The Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development wants to hear from you. INCOPD has created an online survey, to seek NCO’s input on how to further enhance the current NCO Education System. NCOs in the ranks of sergeant through master sergeant will receive an email via their Army email accounts with instructions on how to complete the 30-minute survey. NCOs from active duty, Army Reserve and Army National Guard are being included and will be encouraged to participate in the voluntary survey.
“This survey is more important to NCOs,” said Aubrey Butts, INCOPD’s director. “However, it’s important to us so we can design their future. It’s important because we need to know when they train, where they train and if we are training on the right things. We can also reduce the redundancy in NCO training.”
INCOPD is examining what the Army, and its needs, will look like in the year 2020. They are hoping the NCO 2020 survey will help guide them during next seven years to build a solid and relevant NCOES structure and curriculum by 2020.
Although the survey is voluntary, INCOPD’s leadership highly encourages participation.
“This is an opportunity to be serious about what your concerns are and what you would like those influencing and shaping your development to know,” said Dan Hubbard, INCOPD’s deputy director. “If you don’t take the time—and it’s only about 30 to 40 minutes on average to do this—then you’re kind of giving up your opportunity to give us what you think in order to help us shape what is important into the future.”
Both Hubbard and Butts are retired sergeants major.
Tammy Bankus is a senior instructional systems specialist at INCOPD and helped to develop and implement the survey. She said the survey will have questions about what NCOs should be learning at various points in their careers, the appropriate ranks at which they should be learning certain tasks and how the courses should be delivered (such as resident or online courses).
“We will ask very specific questions, on specific topics but we also give NCOs the opportunity to provide broad input with essay questions,” Bankus said. “They can tell us what they think about the training and how they liked the last NCOES course they attended, whether it was a resident course or distance learning.”
The NCO 2020 survey will allow NCOs to give feedback about three of the Army’s four resident NCOES schools: Warrior Leaders Course, Advanced Leaders Course and Senior Leaders Course. The Sergeant Major Course is not included in the survey. Survey’s participants can also give their opinions on distance learning courses like ALC-Common Core and Structured Self Development.
“We also have some questions about distributed learning so we can see how many hours our Soldiers have to spend during the week to work on distributed learning on-duty and how many hours off-duty,” Bankus said. “What do they think about distributed learning? Having that data, we try to tap the institution, the unit and the self-development domain.”
INCOPD, whose mission is solely dedicated to NCO professional development, will share the results of the survey with the Army’s highest levels of leadership.
Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Robert Cone, commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III will carefully look at the survey’s results and provide input for the way ahead.
“I ask that each of you invest the time and thought to ensure your answers provide the Army’s senior leaders a clear vision of what you think the NCO of 2020 should be and what he or she will need to know and understand to meet the complexities of an uncertain security environment in 2020 and beyond,” Chandler said in an email to NCOs.
INCOPD’s sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Trefus Lee, said leaders need to encourage their NCOs to participate in the survey and to provide honest feedback.
“I just left a command sergeant major position four months ago,” Lee said. “Current battalion and brigade-level leaders need to get involved, making sure their NCOs are focused on this and getting involved in this survey. It’s key at the unit level that the leaders take the survey seriously and realize that it’s not just another survey to be put on the shelf. It’s going to help the senior Army leadership focus where we are going.”
Butts and his staff stressed that NCOs should also encourage their peers and subordinates to complete the survey because, he said, improving NCO professional development will improve the Army’s readiness.
“The main goal of INCOPD is to make sure NCOs have the knowledge, skills and ability to bring each and every one of those young people back home [from war],” Butts said.
At the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, located at Fort Eustis, Va., there is one organization whose only mission in the Army is to work to improve the skill set, education and readiness of the U.S. Army noncommissioned officer: the Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development.
INCOPD stood up in September 2009 to provide direction and oversight of the NCO Education System throughout the Army. It functions in three divisions: Learning Integration, Learning Execution and Evaluation and Learning Innovations and Initiatives Division.
In late July, INCOPD welcomed a new director, Aubrey Butts when the institute’s previous, and first director, John Sparks retired.
Butts, a U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Class 46 graduate, retired as a command sergeant major in 2004 after 27 years on active duty. An infantryman for his entire career, he served 17 years in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.
“My transition was really easy, because this is one of the most competent staffs I’ve ever seen assembled,” Butts said. “Each one of them is uniquely qualified in their respective areas across the three divisions, and my deputy (Dan Hubbard) has just a wealth of history and knowledge that has guided me through the process and down the road of success.”
The staff at INCOPD said their success will come from doing what they can to provide direction and oversight to NCOES across the entire Army.
“What we do is integrate all actions and activities that are related to NCO leader development into the Army leader development strategy,” Sgt. Maj. Trefus Lee, INCOPD’s sergeant major said. “We also serve as the subject-matter and NCO expert for Army leader development at [TRADOC].”
Though INCOPD is a part of TRADOC, it’s unique in that it is the only organization focused strictly on NCOs and their professional development.
“There are not too many organizations that are fortunate enough to have a clear-focused lane to operate in,” said Dan Hubbard, a retired sergeant major and INCOPD’s deputy director. “We listen to the NCO Corps, senior commanders and other stakeholders across the Army, as to what they visualize they need an NCO Corps to do.”
Hubbard served in the Army for 30 years and retired as a sergeant major in 2003. He was a USASMA Class 35 graduate and was recently inducted into the USASMA Hall of Honor for his contributions to the advancement of the education and training of the NCO Corps during his service on active duty and as a Department of the Army civilian.
Although there are many initiatives for INCOPD, Butts said its core mission is working to provide the best education and opportunities for NCOs at all levels.
“If we look to the future and what we think warfare may be, I have heard that we will continue to fight in small units. At the center of those formations will be young lieutenants and NCOs in the ranks of staff sergeant and sergeant first class,” Butts said. “However, at the strategic and operational levels, we have to make sure that we teach the skills needed for those NCOs who are master sergeants and sergeants major to be able to work in a joint environment and in multinational and interagency environments. We have to make sure we give those noncommissioned officers those skills to operate in volatile environments that are complex and ambiguous.”
Having served as an NCO for most of his career, Butts said he was eager to, in his position as the INCOPD director, be a part of some of Army’s NCO professional development, to include distance learning and Structured Self-Development.
“When I look at all the positions that I could possibly serve in, at any level, I don’t think I could be more satisfied with being the person that will work with the sergeant major of the Army and command sergeants majors in the field to figure out the needs of the Army for the most valuable asset in the Army, the noncommissioned officer, the backbone,” Butts said. “NCOs give the Army the framework and movement and all the muscle to make it move. And without that backbone, you really couldn’t make things work. So I think I have, at this point in time—with formations that are coming out of war, in a state of preparation—one of the most important jobs in the Army and one of the most important jobs is dealing with education. What we produce will determine how we will fight and what young men and women will endure on the battlefield for the next 50 years.”
Do you want input into the future education of NCOs? Well, INCOPD wants to hear from you. Check out the NCO Journal on Sept. 24 for instructions on how to complete INCOPD’s “NCOES 2020” survey so you can provide your experiences and help shape NCOES.
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.
— Source: INCOPD
The official magazine of noncommissioned officer professional development