Tag Archives: Sergeants Major Course

‘Share the knowledge,’ SMA Dailey urges fellowship program grads

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

Eager to share what they have learned with the next generation of senior noncommissioned officers, 19 sergeants major graduated in August from the pioneering U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program at Fort Bliss, Texas. The graduates, all newly armed with master’s degrees in adult education from Pennsylvania State University, will perform two- to three years as senior NCO instructors in the Sergeants Major Course.

Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of USASMA, congratulates Sgt. Maj. Christopher A. Roche. Defreese called the graduation a major milestone for the NCO Corps and NCO education. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of USASMA, congratulates Sgt. Maj. Christopher A. Roche. Defreese called the graduation a major milestone for the NCO Corps and NCO education. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

Dubbing it a major milestone for the NCO Corps and NCO education, Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of USASMA, said the distance-learning program was “specifically designed to further our NCO Professional Development System and this should indicate … the Army is committed to the education of our NCOs.”

Advancing the corps

Sylvester Smith, fellowship program manager, read a congratulatory letter to the graduates from Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey during the ceremony Aug. 22. Calling the graduating class an inspiration, Dailey wrote “information is a commodity” and urged graduates of the online program to share it.

“I firmly believe you will continue to advance the corps and the Army as you apply your newfound knowledge as instructors in our academy,” Dailey wrote. “Do not hold anything back. As NCOs, we are trained if we share the knowledge then we as a corps will be able to develop and train the most versatile and effective corpsmen our Army has ever seen.”

Sgt. Maj. Jason B. Johnson receives congratulations after graduating from the USASMA Fellowship Program at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. Maj. Jason B. Johnson receives congratulations after graduating from the USASMA Fellowship Program at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

Offering his own congratulations, Smith said the “graduates represent the best of the profession in the Army and set the standard” for others to follow.

“In your search for knowledge, collectively you have increased your value to service and country,” Smith told the graduates.

Though no specific military occupational specialty is sought, the cross-section of students face an advanced curriculum to better professionalize senior NCO instructors in the classroom. Under the fellowship program, fellows have one year to focus exclusively on completing a master’s degree in adult education.

Guest speaker Renata S. Engel, associate vice provost for online programs at Penn State, told the crowd she was very pleased that two historic organizations such as the university and the U.S. Army came together in a special program and praised the graduates as “risk-takers.”

The 19 graduates are due to perform two- to three years as senior NCO instructors in the Sergeants Major Course. (Photo by David Crozier / U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy)
The 19 graduates, shown with William Diehl and Renate S. Engel from Pennsylvania State University, are due to perform two- to three years as senior NCO instructors in the Sergeants Major Course. (Photo by David Crozier / U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy)

“You were the first,” Engel said. “There was a risk involved, and I would like to think risk without preparation is folly. … But risk with preparation, along with the confidence that comes that you’re building on foundation … what you create is a path that is more accessible to those who follow. … It’s not just what you accomplish. It’s what you enable others to accomplish, and your degrees in education are actually going to elevate that even higher.”

‘Stick with learning’

In closing her address, Engel said she wouldn’t be giving the graduates any advice as graduation guest speakers often do. Instead, she offered them two wishes.

Graduates from the pioneering U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program at Fort Bliss, Texas, take their seats during a ceremony. Nineteen sergeants major graduated Aug. 22 with master's degrees in adult education from Pennsylvania State University. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Graduates from the pioneering U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program at Fort Bliss, Texas, take their seats during a ceremony. Nineteen sergeants major graduated Aug. 22 with master’s degrees in adult education from Pennsylvania State University. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“I wish that at some point in your life as an educator you have the joy that comes from a student, a learner, someone who’s following you, tell you about the impact that you have made on them,” Engel said. “It’s going to happen, and it’s going to be amazing when it does. … The second wish I have for you is a wish that you will always want, and I don’t just mean in your profession but … throughout life ─ that you love learning and find so much appreciation for it that you stick with learning.”

The fellowship program offers an opportunity for qualified active-duty senior NCOs to become ambassadors of the Army in the classroom who will help develop agile, adaptive and innovative leaders of the future.

After the past year, Sgt. Maj. Timothy W. Magee and Sgt. Maj. Manuel D. Atencio said they are ready to take their talents into the classroom.

“I am hoping to impress what I have learned in school with the students, and partly the information that I have learned in school is going to help us empathize with what the students are going to be going through,” Magee said. “We know from first-hand experience the pressure we felt going through a new program that we didn’t know anything about. That’s exactly how these students coming through the Sergeant Major Course feel. We’ve got recent education experience with the same anxieties that they are getting ready to experience, so I think that’s going to help us [in the classroom].”

“It was a transformational process, not having been in school for a while to taking four classes at one time,” Atencio said. “It was a great learning experience.”

Both graduates said they would recommend the fellowship program to senior NCOs and encourage them to continue their education.

“I think it’s a very worthwhile program,” Magee said. “One of the amazing parts was when we all got together at Christmas time and we had just completed four classes. … I didn’t realize I had learned anything until we sat around and talked. Just listening to everybody say, ‘Well we talked about this, and we learned this and we learned that,’ and I’m like ‘Holy cow, we actually did learn something.’ It was amazing and pretty fun, too.”

 

Fellowship program graduates
  • Sgt. Maj. James J. Adcock
  • Sgt. Maj. Manuel D. Atencio
  • Sgt. Maj. Scot D. Cates
  • Sgt. Maj. Carl B. Dwyer Jr.
  • Sgt. Maj. John O. Garrison
  • Sgt. Maj. Reginald R. Gooden
  • Sgt. Maj. Jason B. Johnson
  • Sgt. Maj. David J. Lee Jr.
  • Sgt. Maj. Jason F. Leeworthy
  • Sgt. Maj. Timothy W. Magee
  • Sgt. Maj. Patrick D. Mason
  • Sgt. Maj. Feliece Y. Murrell
  • Sgt. Maj. Pedro F. Quiñones
  • Sgt. Maj. Dennis M. Reynolds
  • Sgt. Maj. Ryan C. Robert
  • Sgt. Maj. Christopher A. Roche
  • Sgt. Maj. Timothy C. Todd
  • Sgt. Maj. Steven M. Townsend
  • Sgt. Maj. Terry J. Wade

For more information on the program, contact Sgt. Maj. Joseph J. Hissong, director, USASMA Fellowship Program at 915-744-8827 or email him at joseph.j.hissong.mil@mail.mil

Soldiers’ concerns addressed in changes to SSD, NCO PME

Complete #TRADOCtown hall coverage

By CLIFFORD KYLE JONES
NCO Journal

With Structured Self-Development and other Professional Military Education courses now a requirement for promotion, Soldiers expressed concerns about course capacity, opportunity for fast-trackers and consequences for failure to meet requirements during Training and Doctrine Command’s State of NCO Development Town Hall 2.

TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport and his fellow panelists had answers, suggestions and an open mind.

They also had some news about changes to the SSD program and updates on the state of common core instruction that will be rolled into the Advanced Leader Course and the Senior Leader Course.

Davenport made it clear that he heard Soldiers’ complaints about SSD — one of the messages aired during the town hall’s breaks even highlighted some — and that he and the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy are committed to improving PME.

Spc. Shaina Williams, a wheeled vehicle mechanic with H Company, 148th Brigade Support Battalion, Georgia Army National Guard, studies the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer while she and her classmates stand in line for lunch during Basic Leadership Course at McCrady Training Center in Eastover, S.C. (Photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)
Spc. Shaina Williams, a wheeled vehicle mechanic with H Company, 148th Brigade Support Battalion, Georgia Army National Guard, studies the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer while she and her classmates stand in line for lunch during Basic Leadership Course at McCrady Training Center in Eastover, S.C. (Photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)

“Let me just tell you the feedback I’ve received from the Soldiers: We have to make sure that the material in there makes sense, that it’s tied to something,” he said. “And I think that the work that USASMA’s done of making sure the SSDs prepare you for what you’re going to see in the brick-and-mortar, but more importantly now the way they’ve designed our Structured Self-Development is it’s tied back” to previous and future courses.

SSD “has to make sense,” Davenport continued.

“It can’t just be the spot where we put all mandatory training; it has to be built in to follow a progressive, sequential manner tied to our PME to be effective,” he said. “But we’re going to have to maintain SSDs. SSDs will be around in our Army. As a matter of fact, we’ll go to six. Every level of PME will have an SSD.”

The changes to SSD mirror the changes to NCOs’ required PME, such as ALC, SLC and the new Master Leader Course. Those courses will soon incorporate a common core of instruction.

“A lot of work has gone into the design of it,” Davenport said. “Not only the content of it, with the common core. Common core is six subjects that we’re going to start in the Basic Leader Course. It’s progressive and sequential; we’re going to build skills and knowledge all the way up to the Executive Leader Course. We kind of already mentioned how the SSDs are going to tie the brick-and-mortar to the distance learning. What I’m very excited about is the rigor that is going to be applied to our NCO PME — academic rigor.

“If you want to see a great example of it, I ran into a noncommissioned officer who just went through the Master Leader Course,” he said, mentioning a guest entry on his blog at tradocnews.org. “And truly the Master Leader Course is where all these ideas were exercised, to validate to see if we could spread it out in our PME.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, USASMA’s commandant, said the first blocks of SSD instruction will be foundational and the later blocks will lead directly into brick-and-mortar coursework.

“If they’re exposed to something in SSD1, they’ll talk about it in BLC,” he said. “It not only pulls from the one before, but it also leads into the next level of SSD.

“That’s the whole continuum, not just the SSDs. As we’re redoing the Basic Leader Course and we’re now doing the Advanced Leader Course and Senior Leader Course common core curriculum, it will be sequential and progressive across the entirety of the NCOPDS. … They will be linked for the first time in our history.”

Capacity

Among the first questions Davenport fielded pertained to capacity and requirement waivers for Army Reserve Soldiers.

“It doesn’t matter what component you belong to. The STEP policy of Select, Train, Educate and Promote applies to all three components,” he said. “You must go to PME prior to being promoted to that grade. I don’t know the particulars, but we have absolutely no issue with capacity. I hope the people in the back will make a hashtag that says #TRADOCHasCapacity to get Soldiers to school.

“What we are seeing is that we’re still having a deferment problem even with the deferment policy that we have in place,” Davenport continued. “We just need to make sure that Soldiers are ready to go to school, and if they can’t go to school, to let us know as soon as possible so that we can get other Soldiers to the school.”

Since the last town hall in March, Davenport said TRADOC has established both a deferment policy and a priority list for PME. Soldiers in danger of not being promoted and those backlogged in their PME have top priorities, but Soldiers who just want to get ahead on their schooling have opportunities, too.

In reply to a question about Advanced Leader Course opportunities for low-density MOSs, Jeff Wells, TRADOC chief of plans and Training Operations Management Activity plans officer, said TOMA was working with Human Resources Command to offer courses regularly for all three components and was looking at using mobile training teams to boost PME opportunities at sites other than the centers of excellence.

The commenter said ALC classes in his MOS were only offered three or four times a year and were often scheduled near the beginning of the year, creating a delay for Soldiers.

Another commenter wondered if TRADOC had plans to improve availability for the functional Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course — which was surprise to the panelists, because the organizers of the course don’t perceive any problems with capacity.

Defreese and Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Huggins, USASMA’s deputy commandant, suggested issues at specific installations might cause some backups in BSNCOC availability.

Defreese noted that with the course’s video teletraining, or VTT, model, availability at USASMA is rarely a problem. However, installation commanders are responsible for providing an on-site assistant instructor, so backlogs can occur at specific posts.

And Huggins noted that even with seats available overall, organizations preparing to deploy can cause surges in BSNCOC enrollment at particular installations.

Functional courses

In addition to BSNCOC, Davenport brought up another valuable functional course, the Senior Enlisted Joint Professional Military Education Course Levels 1 and 2. The town hall even featured a special message from Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, about how important exposure to joint operations can be.

“The current operational environment points to all future conflicts being transregional, multidomain and multifunctional,” he said in a prerecorded message. “That means it’s a joint and multinational fight. Because of what this will require of our noncommissioned officers, we must expand their development to produce joint enlisted leaders with broader leadership capabilities.

“That’s where senior joint professional military education comes in,” he continued. “SEJPME 1 and 2 are designed to complement the current [NCO education] continuum by exposing enlisted leaders to joint education and giving them the tools to operate and supervise effectively as part of our future joint force. With enlisted leaders holistically developed to function confidently and competently in a joint environment, our military will continue to have the decisive advantage against any adversary in this increasingly complex world.”

Level 2 is necessary to be a student in the Sergeants Major Course.

Although Level 1 is not a requirement, Defreese said, “I think it’s probably important, because we have put a joint portion in the Master Leader Course and there will be some joint exposure in the Senior Leader Course, so it’s probably relevant to have the Phase 1 before you go to the Senior Leader Course.”

Huggins added, “We’re in a smaller military across the board, so we are going to work with all our brothers and sisters out there in the different services, and so being exposed to them earlier I think makes transitioning easier when you fall under a joint command. We have a lot of JTFs out there and there are plenty of Soldiers who don’t know what that means.”

Fast-trackers?

Because the STEP system requires a Soldier to complete each block of instruction before he or she can be promoted, one commenter wondered whether it was possible for high-speed Soldiers to get promoted quickly.

Davenport pointed out that the “S” in “STEP” stands for “Select.”

“STEP is not automatic promotions,” he said. “It’s about recognizing — the ‘S’ is ‘select’ — those Soldiers who have demonstrated potential and performance and character to be recommended for promotion. So there’s always an opportunity to move ahead. It still requires the SSDs to be completed and [you to] be fit, ready to go to school once you go on that standing promotion list.”

He did say the Army is considering moving pin-on dates to ensure Soldiers have time to get through their PME requirements in time to get branch-qualified and be competitive for the next level.

Priority 1 Soldiers

A commenter asked about Soldiers who are eligible for promotion except for the PME requirement. Aubrey Butts, director of the Institute for NCO Professional Development, said the Army is working to get those Soldiers into the required courses.

“They are Priority 1 people, and what we do is we offer them the chance to go to school up front,” Butts said. “And, probably, the next part of that question is what if they don’t go? When they arrive in the primary zone and they have not completed the necessary PME, they are probably boarded and eliminated from the Army.”

Davenport added, “This is always a tough question about who is responsible for making sure a sergeant gets to go to school. First and foremost, it’s the Soldier. The way that ATAARS is set up now, they get a notice and depending on the hierarchy that’s established within the ATAARS system, unit leadership gets notified that Davenport needs to go to school. …”

“They all have received their opportunity to attend PME, and they are on notice that this is their last shot to go or they will be non-PME compliant and subject to the various [Qualitative Service Program] programs that we have going in our Army.”

A commenter followed up with a question about deployed Soldiers and whether they would be allowed waivers. Davenport said the Army is trying to avoid the scenario by using mobile training teams or asking Soldiers to attend courses earlier.

The school systems of the active-duty Army, the National Guard and the Army Reserve are also being combined to allow Soldiers more opportunities to go to a course any time it’s offered, said Troy L. Nattress, plans officer for TOMA. For instance, if active Army and the National Guard each teach a course four times a year, now any Soldier has eight opportunities to attend.

Nattress said, “That can really help these Soldiers get to school, get promoted and then return to their units and support the Army’s readiness.”

Writing skills will be emphasized in new NCO Professional Military Education

Complete #TRADOCtown hall coverage

By CLIFFORD KYLE JONES
NCO Journal

The topic that prompted the most discussion — and the most anxiety — at last month’s State of NCO Development Town Hall 2 wasn’t even directly on the agenda. What had Soldiers most worried was the NCO Professional Military Education’s new emphasis on writing.

During the second segment of the town hall, representatives from the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy — Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant; Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Huggins, deputy commandant; and Charles Guyette, director of the Directorate of Training — described the new Master Leader Course and its writing requirements. They also explained how communication skills, specifically written communication skills, would become integral to every level of PME.

In speaking about the need and structure of the MLC, Defreese said, “The other part of the Master Leader Course is that every student who got to the Sergeants Major Course would say the same thing in the initial critiques: ‘We’ve never been taught how to write, and now we get here and we have to write university-style papers.’

“So we’re backing that down to the Master Leader Course,” he said, “and over the next year, all the way down to the Basic Leader Course. We’ll have a writing assessment, and we’ll force them to improve their writing skills or communication skills, both [orally] and in writing.”

That set the chat board buzzing, with commenters concerned about implementation, assessment and instruction.

Huggins responded to some of those concerns during USASMA’s session.

Sgt. 1st Class Alan McCoy, staff administrative assistant with A Company, 94th Combat Support Hospital, and Staff Sgt. Tonya O'Connell, mental health tech with 176th Medical Brigade, practice public affairs skills in Seagoville, Texas. All NCOs will be required to improve their writing skills under TRADOC's education plans. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kai L. Jensen)
Sgt. 1st Class Alan McCoy, staff administrative assistant with A Company, 94th Combat Support Hospital, and Staff Sgt. Tonya O’Connell, mental health tech with 176th Medical Brigade, practice public affairs skills in Seagoville, Texas. All NCOs will be required to improve their writing skills under TRADOC’s education plans. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kai L. Jensen)

“There’s a level of angst, obviously, in the Army right now on the redesigns of the educational system,” he said. “We are not throwing you into the shark tank. We are putting a lot of energy into the instructors and the training of the instructors so that they can help. … This is not a, ‘Hey, you can’t write, we’re booting you out of the Army.’ This is, ‘The Army is becoming more educated, it has to be able to communicate better, and this is how we’re getting after it.’ ”

And he assured Soldiers that they would be given the tools to succeed.

“It’s not show up and be prepared,” Huggins said. “We’re going to help you get there.”

Many of the students who reached the Sergeants Major Course have been concerned about their writing ability, Defreese noted. But he also said that as the course has dropped multiple choice exams in favor of more thorough written exams and coursework, the failure rate has fallen because students learn and retain the information better.

Guyette said, “The rigor of the course really drives the students to force themselves to improve their skill in an area they have not had before. It’s something they’re not comfortable with, but we have to take them out of their comfort zones, give them these [tools]. And the outcome we’ve experienced with this course is that they’re improving their writing and briefing capabilities.”

Training and Doctrine Command’s command sergeant major, David Davenport, who led the town hall, spent the second half-hour of the session on the online chat board that accompanied the webcast. When he came back to the set, he said, “There are a lot of great questions coming in on the chat board, and I noticed a common theme about them: It’s really about the writing assessments and the writing courses that we’re putting into our Professional Military Education.”

To help answer some of those questions, Davenport brought Institute for NCO Professional Development Director Aubrey Butts back onto the set to further explain the Army’s plans to improve Soldiers’ communication skills.

Butts explained that a writing assessment had already begun in most iterations of the Basic Leader Course, using software, called Criterion, that evaluates writing. Soldiers are given immediate feedback on writing assignments, scored 1 to 6. Butts said the Army is looking for a minimum score of 3, but that score doesn’t affect graduation.

“We’re not only doing the assessment,” Butts said. “Score 3 and below and we’ll offer a self-improvement course, which should be improved in the next couple months.”

Further assessments will be extended into the Advanced Leader Course, the Senior Leader Course, the Master Leader Course and the Sergeant Major Course, and each Soldier’s assessment will be tracked over time. Butts said this will allow for a “longitudinal study” of NCOs’ writing ability.

“Right now, if you look at the Army, only about 21 percent of the people who go to school can write effectively,” Butts said. “And it’s a problem with the new NCOER. If you look at it — it’s short. It’s concise. You have to be to the point. And if we don’t teach our NCOs to write, No. 1, we’re going to select the wrong noncommissioned officers for promotion. Secondly, with all the new technology that comes out, you have to text messages and receive messages, and if you can’t put it in a concise format, you aren’t going to be able to get all the support that you need on the modern-day battlefield.”

During the chat, INCOPD and USASMA representatives indicated that TRADOC was working with the Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, to develop a complete writing program and curriculum that could be rolled out to all the Army’s centers of excellence.

Davenport noted that writing ability, as assessed during each level of PME, will be annotated on the new Department of the Army form 1059. That form should be out later this year, Davenport said on the chat, and TRADOC is working on writing assessment guidelines and standards.

Several commenters asked how instructors would be trained to improve Soldiers’ writing skills.

“The faculty development program gives instructors more exposure to English, grammar and comprehension and [will] norm the grading standards against a rubric,” Guyette said of the MLC instructors. “Internally, USASMA will have to monitor to make sure that they’re executing that.”

Defreese added, “It’s not just the Master Leader Course. We’re going to send instructors to help teach ALC and SLC instructors how to do that grading and norming of written tests as we put written requirements into ALC and SLC.”

A representative from INCOPD said on the chat that Army University and the Combined Arms Center are “reviewing how cohorts address writing skills in PME.”

“In addition, USASMA will look at ways to incorporate instructional techniques to foster writing skills as a part of the NCO PME continuum, …” the INCOPD representative continued. “We intend to ensure that facilitators of learning have the training and tools required to provide meaningful feedback on writing standards as a part of NCO PME. This issue is being looked at by the Army University and USASMA.”

In closing out the writing discussion, Master Sgt. Michael Lavigne, who moderated the town hall, said, “I can see that that’s going to cause some angst in the next couple years as this is introduced because there are a lot of people who are great doers but not very strong writers. But if it’s progressive and sequential, they can start out young and develop as they go.”

Davenport concurred.

“And that’s the vision,” he said. “Understand that it’s a gap that we have right now, and it’s a way to close that gap over time.”

USASMA course prepares husbands, wives for new responsibilities as spouses of senior enlisted

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

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.

Dody Myers, right, joins other spouses of USASMA students for a lecture on the American Red Cross. Throughout the Spouse Leadership Development Course, the spouses learn about programs available to Army families. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Dody Myers, right, joins other spouses of USASMA students for a lecture on the American Red Cross. Throughout the Spouse Leadership Development Course, the spouses learn about programs available to Army families. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

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.

Barb O’Neill attends a lecture during the Spouse Leadership Development Course at USASMA. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Barb O’Neill attends a lecture during the Spouse Leadership Development Course at USASMA. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“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.

Nadia Wheeler attends a lecture as part of the Spouse Leadership Development Course at USASMA. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Nadia Wheeler attends a lecture as part of the Spouse Leadership Development Course at USASMA. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“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.”

The Spouse Leadership Development Course at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, prepares spouses of enlisted Soldiers for leadership support positions within the military community. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
The Spouse Leadership Development Course at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, prepares spouses of enlisted Soldiers for leadership support positions within the military community. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

SMA, Sergeants Major Academy induct 7 into International Student Hall of Fame

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

Calling it an honor to have international military senior enlisted leaders come through the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, U.S. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey congratulated seven of its Sergeants Major Course alumni during their induction into the International Student Hall of Fame on April 12.

“This is an institution that is built time and time again from the great men and women who have been students here, but also from the great leaders who have had the privilege of leading this institution to an institution of excellence throughout history,” Dailey said during opening-day ceremonies of the 2016 International Training and Leader Development Symposium at Fort Bliss, Texas. “I am truly proud and honored to represent the Army that represents the world through education.”

Attendees applaud as Command Sgt. Maj. Lee Gil Ho, command sergeant major of the Combined Forces Command, Republic of Korea and Ground Component Command, is inducted into the International Student Hall of Fame. (Photo by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)
Attendees applaud as Command Sgt. Maj. Lee Gil Ho, command sergeant major of the Combined Forces Command, Republic of Korea and Ground Component Command, is inducted into the International Student Hall of Fame. (Photo by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)

Each inductee was invited onto the stage to unveil their plaques. The seven honorees were Sgt. Maj. Lyubomir Kirilov Lambov, sergeant major of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, Class 61; Sgt. Maj. of the Army Henry Whistler Dulce Dulce, sergeant major of the Colombian army, Class 62; Warrant Officer One Anthony Lysight, force sergeant major of the Jamaica Defence Force, Class 55; Chief Warrant Officer Mohammad Al-smadi, sergeant major of the Jordanian Armed Forces, Class 59; Command Sgt. Maj. Lee Gil Ho, command sergeant major of the Combined Forces Command, Republic of Korea and Ground Component Command, Class 59; Sgt. Maj. Genc Metaj, sergeant major of Kosovo Security Force, Class 63; and Plutonier Adjutant Principal Adrian Mateescu, senior enlisted leader (command sergeant major) for the Romanian Land Forces, Class 57.

“There is a common bond between all of us in here … each of us has the same basic duty: accomplishing the mission and taking care of our Soldiers,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of USASMA. “The students and faculty here get more from our international students and faculty and their diversity, knowledge and experiences than they get from us. This newest class of hall of fame inductees are outstanding examples of this.”

Inductees into the International Students Hall of Fame wait to be announced April 12 during opening-day ceremonies of the 2016 International Training and Leader Development Symposium at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)
Inductees into the International Students Hall of Fame wait to be announced April 12 during opening-day ceremonies of the 2016 International Training and Leader Development Symposium at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)

The focus of the three-day symposium was on training and fostering international partnerships. Attendees included Dailey, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn and more than 50 international military senior enlisted leaders.

Since USASMA hosted its first international class in 1975, the academy has graduated 821 international students, representing 76 countries, from its Sergeants Major Course. The International Student Hall of Fame was established in 2009 to recognize those international students who graduated from the course, have advanced to a position similar to that of the U.S. Army’s sergeant major of the Army, and have made enduring contributions to the leader development and education of the noncommissioned officers corps of their respective countries.

The symposium gave International Student Hall of Fame honorees a chance to return to USASMA and its familiar surroundings. Al-smadi said he was humbled to be part of the International Student Hall of Fame and felt at home.

U.S. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, left, and Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy inducted seven into the International Student Hall of Fame on April 12. The honorees are, second from left, Sgt. Maj. Lyubomir Kirilov Lambov, sergeant major of the Bulgarian Armed Forces; Sgt. Maj. of the Army Henry Whistler Dulce Dulce sergeant major of the Colombian army; Warrant Officer One Anthony Lysight, force sergeant major of the Jamaica Defence Force; Chief Warrant Officer Mohammad Al-smadi, sergeant major of the Jordanian Armed Forces; Command Sgt. Maj. Lee Gil Ho, command sergeant major of the Combined Forces Command, Republic of Korea and Ground Component Command; Sgt. Maj. Genc Metaj, sergeant major of Kosovo Security Force; and Plutonier Adjutant Principal Adrian Mateescu, senior enlisted leader (command sergeant major) for the Romanian Land Forces. (Photo by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)
U.S. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, left, and Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy inducted seven into the International Student Hall of Fame on April 12. The honorees are, second from left, Sgt. Maj. Lyubomir Kirilov Lambov, sergeant major of the Bulgarian Armed Forces; Sgt. Maj. of the Army Henry Whistler Dulce Dulce sergeant major of the Colombian army; Warrant Officer One Anthony Lysight, force sergeant major of the Jamaica Defence Force; Chief Warrant Officer Mohammad Al-smadi, sergeant major of the Jordanian Armed Forces; Command Sgt. Maj. Lee Gil Ho, command sergeant major of the Combined Forces Command, Republic of Korea and Ground Component Command; Sgt. Maj. Genc Metaj, sergeant major of Kosovo Security Force; and Plutonier Adjutant Principal Adrian Mateescu, senior enlisted leader (command sergeant major) for the Romanian Land Forces. (Photo by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)

“I came through USASMA eight years ago,” Al-smadi said. “It gave me the opportunity to learn from others’ experiences ─ not just the United States’ sergeants major who are very professional, but from NCOs from all around the world.”

“This is a big deal because this is a recognition not just for me, but for the entire Bulgarian Army,” Lambov said. “This is a great honor, and I am proud of this.”