteryear with its endless rows of static display cases. Rather, interactive and immersive galleries will engage visitors with audio, video, light and sound. And the experience will start before visitors even enter the 185,000-square-foot building, Abrams said.

“We’ll have a gallery that we call the Soldier’s Gallery. There will be, at the beginning, 41 Soldiers represented, and the preponderance of those will be NCOs,” Abrams said. “Each one is kind of a monolith, a plinth, that will have an image of an individual Soldier and a brief synopsis of that Soldier’s experience in the Army. Each story will reflect in some way one or more of the Army Values. I always think that Army Values are better caught than taught. So, if you tell a story about an individual Soldier that reflects one or more of the Army Values, that’s a better way of doing it. We’ll have about half a dozen of those Soldier Stories as you’re walking up to the door, so that the experience begins before you actually get inside. I think it’s kind of neat having visitors march into the front door alongside those Soldier stories.”

Once inside, visitors will encounter a two story-tall representation of the Soldier’s Creed and a listing of the 187 campaigns Soldiers have fought in since Lexington and Concord in 1775. Beyond, in the largest section of the museum, visitors will learn the Army’s history of fighting for the nation in six galleries, each devoted to a particular segment of time:

  • “Founding the Nation” explains the birth of the U.S. Army during the Revolutionary War — the transformation from a loose federation of state militias to the unified fighting force of a new sovereign nation.
  • “Preserving the Nation” dramatizes the political, regional and philosophical tensions that led to the Civil War and the new tactics and technology that developed out of it.
  • “The Nation Overseas” documents Army actions in the Philippines, Cuba and elsewhere as a prelude to America’s entry into World War I.
  • “Global War” chronicles the epic conflict of World War II and the wide-ranging changes in Army infrastructure and doctrine that resulted.
  • “Cold War” tells of the ideological war between the United States and the Soviet Union that simmered for 40 years.
  • “Uncertain Battlefields” describes the Army’s reinvention after the Persian Gulf War, peace operations in the Balkans and Somalia, and 9/11 into a force prepared to defeat the threats of non-state adversaries, terrorism and asymmetrical warfare.

The museum’s other large exhibit gallery, “The Army and Society,” explains the interaction between the Army and the American public, Abrams said.

“There’s absolutely fascinating stuff in there,” he said. “For one thing, the Army invented a lot of stuff, and that crossed over into the civilian community. We aren’t going to have it in there — because it’s too darn big — but if we could, we’d include the first mainframe computer in America, the Electronic Numeric Integrator and Computer, built for the Army to do the tabular firing tables for the field artillery. It was part of what has truly been a technological revolution for this country and for the world.”

In the lobby of the new museum will be campaign ribbons and streamers from throughout the Army's nearly 240-year history. (Photo courtesy of the Army Historical Foundation)
In the lobby of the new museum will be campaign ribbons and streamers from throughout the Army’s nearly 240-year history. (Photo courtesy of the Army Historical Foundation)

Other exhibits will include a replica of the 1908 Wright Flyer, which heralded the beginning of both Army aviation and civil aviation throughout the world (the original crashed, killing a lieutenant on board); the story of how Army surgeon Maj. Walter Reed beat yellow fever, enabling the Army Corps of Engineers to construct the Panama Canal, which changed worldwide transportation; and a re-enactment of George Washington’s 1783 speech at Newburgh, N.Y., which calmed a group of officers intending to overthrow Congress and helped establish the foundational principle of civil control of the military.

Perhaps the most forward-thinking part of the museum will be the Experiential Learning Center, where middle-schoolers will use smart tables, touch displays and other multimedia tools to creatively plan and execute a mock rescue mission that will integrate the GSTEM — geography, science, technology, engineering and math — skills that are used so often in Army occupations.

“They’ll have to work collaboratively and collectively to accomplish the mission,” Abrams said. “We picked middle-schoolers because educators say that’s the perfect age to capture their interest in GSTEM. But there will also be stuff for kids of younger ages, too.”

On the uppermost floor of the museum will be the rooftop Medal of Honor Garden, an area of quiet reflection that will feature a wall with the name of every recipient, with stations to learn more about the gallantry and valor that earned each the nation’s highest military award.

Bringing forth the vision

Yet all the exhibits, artifacts and stories won’t have a home without the help of NCOs, Preston said.

“I think it’s important that noncommissioned officers support the Army museum,” he said. “Particularly now, as we’re coming out of a war that we’ve been involved with for more than 13 years, it’s important right now to help educate the American people. With the museum strategically located here with all the other museums, it will be an opportunity to capture and tell the Soldier’s story. The Army needs that right now. Soldiers, noncommissioned officers and leaders across the force need that right now, because we need the support of the American people. If we want to continue to have a strong Army for the defense of the nation, then we have to be able to showcase all that Soldiers have accomplished over 239 years.”

Though major corporations have donated a large chunk of the $175 million total cost, there’s still a large shortfall — more than $30 million — that must be raised before construction can begin, Preston said.

“We’re at the point right now when a lot of the big donors have given a lot of money already. But it’s going to take more than just the big corporate donors out there to fund this project,” he said. “It’s going to take fundraising at the individual level. Historically, with a lot of these projects, 50 percent to 70 percent of the money comes from the individual level.”

Preston said it will take support from individual Soldiers of every rank to make the museum a reality for the Army they have served or currently serve.

“I would hope that all noncommissioned officers out there look at it from an individual perspective, but also take a step back and look at it from an institutional perspective, that we tell the Soldier’s story for the American people.”

With individual donors in mind, the Army Historical Foundation asked the museum’s architects to include commemorative bricks in the building’s design.

“We knew all along that we wanted to do something that would be accessible — in terms of contributions — to the largest group of people,” Abrams said. “So from the very beginning, we told our designers, ‘Design in bricks — lots of bricks!’ So the museum and the campus accommodate 30,000 bricks. They’re granite, and they’re part of the design — they’re not something extraneous.”

The bricks, along with replicas for display in a home or office, may be purchased at https://armyhistory.org/bricks/.

“For noncommissioned officers out there, it’s an opportunity for them to contribute,” Preston said. “You can have your name, your unit, the time you served out there for generations of Americans to see.”

But Preston stressed another museum program that’s not soliciting money, but rather stories. Soldiers, former Soldiers, family members or friends may submit their reminiscences at the Registry of the American Soldier — accessible at https://armyhistory.org/the-registry-of-the-american-soldier/. What is collected will be on display at the museum and online.

“One of the neat things that this museum can do — and you can do this right now online — is you can register and send in Soldiers’ stories. You can capture your own personal experiences from your deployments, from your time in service. Regardless of when you served — if you are World War II private who was part of the Normandy beach landings, or you served in Korea, or you served most recently in Afghanistan or any of the peacekeeping roles that have Soldiers deployed now in more than 80 countries in the world — we want to capture that piece of history; we want to tell the Soldier’s story as part of this museum.”

Ultimately, the entire point of the project is encapsulated in its name, Preston said: to provide a museum for the entire nation to learn about its Army. And the best way for that to happen is through the experiences of the millions of Soldiers who have formed its ranks over nearly 240 years, he said.

“This museum is important, because not only do we want to get a lot of those artifacts out where they can be seen and enjoyed by the public, we also want to capture and tell those personal stories from each individual who served,” Preston said. “I think it’s important. We need this. We need a museum that tells the Soldier’s story, that tells the story of the noncommissioned officer.”

History inspires, teaches military intelligence NCOs

NCO Journal

Established in 1962, military intelligence is one of the youngest of the Army’s 15 basic branches. Despite that, military intelligence has a long, storied history, one that far predates its establishment as a branch.

Though there were intelligence successes going back to the Revolutionary War, military intelligence as a group activity really took off with the all-noncommissioned officer Corps of Intelligence Police, or CIP, during World War I. The CIP was started when Col. Dennis Nolan saw a need for a counterintelligence force within the American Expeditionary Force in Europe. Nolan asked Col. Ralph Van Deman for 50 NCOs to fill the corps.

“The CIP was all NCOs,” said Paul Pipik, curator of the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Museum at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. “It really marked the first time in Army history that anybody had said, to be in intelligence, you have to have certain qualifications. Van Deman wanted people who spoke languages — French especially — because there was a lot of concern about subversion behind the lines in the AEF. He wanted people who had police experience.”

The CIP set up field offices in major cities and monitored the border with Mexico, Pipik said. Along with Army duties, the NCOs of the CIP took on tasks that today are done by a variety of organizations, such as the FBI and Border Patrol.

“They were drawn directly out of civilian ranks, and they were all given a rank of sergeant,” Pipik said. “A lot of them were deployed to Europe; the remainder worked within the United States. Law enforcement and security structure in the United States at that time was nothing like it is today. The bottom line was, with the country at war, the Army was the only organization that really had any sort of capacity to manage internal security. So they involved themselves with counter-espionage; they involved themselves with war-plant security. There were numerous sabotage incidents in the United States during World War I. The Germans especially were quite active in attempting to suborn immigrants and blow up war plants and things of that nature. It’s not a big part of what you read about, but it wasn’t a joke.”

A total of 50 sergeants were chosen to ship out to Paris in October 1917. But the CIP mission immediately hit its first hurdle. Recruiting sergeants for the duty wasn’t easy, and Van Deman ended up with “a questionable lot of ex-cons, French deserters, Communist agitators, mental defectives and confidence men mixed in with some Harvard grads,” according to The MI NCO: Winning Smart by James Finley. The group was so motley, they “were immediately arrested upon their arrival in the war zone by U.S. Marines because of their suspicious character.”

After that mess got sorted, these newly minted Army NCOs got to work. It wasn’t an easy job, and because every person in the CIP was a sergeant, there was no hope for promotion. They were often unsupervised and expected to work under their own initiative, and the regulations and principles of the CIP spelled out a lonely existence.

“The work devolving upon Intelligence Police will leave no time to take part in social life,” the CIP directed its NCOs. “Therefore private associates should not be cultivated. Your entire time will be occupied with your duties. Do not frequent military messes or canteens. Attend strictly to business.”

That first rag-tag group of sergeants did a good enough job attending to business that Gen. John J. Pershing asked for an additional 700 CIP agents. “By the time of the Armistice, there were 418 CIP agents in the AEF, and less than 250 working in the continental U.S.,” Finley wrote. “By 1920, the corps had only six men and a dog, all eligible for discharge.”

Revolutionary War

Though the all-NCO CIP was a large leap forward for noncommissioned officers in the military intelligence field, individual NCOs had important roles dating back to the Revolutionary War.

“World War I was really the first time that NCOs became heavily involved in intelligence,” said Lori Tagg, the command historian at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence at Fort Huachuca. “Prior to that, there were a few, even in the Revolutionary War. Sgt. Daniel Bissell in the Revolutionary War was a spy. He was one of the recipients of Gen. George Washington’s Badge of Merit, which became the Purple Heart later.” Only three Badges of Military Merit were awarded during the Revolutionary War, all to NCOs.

In 2012, as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of military intelligence becoming an Army branch, the USAICoE created the Military Intelligence Soldier Heritage Walkway.

“The Soldiers who most use this walkway are the Advanced Individual Training students,” Tagg said. “So we wanted to line this walkway with stories of enlisted Soldiers and NCOs to help inspire them while they are here at Fort Huachuca.”

One of those celebrated stories on the walkway is of Bissell. In 1781, Bissell was a 29-year-old sergeant in the 2nd Connecticut Regiment of the Continental Army when he posed “as a deserter and British sympathizer for a year to collect information about British operations and fortifications in New York,” reads the plaque celebrating Bissell’s MI efforts. “On June 10, 1783, Washington awarded him the Badge of Merit for conspicuous gallantry and sustained outstanding conduct related to his espionage operation. Washington’s presentation of the badge to Sgt. Bissell represents the first formal recognition of the role military intelligence Soldiers have played in combat operations.”

What the plaque leaves out is how little intelligence Bissell actually got during his year posing as a British sympathizer. Bissell was undoubtedly brave, but bad luck and sickness plagued his efforts from the beginning. Bissell was already sick with fever when he joined a British corps raised by Gen. Benedict Arnold. His sickness only worsened, and he laid in a British military hospital for 10 months. Fearing he may have incriminated himself while delirious with sickness, he eventually fled the hospital, making it back to Washington’s camp in September 1782.

The Civil War

There were several noncommissioned officers whose MI efforts stand out during the Civil War. One is Sgt. Thomas Harter, who was called on for a risky human intelligence, or HUMINT, mission. Though there had been some efforts at signals intercept and balloon reconnaissance, HUMINT was still the most-used MI tool during the Civil War.

In August 1862, Harter set out in civilian clothes to get intelligence on the position and fighting shape of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s troops. Harter’s mission was to get to Staunton, Va., and report back within three weeks. But almost as soon as he got started, he was arrested and put on a train to Richmond, Va. However, during a stop in Staunton, Harter talked his way into being put to work on the line supplying Lee’s advance.

On the morning before a planned attack by Lee, Harter left the Confederate camp, swam across the Rapidan River, and was lucky enough to run into the right people at the Union divisional headquarters, Finley said.

“One of the usual deficiencies of scouting work was the agent’s difficulties in returning to friendly lines through enemy pickets and cavalry patrols, finding the headquarters of the commander, usually to the rear, and unburdening himself of his information before the enemy could strike, [which would] render his intelligence worthless,” Finley wrote. “But Harter found himself dripping wet before the commanders and staff of the Army of Virginia.”

The Army of Virginia was a shortlived unit of the Union Army. Its principal opponent was Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Harter’s intelligence report led to a quick retreat that protected the Union Army from the impending Confederate attack.

“This episode inspired an Army staffer to propose to the secretary of war that these kinds of dangerous espionage missions should be rewarded,” Finley wrote. “‘Such extra hazardous service cannot be measured by a money valuation, but [Sgt. Harter] should be compensated liberally, as a government expression that such services are appreciated.’ The sergeant would receive a $500 award.”

In February 1863, Maj. Gen. Joe Hooker ordered his provost marshal to “organize and perfect a system for collecting information as speedily as possible,” according to Edwin Fishel’s The Secret War for the Union: The Untold Story of Military Intelligence in the Civil War. Col. George Sharpe was put in charge and was determined to fill his bureau with only Soldiers or highly qualified civilians.

Sharpe gathered a group of NCO scouts. It was U.S. Army policy at the time that officers could direct espionage operations, but not engage in them. “Presumably, it was thought that spying was a business suited to the lower ranks on the social scale,” Fishel wrote. “Fortunately for the Army, its ‘lower ranks’ were not wanting for men of wit and nerve.”

One of Sharpe’s MI NCOs was Sgt. Milton Cline, who was responsible for one of the group’s most daring behind-the-lines intelligence gathering efforts. “Wearing a Confederate uniform, he would enter the enemy camps and get a first-hand feel for their strengths, dispositions and intentions,” Finley wrote.

“By the time he returned to headquarters 10 days after setting out, the sergeant had traveled 250 miles, the last 10 on a stolen horse; shared a bottle of whiskey with his Confederate hosts; been shot at by either friendly or enemy forces; and accomplished the deepest and longest infiltration of the Confederation Army recorded during the war,” Finley wrote.

Counter Intelligence Corps

After proving the worth of military intelligence in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, NCOs took full control of the Army’s counterintelligence role during World War I with the all-noncommissioned officer Corps of Intelligence Police. But when World War I ended, the CIP was close to being completely disbanded. Nolan, who helped originate the force, didn’t want the Army to lose the valuable intelligence skills its NCOs had picked up, Pipik said.

“When the war ended — just like every war, there’s a big drawdown in the military forces — CIP just about went out of existence at that point,” Pipik said. “But Nolan … managed to get Congress to fund the CIP in a very reduced state, which really ensured it survived. It was redesignated when the Second World War started as the Counter Intelligence Corps, or CIC.

“The continued existence of the CIP ensured that it had a management structure with people in command and some sort of organized presence in the field offices and so forth,” Pipik said. “When World War II came along, that really formed the foundation for the Counter Intelligence Corps. The CIC, by the time the war ended, probably had about 14,000 people in it.”

Though the CIC was no longer filled solely by NCOs, “it really was the point where NCOs put their stake in the ground in intelligence,” Pipik said.

Many of the brave NCOs who provided intelligence to the U.S. Army during World War II were of Japanese descent. The need for intelligence on Japan’s operations was great, but many of those who could help had been put in internment camps by the United States. Sgt. Roy Matsumoto, for instance, volunteered for the Army from a U.S. internment camp in November 1942.

After enlisting, Matsumoto was sent to Burma as part of a mission to clear the area of Japanese troops. Matsumoto climbed up into jungle trees and tapped into Japanese land lines to listen to their conversations. The Japanese assumed their conversations were secure because they used a little known dialect, but the dialect just happened to be one known to Matsumoto.

Matsumoto several times used his knowledge of the Japanese language to confuse the enemy and send them rushing into ambushes, Finley said.

“Once he caused the Japanese to rush unprepared into an American ambush by shouting, ‘Charge!’ in his native tongue,” Finley wrote. “The enemy suffered 54 fatal casualties while his unit sustained none. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for that escapade. But it was not the last time he would impersonate a Japanese officer. In April 1944, his unit was surrounded at Nhpum Ga, Burma, for 10 days. At the end of the desperate siege, Matsumoto crawled into the formations of the Japanese attackers, jumped up and shrieked ‘Banzai!’ launching a suicidal attack into the teeth of the American defense. His comrades could not believe his bravado and credited their survival to Matsumoto’s initiative and courage.

“One of his fellows, Sgt. Warrant T. Ventura, queried the commander, Lt. Col. George McGee, about why Matsumoto had not been put in for the Medal of Honor,” Finley wrote. “McGee replied that ‘he was only an enlisted man doing his duty.’”

Becoming a branch

On July 1, 1962, right as the Vietnam War was kicking up, the Army established the Army Intelligence and Security Branch. Five years later, the AIS branch was redesignated the Military Intelligence Branch.

On July 1, 1987, the 25th anniversary of the creation of the branch, the Military Intelligence Corps was activated as part of the U.S. Army Regimental System.

“Today, MI is really heavily working on the idea of creating this nonstop channel from the satellite right down to the guy at the front line,” Pipik said. “It’s all about all sources coming together for the commander at the moment necessary, with the information needed, to let him make a good decision on the battlefield. That’s the way the MI organization works today. MI is not fielding spies or running satellites. The intel organization is focused on getting whatever those other guys collect to the right guy, at the right time, in the right way. And vice-versa, pushing up what they know to the other people.”

Desert Storm to today

The years of building up a formidable intelligence force came to an impressive head in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq.

“The important thing about Desert Storm was this was the first time that the Army went to the field with a fully prepared intelligence organization,” Pipik said. “It was structured from brigades on down to companies. They were pretty much in the same tactical configuration that you would find today. There are some differences in focus, because the Army today is very heavily focused on brigade-type structures. Desert Storm was a conventional, divisional, line-up-the-tanks-and-charge type operation. It was the last, so far, conventional war as we had prepared to fight throughout the Cold War. So intel was really ready to rock when they went to Iraq.

“They had all through the 1970s to organize,” Pipik said. “They’d had several dress rehearsals in places like Grenada and Panama — contingency operations as they were called — throughout the ’80s. So intelligence had not only reorganized and rethought its whole approach to battlefield intelligence, it had a chance several times to shake things down and see how they went in actual operation.

“They had a tremendous electronic warfare impact in Desert Storm,” Pipik said. “They pretty much shut down, through jamming or deception operations, most of the Iraqis’ tactical nets. Anyone who was talking on the Iraqi side were being allowed to talk because they wanted to hear what they had to say. If they didn’t want them on the air, they weren’t on the air.”

After Operation Desert Storm came the Global War on Terrorism, with all new lessons to learn.

“The sad thing about it, if you will, is that as soon as [Desert Storm] ended, all those years of preparation to fight the European battle kind of went on the shelf because, just a couple of years later, we went into the war on terror, where we ended up rethinking human intelligence, rethinking surveillance, rethinking all these different areas,” Pipik said. “As an example, the linguistic issues: ‘OK, how many Pashtun speakers do we have?’ A lot of the Vietnam experience came back into play, where they had to relearn the idea of ferreting out intelligence by building networks among people, understanding how communication takes place culturally as well as verbally.”

NCOs learning lessons

The history of military intelligence, beginning with the all-noncommissioned officer Corps of Intelligence Police, brings pride and offers lessons to current MI NCOs. Staff Sgt. James Corry, an instructor of the 35M human intelligence collector course at the Military Intelligence NCO Academy at Fort Huachuca, said the CIP is something to look back on with pride.

“I think it said volumes about NCOs,” Corry said of the all-NCO corps. “We want professionals; we want NCOs.”

NCOs in counterintelligence were important then for the same reason they are important today, said Sgt. 1st Class Adam Jones, a senior group leader for the military intelligence Senior Leadership Course at Fort Huachuca.

“The benefit of that, as it applies to counter intel, is that those common guys, they can already blend in with other commoners when they are at the end of the day, chilling at the tavern, complaining about having to lug 30 cannonballs or something,” Jones said. “They come from that environment. That allows for more effective collection of counterintelligence.”

MI NCOs attempt to learn lessons from their history, including the failures and difficulties, Jones said.

“A lot of the failures come from intelligence Soldiers not being able to effectively sell their assessments to a commander,” Jones said. “So as a 35F intelligence analyst, if you have this great piece of intelligence that you can’t get the company commander on board with, believing you, then you are essentially useless. As an instructor, a lot of our students complain, ‘Why are we always briefing?’ It boils down to, if you can’t communicate your thoughts and assessments, then you’re not going to do well, especially when it comes down to just you and that commander, and you’re saying, ‘Sir, the enemy is going to come from the south.’

“We can learn from the mistakes the intelligence community made during World War II, where we had the intelligence, we just weren’t pushing it out because every unit or department wanted their name on the report,” Jones said. “They wanted their piece of the puzzle, so they weren’t sharing. … We try to learn from those mistakes, incorporate those lessons into our toolkit. And impress that on our students.”

Staff Sgt. Thomas Applebee, an instructor of the 35M human intelligence collector course, spoke of learning from more recent history.

“As a 35M, MI history has a big effect,” Applebee said. “The entire Abu Ghraib scandal altered our [military occupational speciality]. Everything we do and how we are perceived as an Army interrogator is now cast in that light. That’s one part of history that has affected us negatively. But here, we use that as a cautionary tale. We use that in our classes to prepare those Soldiers going out so they know, ‘Hey, we are in the spotlight.’”

The many heroic stories, like Matsumoto tricking Japanese forces into a premature attack, help inspire Sgt. 1st Class Rafael Ayuso, an instructor of the 35L counterintelligence agent course.

“Throughout MI history, to accomplish the mission, you have to think outside the box,” Ayuso said. “You have to look at the enemy’s perspective. You can’t stay in your comfort zone. You have to be proactive, and you have to anticipate the enemy’s actions.”

NCOs have been leading the charge in military intelligence for so long, it helps in these modern times to know that their job can still be done the old way — without computers, cell phones or other gadgets, Applebee said. Just get an NCO to the field and get the job done.

“I think you’ll find most 35Ms take a lot of pride in the fact that ours is the oldest intelligence discipline there is,” Applebee said. “We don’t need a computer screen. I need a pen, a piece of paper, and someone to talk to, to do my job. Every ‘Mike’ guy knows: I don’t need your computer; I don’t need your SIPRNet. We’ve been doing this for hundreds of years, and we can keep doing it.”