As the Joint Base Langley-Eustis Sergeant Audie Murphy Club president, I have the distinct honor of serving with motivated and dedicated leaders from various Army military occupational specialties. These noncommissioned officers are some of the finest leaders within their career fields, and they consistently strive to better themselves, the installation and the surrounding community.
As stated in U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Regulation 600-14, “the TRADOC Sergeant Audie Murphy Club is an elite organization of NCOs who have demonstrated performance and inherent leadership qualities and abilities characterized by those of Sergeant Audie Murphy.”
When one first views this statement, the word “elite” stands out above all. All NCOs should want to achieve their goals, strive for excellence, be distinguished leaders of Soldiers, help their community, and attempt to stand out within their peer group, among many other things.
The SAMC is an all-volunteer organization of NCOs that continuously assists the installation and local communities through participation in volunteer activities and various installation-level events. The SAMC relies on those members who earn the prestigious Sergeant Audie Murphy Award to support club participation and assist in a wide array of opportunities that may not normally be available to all NCOs.
Those who wish to earn the SAMA can expect to spend a significant amount of time studying regulations, with current SAMC members who take pride in inculcating knowledge into aspiring candidates. Additionally, candidates will participate in several physical and mental challenges, such as physical fitness performance testing and an installation level board.
Why would an NCO want to do all this for a medallion?
It’s not about the medallion or the title. SAMC efforts do not go unnoticed, by an NCO’s chain of command or by the members of the Centralized Selection Board. During fiscal year 2016, the sergeant first class promotion board field after-action report stated that “NCOs were viewed favorably if they were inducted into prestigious professional clubs such as Sergeant Audie Murphy.” The report also recommended that “Soldiers seeking to set themselves apart from their peers should seek membership in distinguished organizations, such as the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.”
This does not mean an NCO should only use the club as a way to get promoted, but rather as a way to interact with leaders of all MOSs and ranks, learn critical regulations to better their military knowledge, and have the ability to give back to the community that supports Soldiers each and every day. Remember, the SAMA is an outstanding achievement, but being a SAMC member is where the hard work begins. It is what an NCO learns on the path to induction, it is the leadership development he or she obtains on that path, and it is the opportunities that present themselves along the way. Once you have been on the SAMC path for a while, NCOs are able to give back to not only their communities but also to a larger group of NCOs who help keep the professional development legacy going.
Any leader who is qualified and ready to take the necessary steps toward induction should contact his or her post’s SAMC president, or a chapter member within their installation. These members will assist with the induction process in accordance with TRADOC Regulation 600-14 and their SAMC-established by-laws. Additionally, they may provide study topics for each level SAMC board, study group times and locations, and assist in preparing for the induction process.
Is it true that assignment officers at U.S. Army Human Resources Command save the great jobs for their friends? Or, that assignment officers sit on the promotion boards?
HRC’s Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson has heard many of the fallacies about HRC and urges Soldiers to reject the myths.
“A lot of [the negativity] is [because of a] lack of education,” Jefferson said before a town hall for senior noncommissioned officers in December at Fort Bliss, Texas. “What we try to do is inform the field of what we are doing and why we do it …
If a Soldier doesn’t get a promotion or assignment he or she wants, “it’s not because the assignment manager doesn’t like you or doesn’t want to send you to those locations,” he said. “It’s because you have to meet certain criteria. The way we dispel those myths is to talk Soldiers through it and educate the leaders. The leaders can help us to educate the Soldier on how the assignment process works.”
Jefferson and Maj. Gen. Thomas Seamands, HRC commander, visited Fort Bliss on Dec. 14 to reach out to both noncommissioned and commissioned service members. For Jefferson and Seamands, the advantages of doing these HRC road shows are twofold.
“There’s a benefit for us at HRC because we get to come out here and listen to the Soldiers in the field, to find out what’s on their minds and how we can make things better for them and their organizations,” Jefferson said. “The other part is for us to show transparency. We inform the Soldiers of what’s going on and what kinds of changes are taking place within their career management fields. That way, they are aware of what’s taking place and how it affects them and their families.”
As the Army downsizes, Jefferson said talent management is not just HRC’s responsibility.
“We [at HRC] identify the Soldiers that need to move to these different positions in our Army, but once we place Soldiers on assignment, then the unit has the responsibility in managing that talent,” Jefferson said. “The leaders on the ground ensure that Soldiers get to the right schools they need in order to develop the talent and go forward.”
He also recently spoke about the issue during Army Training and Doctrine Command’s third town hall in November at Fort Eustis, Virginia.
Many questions and complaints heard during HRC’s road shows are linked to recent revisions in Army policy.
“It’s just the fear of change,” Jefferson said. “When we decided to make the change to a new noncommissioned officer evaluation report, a lot of people were in an uproar about it. But now that we have been doing this NCOER for almost 12 months, not a lot of people are arguing about it. Now, it’s just learning how to write those evaluations. Same thing with STEP,” the Select, Train, Educate, Promote policy for promotion.
Jefferson often offers his assistance to Soldiers at the road shows. If, for example, a Soldier has an issue with his or her assignment and is not connecting with the assignment officer to discuss it, Jefferson will take the Soldier’s information and meet with the assignment officer in an effort to get both parties in touch. Also, if Soldiers continue to take issue with a certain policy or question its relevance, they may count on Jefferson to take up the debate with the deputy chief of staff, G-1.
“If it’s something we think we should look at, we’ll take that back to the Army G-1 and say, ‘We have got this feedback from the Soldiers out in the field. Maybe we could look at this policy, and see if it’s still relevant or if we need to adjust it,’” Jefferson said.
As for those NCOs looking for advice on how to get ahead in the Army, Jefferson said it’s all about self-improvement.
“The way you do that is by going to military schools, by taking the hard jobs and developing yourself and making sure that you are technically and tactically proficient in your career management field,” he said. “Also, reach out to your mentors and find out what else you need to be doing. But the most important thing to prepare yourself for promotion, regardless of what job you are in, is do the best you can and ensure that your evaluation says exactly how you did in that position. Along with going to the schools, that’s the major way to develop ourselves.”
The command sergeant major said he has grown a lot in his 18 months on the job and learns something new every day, especially in his interactions with Soldiers.
“I want to make an impact on the Soldiers and families because that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “Our job is to ensure that Soldiers and our families are taken care of, and I am very passionate about that. There are going to be some Soldiers saying, ‘It’s just HRC again,’ but there is another Soldier out here who I am going to have an impact on ─ something that I am going to say today is going to impact him and his family, or I am going to be able to assist them with something and they are going to put that trust back in HRC and think, ‘Well, maybe they are not the bad guys.’”
Jefferson often leaves NCOs with the same bit of advice ─ develop a passion for what they do, and success will come.
“If you are passionate about something, you are going to be successful in doing that,” he said. “Remain competent and relevant. If you are a leader, all these changes affect all of our Soldiers and their families. You have to know what’s going on in our Army today in order for you to be an effective leader.”
Surrounded by exhibits depicting the greatness of the NCO Corps through the ages, nine new leaders were welcomed into the 204th Military Intelligence Battalion in an NCO induction ceremony Sept. 8 at the NCO Heritage and Education Center at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“These Soldiers have shown they are no longer ‘worker bees.’ They have set themselves apart as professionals,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Ken Bean, command sergeant major of the 204th Military Intelligence Battalion, 470th Military Intelligence Brigade. “I’m very proud of the NCOs in our NCO Corps and where they are today. I see them stepping up in a time of turmoil to train and take care of our nation.”
At the start of the ceremony, the inductees were addressed by guest speaker Sgt. Maj. Richard Tucker, who until his recent retirement was the director for the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course at the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. He encouraged them to prioritize their education and to take their roles as Army leaders seriously.
“People like me, I’m a dinosaur,” Tucker said. “It’s almost time for me to go. As a matter of fact, I walk the stage tomorrow for my retirement ceremony. And right now, I go to sleep every night nice and peaceful, because I know the greatest men and women of this country are protecting me. It’s you guys. You staff sergeants, sergeants first class: You are the future.”
Following Tucker’s address, the audience joined the inductees in reciting the NCO Creed. Then, three NCOs representing the NCOs of the past, present and future lit three candles displayed behind wooden “N,” “C” and “O” letters. A red candle represented valor, a white candle honor and integrity, and a blue candle vigilance.
As their names were called, the young men and women each walked under a wooden archway signifying their transition from junior enlisted to NCO and then signed their name alongside their command sergeant major’s on their certificate – the “Charge to the Newly Promoted Noncommissioned Officer.” To end the ceremony, the group proudly sang the Army song.
Sgt. Luis Peluyera Rivera, one of the nine inducted during the ceremony, said he is proud of his and his comrades’ accomplishments.
“I feel like I’ve made it. We are the backbone of the Army, and it is great to finally be a part of it,” he said.
At the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, the Army’s newest sergeants major are not the only ones preparing for major life changes. The students’ spouses are also developing their own leadership skills in the academy’s Spouse Leadership Development Course.
The 42-hour course prepares spouses of senior enlisted Soldiers for the leadership support positions they will take on within their military communities. Lectures and small group discussions focus on topics such as conflict management, protocol, public speaking and team building. Senior spouses’ roles within the Family Readiness Group are discussed in detail, as well as military benefits and the multitude of programs and resources available to Army families. Examinations are not conducted, but the students are required to give a presentation. The course’s vision is to expand senior spouses’ leadership capacity, broaden their opportunities and recognize their significant contribution to readiness.
“Among the many topics in SLDC, we introduce spouses to the aspects of senior level protocol and etiquette, media engagement, and the use of social media,” said Sgt. Maj. Melissa O’Brien, SLDC director. “They are about to be the face and voice of a new command supporting their military spouse during changes of command, changes of responsibility, memorial ceremonies, along with a whole host of other installation events. Our goal is for spouses to understand how their role transitions into one of leadership support beyond the company, battery, or troop level where many of them actively served as Family Readiness Group leaders. They bring a wealth of experience and knowledge, but now it is time for them to mentor young spouses to carry on the role as FRG leaders.”
The course, offered about once a month, is almost always full. Though it is designed for the spouses of students attending USASMA, the course is open to spouses of sergeants first class and above at Fort Bliss. Spouses from other installations, the Army Reserve and National Guard are also welcome to attend, but they are required to pay for their travel expenses.
“I’ve been a command sergeant major coming up on a dozen years now,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, USASMA’s commandant. “Depending on talent and ambition, Soldiers may spend 30 or 40 percent of their entire career as E9s. That is a long stretch for the spouse, too, with those kinds of community obligations. Having this training will make it a lot easier on that spouse from the start.”
A new role
Much of the information covered in SLDC would benefit any military spouse, Defreese said, but the course also addresses the specific commitments and social changes facing the spouses of sergeants major.
“You are going to be a senior leader within your community, even if you don’t wear a uniform. Those spouses are a part of the senior culture and social group of a community on post, so that’s why it’s a little different for them,” Defreese said.
One of the major changes a senior spouse faces is that of his or her role in the FRG, said Jane Defreese, the commandant’s wife. Spouses of senior enlisted Soldiers are no longer leaders, but instead advisors, she explained.
Each company/battery/troop has an FRG, and the leaders of each are “down there in the nitty gritty, doing everything they can,” Jane Defreese said. Advisors at the battalion, brigade and division levels, on the other hand, are there to make sure the leaders have the right information and the support they need.
“I love the first day when my husband and I go in and talk to the class and tell them, ‘You are no longer going to be the FRG leader. You are now going to be an advisor,’ and they get wide-eyed and a little nervous about that term,” Jane Defreese said. “But by the end of the course, they are more comfortable, and they know what their roles are going to be. They know it is important for them to step back and let the FRG leaders do their thing.”
Rochelle Blue, who attended the first SLDC of Sergeants Major Course Class 66, said she learned so much in the course, even though she had been a senior spouse for seven years.
“Before I took the class, I thought I had to go in and be in charge of all these things,” Blue said. “But now I know I’m more of an advisor; I’m the one who goes in and looks over things. I am supposed to see how I can make things better, how I can help spouses and their families. And I absolutely love it; because it takes a strong military family to support their Soldier. And now that I know the best way I can help, I’m excited about it.
“I know it is difficult because there is often no one to explain your role as a spouse and how it changes when your spouse is promoted,” Blue said. “I think if more spouses had this class, they would feel more comfortable stepping up into that leadership position. If you go in blind, of course you are going to be afraid. You are afraid you might embarrass your spouse because you don’t know what is going on. This course has opened my eyes and made me more confident. Now I know and understand not only how to help support my husband, but I know what to do on my end.”
‘Resources, not rescues’
If a family has an issue, especially during a deployment or when their Soldier is away for training, senior spouses within the FRG will point them in the right direction to find the help they need. SLDC strives to arm the spouses with the resources they need to address any situation.
Some of the programs overviewed during the course include the Association of the United States Army, bereavement clubs, the American Red Cross and Survivors Outreach Services.
“I wish I had taken this course when I became a senior spouse seven years ago, because I gained so much valuable information that I could have been using,” Blue said. “For example, I hadn’t realized the depth of what the American Red Cross has to offer. And Survivors Outreach Services – I never even knew they existed. I was so excited to hear about it, because they offer so many things to help families get through those hard times. I really learned so much. I hope more spouses want to jump in and take this course so we can support each other and build a stronger military – both on the spouses’ side and the Soldiers’ side, together. It takes both.”
Learning from each other
One of the goals of SLDC is to create an environment where the spouses can learn from each other. Though their husbands or wives all hold the same rank, the spouses in the class come to the table with many different experiences. Some have been military spouses for 20 years. Others, like Mike Menold, are new to the Army.
“It makes for a very interesting group,” Menold said. “My wife works for U.S. Army Recruiting Command, so we are new to living on post. And being a newbie spouse, and a guy – I was the only guy in our class – I brought a different dynamic in the sense that it’s a different world outside of the military. Most of the spouses are used to living on post and accustomed to moving every three to five years. A lot of them talked about what they want to do with their lives now that their kids are grown. Some of them are grandmothers. And here is this 50-year-old guy saying, ‘Yeah, I’ve got a 4-and-a-half-year-old, and I’m just starting.’ Talking to them about what it is like becoming a parent later in life and how much more I appreciate it, they embraced that. We really did learn from each other.”
Not only do the spouses in SLDC learn from each other, they build a support system. Before they leave USASMA, they have forged a network with other spouses on whom they can rely for help and guidance.
“I loved meeting all the other spouses,” Blue said. “I learned that I am not alone, that we have a lot in common. I built new friendships and a new support group – even after the course, we still talk and come up with new ideas. I know I can count on these other spouses who went through the course with me.”
Adapting the course to student’s needs
To make the class accessible to as many spouses as possible, USASMA offers two evening courses each semester from 5 to 10 p.m. The late course is the only option for many spouses, who, like Blue, work or attend classes during the day.
“It was tough because I was at school all day and then at SLDC at night,” Blue said. “I am glad they offer that though; because in today’s military, a lot of the spouses are not stay-at-home moms or dads. They have careers or school; they are working toward things. I am really glad they offered the night course so I had the opportunity to attend.”
The academy also offers a condensed course for international spouses that focuses more on the social and team-building aspects instead of U.S. programs and resources that would not be available to them in their countries.
“In most countries, spouses have no involvement with the military,” Dennis Defreese said. “Even England – their spouses are not involved with the military at all. However, attending this course still benefits them, because it goes back to being an effective communicator. It’s about being part of a social group and understanding other people’s reactions and personalities.”
Theresa Murch, who is at Fort Bliss with her husband while he attends the Sergeants Major Course, said that even though the dynamics between spouses in Australia are completely different, she learned a lot in the course that will be helpful to her back home.
“I enjoyed hearing about how America does it, because your Army is run quite differently from ours, and if I can learn something to take back to my country, all the better,” she said.
Murch said her favorite part of the course was when she and her classmates were required to give a presentation on a topic of their choice.
“I didn’t know what to talk about, but it made me step out of my comfort zone. And the other women who don’t speak English as well – they all got up and did such a great job. I was so proud of them.”
Murch’s class brought together spouses from the United States, Turkey, Jordan, Brazil, Bosnia, Japan and Macedonia.
“In some countries, spouses have no involvement in the Army whatsoever,” she said. “But I think, even for those countries, learning a little bit – even if you know just one person who you could help – it is a productive course.”
Starting Jan. 1, tens of thousands of Soldiers and NCOs will either lose promotion eligibility or may become ineligible for promotion board consideration because they have not complied with Structured Self-Development requirements.
Army Directive 2013-15, released by Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh on July 1 — and MILPER message 13-275, released Sept. 26 — states that SSD-1 must be completed by Jan. 1, 2014, for a specialist or corporal to be placed on the recommended list for promotion to sergeant.
Currently, there are 3,366 specialists who will lose promotable status on Jan. 1, and 41,035 specialists who are not eligible to become promotable unless they complete SSD-1 by Jan. 1, according to the Army G-1.
Soldiers who still need to complete their SSD requirements have until Jan. 1, 2014, to do so. To check their enrollment status, Soldiers need to check the Army Learning Management System, or ALMS, on Army Knowledge Online.
The Army Directive also said all staff sergeants must complete SSD-3 to attain eligibility for promotion to sergeant first class. In addition, all sergeants first class must complete SSD-4 before they are eligible for selection to master sergeant.
According to the Army G-1, there are 11,238 staff sergeants who are otherwise eligible to go before the February 2014 sergeant first class board but will not until they complete SSD-3.
In addition, there are 13,498 sergeants first class who are otherwise eligible to go before the October 2014 master sergeant board who will not until they complete SSD-4.
MILPER message 13-275 only addresses SSD, not ALC-Common Core. The point of contact for the MILPER message is Human Resources Command at firstname.lastname@example.org