Tag Archives: Structured Self-Development

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.”

International armies embrace NCO development

 

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

The U.S. Army has long understood that developing noncommissioned officers is critical to maintaining a competitive advantage. Though not every nation has embraced NCO development, Army senior enlisted leaders with U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Army North and U.S. Army South continue to impart the message to partnering nations that empowering NCOs is the key to success.

Navy Fleet Master Chief Terrence Molidor, command senior enlisted leader for North American Aerospace Defense Command and USNORTHCOM, acknowledged the challenges in persuading some countries’ leaders that the empowerment of NCOs does not pose a threat to their jobs. Molidor, U.S. Army leaders and state partners gave updates about NCO development efforts during the second day of the International Training and Leader Development Symposium in El Paso, Texas. (Photo by Spc. James Seals/NCO Journal)
Navy Fleet Master Chief Terrence Molidor, command senior enlisted leader for North American Aerospace Defense Command and USNORTHCOM, acknowledges the challenges in persuading some countries’ leaders that the empowerment of NCOs does not pose a threat to their jobs. Molidor, U.S. Army leaders and state partners gave updates about NCO development efforts during the second day of the International Training and Leader Development Symposium in El Paso, Texas. (Photo by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)

“We have developed a regional strategy for NCO development with individual countries,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Carlos Olvera, senior enlisted advisor for Army South. “We never force NCO development because the country may not want it. It’s always done by, through and with [their cooperation], and it’s always at their request. In all of our cases, the foreigners have asked us to work with them to develop a more professional noncommissioned officer corps.”

U.S. and international senior enlisted leaders and State Partnership Program members focused on fostering international partnerships and NCO professional development when they gathered April 13 during the second day of the 2016 International Training and Leader Development Symposium in El Paso, Texas. U.S. military leaders and state partners gave updates about NCO development efforts within their areas of responsibility.

“One thing we have learned that’s kind of hard to do is we need to engage with most senior leadership on NCO development in Central and South America to get the real results,” said Navy Fleet Master Chief Terrence Molidor, command senior enlisted leader for North American Aerospace Defense Command and USNORTHCOM. “When that happens, it really gains a foothold and then our SPP partner nations start working on NCO development events.”

Empower the NCO

International senior enlisted leaders focused on fostering partnerships with their American counterparts at the symposium. (Photo by James Seals / NCO Journal)
International senior enlisted leaders focused on fostering partnerships with their American counterparts at the International Training and Leader Development Symposium. (Photo by James Seals / NCO Journal)

U.S. senior enlisted leaders acknowledged the challenges in persuading some countries’ leaders that the empowerment of NCOs does not necessarily pose a threat to their jobs.

“You have some differences between the very senior leadership and that mid-grade officer leadership,” said Command Sgt. Maj. William B. Zaiser, senior enlisted leader for USSOUTHCOM. “That mid-grade officer leadership feels a little more challenged by a more empowered NCO, where I think the senior leadership, through the experiences they have had working in the United States and with partner nations, see the value in it.”

“We are trying to crack the code with Mexico, to get them to realize that having a strong NCO corps not only makes their military stronger it makes them better,” Molidor said. “NCO development is not really a top priority in Mexico, whereas in the Bahamas it is a priority.”

Olvera said NCO development takes precedence at Army South.

“When I travel internationally with [Army South Commander] Maj. Gen. Clarence K.K. Chinn, we engage the other army commander,” Olvera said. “Chinn is always bringing up: ‘What are you doing to develop your leaders? You can influence them. Show them the way that we do it.’ Then, he often asks, ‘Are you developing noncommissioned officers? Here is my sergeant major who can talk about NCO development.’ It’s work.”

U.S. senior enlisted leaders also agreed that all NCO corps don’t have to be identical to the U.S. model.

“We have developed a regional strategy for NCO development with individual countries,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Carlos Olvera, senior enlisted advisor for Army South, during the International Training and Leader Development Symposium. (Photo by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)
“We have developed a regional strategy for NCO development with individual countries,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Carlos Olvera, senior enlisted advisor for Army South, during the International Training and Leader Development Symposium. (Photo by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)

“I think if there’s one thing we do wrong sometimes it’s that we think the only good NCO corps is the U.S. NCO Corps, so they all need to look like us,” Zaiser said. “One thing we have learned from our gatherings is that that is absolutely not true. We have El Salvador, which has its soldiers [maintaining order] in its streets in a semi-policing environment. That’s something Colombia has had to do for 30-plus years. Those different threats drive a different look of an NCO corps. Some are more aligned to being able to react to national disaster and humanitarian efforts. That’s a thing we learned early on: Don’t make this massive effort to try to make them look exactly like our corps.”

Warrant Officer 1 Anthony Lysight, force sergeant major of the Jamaica Defence Force, said his country’s NCO corps is similar to that of El Salvador and Colombia.

“In Jamaica, we have a system of NCOs that work starting from the roots,” Lysight said. “We are on the streets, assisting police to maintain law and order. We have the lowest NCO, the lance corporal, in charge of small teams. They go out and find the bad guys. It is a system that works.”

Lessons learned

U.S. senior enlisted leaders and state program partners agreed that they have learned a lot from working with partner nations.

“When we go down and do these exchange trainings, we are learning as much if not more than what we have imparted on our partners,” Zaiser said. “Probably one common thing they exhibit in addressing their threats is strict adherence to standards and discipline. Jamaica talked about that lance corporal walking down the street ─ he has to be a confident, disciplined noncommissioned officer who has not only the trust of his command but the trust of the population of that country. When we traveled in Central and South America, we learned that the Catholic church and military are the most respected institutions in the country.”

Held up as the textbook model for what “right looks like,” Colombia’s army has successfully developed its NCO corps through persistent engagement, said senior enlisted leaders for USSOUTHCOM and Army South. The country has been locked in a civil conflict against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia for more than 50 years.

“To see where they are now is pretty incredible,” Zaiser said. “They are taking partner nation capacity and exporting it to other countries. It’s pretty much the end-state that you hope you get.”

Colombia is no doubt the example in the region and perhaps even elsewhere in terms of having a threat, defeating the threat and then exporting security expertise based on what they developed,” Olvera said.

Sgt. Maj. Henry Whistler Dulce Dulce, sergeant major of the Colombian army, said his nation’s leadership has learned many lessons fighting terrorist groups for the past 50 years.

“The important thing in this is the NCO corps has been the backbone of the victory of the Colombian army,” Dulce said. “The NCOs have been involved in every step in the fight against terrorism. Many years ago, the NCOs did not have the responsibility that they have now. But during the past years, NCO development has been a work in progress.”

Colombia’s army has also established a sergeant major academy and is inviting other countries from Central and South America into their schoolhouse to learn from them. Dulce said because of NCO development, all generals and colonels are asking to receive a sergeant major ─ a position that has become indispensable in the command of the Colombian armed forces.

Dulce believes the reason his army has been so successful in developing its NCO corps is because it has never deviated from the model.

“My main campaign during my time as sergeant major of the army was to make our NCOs proud to be an NCO and start to change the culture,” Dulce said. “That way, everyone understands their role. NCOs learn the role of the officer, NCO and soldier. Everybody understands their role and works together.”

U.S. senior enlisted leaders also spoke of the strides other countries have made in NCO development, including Brazil, El Salvador and Chile.

“Chile has a very professional, very structural army,” Olvera said. “Zaiser and I visited when they appointed Sgt. Maj. Julio Peña as the first sergeant major of their army. They essentially have a vision for the NCOs [which mirrors that of the U.S.] They have a structured self-development, some resident courses, some development courses throughout the ranks, so as one gets promoted they must attend a leader development course and then they get promoted. I was truly impressed.”

Town hall sparks online discussion; Davenport urges #Talk2TRADOC talks continue

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

Out of sight of the cameras, a team of more than 30 people had just spent two hours quickly and professionally answering questions from noncommissioned officers on Facebook, Twitter and a chat room as part of an NCO Professional Development Town Hall on Thursday at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

The team fielded many questions during the night, calling in experts when they could, and passing other questions to the six people filming live in the studio. It was late, and the team was tired, but Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, command sergeant major of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, wanted to let them know their efforts, however appreciated, weren’t finished. Davenport had asked NCOs to continue to use the #Talk2TRADOC to provide feedback and ask questions on social media channels, and he wanted to make sure those questions received answers.

With the chat room questions displayed at the front of the room, a group of NCOs and experts answer questions during the town hall. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester)
With the chat room questions displayed at the front of the room, a group of NCOs and experts answer questions during the town hall. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

“I know a lot of effort went into this, but our work doesn’t stop here,” Davenport told the team at the end of the night. “We can go high-five one another and have fun tonight, but tomorrow we have to get right back in there and start rowing the boat. We need to answer those questions, because our word is our bond to the Soldiers. If we say we are going to answer and we don’t, they will immediately point the fingers at us and say, ‘See, I told you they don’t care; they’re not listening.’”

Building a foundation

Hundreds of NCOs filled the chat room during the town hall, and questions flooded in on social media. Davenport said he felt the event built a good foundation for continued discussions.

“I think when you’re open and honest with Soldiers, and you sincerely want the best for them, that’s when you build trust,” Davenport said. “Hopefully, I built some trust with the force tonight, and they know I’m trying to think through this as we build toward the future.”

One of the behind-the-scenes experts answering questions on social media was Liston Bailey, chief of the Learning Innovations and Initiatives Division of the Institute for NCO Professional Development. Bailey said he thought the forum provided some short, credible answers to NCOs, which they could use to follow up with their chain of command or other sources.

A group of NCOs and policy experts quickly answer questions posed during the town hall. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)
A group of NCOs and policy experts quickly answer questions posed during the town hall. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

“We received a lot of questions about how Soldiers are going to manage their careers, and their concerns about the feasibility of being successful as they move from grade to grade,” Bailey said. “Questions about opportunities for broadening assignments were another big topic. Soldiers are interested in their growth and development and their access to information.”

Panel teams together

Charles Guyette, director of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy’s Directorate of Training, participated by answering questions in the live chat room during the town hall broadcast. He said there were many questions concerning professional military education.

“The questions were very thought-provoking and relevant to the force,” Guyette said. “You can tell there is a need for information out there because there are a lot of things they are not aware of. There’s some misinformation. There are misconceptions about NCO PME and the NCO professional development system. This helped better inform the Soldiers out there, especially related to their professional military education. We want to get this right, make sure they understand what they need to do to get to those courses.”

Liston Bailey, chief of the Learning Innovations and Initiatives Division of the Institute for NCO Professional Development, left, and Amy Haviland of U.S. Army Public Affairs, respond to NCO questions on social media while the town hall plays on the screen. (photo by Jonathan Jay Koester / NCO Journal)
Liston Bailey, chief of the Learning Innovations and Initiatives Division of the Institute for NCO Professional Development, left, and Amy Robinson of U.S. Army Public Affairs, respond to NCOs’ questions on social media while the town hall plays on the screen. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

Both Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Wills, the command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Reserve, and Command Sgt. Maj. Brunk Conley, the command sergeant major of the U.S. Army National Guard, were part of the on-camera panel taking questions from the force.

“It shows that we are one Army team,” Conley said. “When Sgt. Maj. Davenport asked both me and Sgt. Maj. Wills to attend, it showed that we’re all in this together and we’re one team, one fight. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be here.

“We’re going through a lot of changes right now, and the Soldiers are concerned,” Conley said. “They have a lot of good questions about how this affects them and what they need to do to be successful. They want to hear senior leaders’ thoughts on how this is going to affect the Army, the Guard and the Reserve.”

The two-hour town hall has been posted to TRADOC’s YouTube page for those NCOs who couldn’t watch it live. It may be found at: https://youtu.be/5z1QDL2qWts. Also, check the NCO Journal at http://ncojournal.dodlive.mil/ next week for a complete report on the questions and answers from the town hall.

The event is over, but the conversation continues, Davenport said.

“This is not just a one-time event soliciting feedback from our Soldiers,” Davenport said. “If they want to continue the dialogue, we have all the social media outlets, we will answer all the questions. But more importantly, they can follow me on the blog that I do. It’s tradocnews.org. You go on that page and you see Straight from the CSM, and that’s my blog site. I solicit feedback on there to things that we are talking about. That feedback has really made a change in our Army in everything from structured self-development to the STEP policy.”

NCO promotions get tougher this year; more changes ahead

Broad changes for enlisted promotions took effect March 2. More are expected later this year.

The most recent comprehensive list of changes to Army Regulation 600-8-19 are tied to the reduction in size of the force, Army Chief of Staff Raymond T. Odierno said Jan. 6 during a virtual town hall event at Fort Lee, Va. During the past 10 years, the Army peaked at a force level of about 570,000 Soldiers. That number is scheduled to dip to 450,000 by the end of 2017.

To maintain high standards in the Army’s NCO Corps, promotions have to become more challenging, Odierno said.

“What we want to do is promote the right people … so we maintain a strong Army,” he said. “We’ve got to have the people we want to move forward. But it is not going to be as fast as it was five years ago.”

To that end, changes to the NCO schooling system were announced in February, with the revised promotion regulations coming soon after.

Among the key changes is the implementation of a link between promotion and the successful completion of Structured Self-Development courses. The SSD program helps develop adaptive, agile and critical-thinking leaders as well as prepare Soldiers to function effectively in the Contemporary Operational Environment, or COE. Now, the course is a requirement for promotion for Soldiers vying for ranks from sergeant to master sergeant.

Another key change is a policy that allows promotion points for Soldiers who have spent time in a combat zone. Previously, Soldiers in the Middle East were often kept from taking part in distance education studies because of the rigors of deployment. Now, sergeants can attain up to 30 points and staff sergeants up to 60 points for their time overseas.

A closer look at some of the pertinent updates to this year’s enlisted promotion changes, along with resources for more information, may be seen below.

Click here to download a printable version of the document.

Click here to see a complete look at AR 600-8-19

—      Compiled by Pablo Villa

NCOpromotions

Competition necessary for the future of the force, HRC officials say

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

As the Army downsizes its active-duty force from 510,000 Soldiers to 450,000 by 2015, U.S. Army Human Resources Command’s top NCO said it’s now more critical than ever for Soldiers to do what they can to stay in the Army.

Decisions on who will stay in the Army will be made using various tools − such as the Qualitative Service Program or QSP, in which NCOs in overstrength and stagnant military occupational specialties will be considered for involuntary separation; the Qualitative Management Program or QMP, which reviews Soldiers’ performance and conduct − as well as through natural attrition. But once the target number is reached, does it mean Soldiers can rest assured in their future? Not at all, said Command Sgt. Maj. Charles E. Smith, command sergeant major of Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky. That’s when remaining competitive becomes imperative.

“How do you stay competitive? You have got to do things to keep you ahead of your peers, and that’s why you have got to continue taking on those exciting assignments, such as the generating force (training units and schoolhouses, drill sergeants and instructors) and operational Army (all of the combat and combat support units),” Smith said. “The senior leaders of the Army do not want noncommissioned officers or leaders as a whole to just stovepipe − staying in your MOS and going straight to the top. They want you to have a variety of assignments so you can stay more competitive, because the end state is that Army leadership wants to be able to put an NCO anywhere in the Army.”

“We as branch managers and the Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate have to take a better interest in ensuring that we are developing those junior NCOs,” said the directorate’s former senior NCO, Sgt. Maj. Rodney Allen, left. (Photo by Martha C. Koester, NCO Journal)
“We as branch managers and the Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate have to take a better interest in ensuring that we are developing those junior NCOs,” said the directorate’s former senior NCO, Sgt. Maj. Rodney Allen, left. (Photo by Martha C. Koester, NCO Journal)

Broadening assignments are a critical part of the Army’s strategy in developing and growing new leaders. In February, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the Army chief of staff, approved the Strategic Broadening Seminars program, which allows NCOs to attend graduate-level courses at various learning institutions including the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., and the University of North Carolina. The Strategic Broadening Seminars program was set to begin this summer.

“It’s very important to [Odierno] and the senior leaders that NCOs are broadened just as much as officers,” Smith said. “The intent is that we want [NCOs] to speak at a strategic level when you are talking to those three- and four-star generals. The bottom line is, with a combination of broadening and staying competitive, hopefully we can have a well-rounded NCO for the future. We want to build the future leaders of the Army.”

However, remaining competitive in the Army won’t be easy, officials said.

“We want Soldiers to continue to take on different assignments,” Smith said. “We want you to continue to exceed physical fitness requirements. We want you to be healthy, and we also want you to continue your educational opportunities. Because again, the Army is looking for that smart person who has all the different abilities and can go out and operate independently.”

Branch managers are key

While the Army reshapes the force, key personnel at HRC such as branch managers become vital to the mission. The Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate there is working to ensure a balance in assignment operations while the Army downsizes its ranks, said the directorate’s former senior NCO, Sgt. Maj. Rodney Allen, EPMD.

Though the force is being downsized, some elements are being grown, such as Army Cyber Command, which will host newly designated MOSs, such as cryptologic network warfare specialists and cyber network defenders.

“One minute we are telling a Soldier, ‘We really need you to be in the Army,’ but at the same time we’re telling them, ‘At this particular junction, we have to downsize,’” Allen said.

EPMD wants to keep Soldiers motivated, Allen said. The Army wants them to stay, but Soldiers are expected to meet and exceed standards, he said.

So, with Soldiers in certain overstrength MOSs being scrutinized, opportunities may exist for them in other MOSs, and branch managers are available to help Soldiers with the details. For example, Soldiers may reclassify into an MOS that has a critically short supply of personnel, enabling them to remain in the Army as long as the Soldier meets qualifications.

“That’s another thing that branch managers are responsible for – making sure that Soldiers stay competitive,” Allen said. “Because as the Army continues to draw down its size, staying in the Army is going to be very difficult. If you’re not competitive or willing to take those hard assignments or do those things that set you apart from your peers, then you’re going to find yourself on the low end of the totem pole, and you may be asked to leave.”

Structured Self-Development is another important component in the NCO leader development strategy for Soldiers. Part of remaining competitive means completing SSD requirements on time in order to be considered for promotion. As the Army changes, Soldiers need to stay on top of all qualifications, and they need to make time to get it done, Allen said.

“In my career management field, I had 256 folks who did not get looked at for sergeant first class in this last board because they did not complete one of the Advanced Leader Course [components] or the SSD portion,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael Barbieri, a Military Police Corps branch manager at HRC. “It doesn’t take much to do [to complete SSD requirements]. Like Sgt. Maj. Allen said, you have got to make time and we’ve got to make sure that the leadership is making those Soldiers take those steps.”

“To be competitive, you have to want to be competitive,” Allen said. “You’re going to have to trust that your branch managers have your best interests in mind because there is nothing we can get out of not developing a Soldier in the NCO Corps. The NCO Corps … is our future. We as branch managers and the EPMD have to take a better interest in ensuring that we are developing those junior NCOs.”

Assignment process perspective

In an effort to better connect with Soldiers, Allen said the Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate took part in an initiative to change the culture of the assignment process. Career-specific sergeants major, such as Barbieri, were brought in to guide Soldiers and help make decisions in certain career management fields.

These sergeants major can really guide Soldiers and give them the institutional knowledge on how to get ahead, Allen said. He also strongly advises Soldiers to find a mentor.

“Every Soldier needs a mentor – someone who is going to hold you accountable,” Allen said. “If you’re held accountable, then you’re going to perform. That mentor is very instrumental in the development of a Soldier.”

If a Soldier takes all of the necessary steps to remain competitive, it increases his or her chances of staying in the Army. However, every Soldier should know that every MOS is subject to scrutiny through the Qualitative Service Program.

“It’s basically a numbers game with the QSP, based on force structure requirements versus available inventory,” said Sgt. Maj. Wayne A. Penn Jr., Transition Branch sergeant major in the Force Alignment Division. “There are options to reclassify into a critically short MOS, but only for Soldiers in the rank of staff sergeant, who are not eligible for retirement under the Temporary Early Retirement Authority.”

“The QSP and QMP – they’re here, and they’re real,” Allen said. “Soldiers have to understand that everyone is subject to it. The misconception is that you have to have a bad record [in the Army] to get selected; it’s not the case. If the Army has authorized [fewer Soldiers for a selected position], we have to get rid of [Soldiers]. We have to make that determination of who those Soldiers are, and some of those Soldiers are probably great Soldiers. They’re probably Soldiers who had the mindset to be in [the Army] for 20 years and get that retirement. … So, everybody is subject to it, from staff sergeant all the way to command sergeants major.”

Unlike the QMP program, which is designed to ensure that senior NCOs continue to serve in a manner consistent with good order and discipline, Soldiers don’t necessarily have to have derogatory information in their records to be identified for the QSP program, Penn said. These could be Soldiers who are otherwise eligible for promotion.

“Their records are good, but we have that imbalance with the number of Soldiers we have versus the number of positions we have,” Penn said. “So, unfortunately, under this program, we are going to have to ask a lot of stellar Soldiers who have done the right thing over the years to leave our Army.”

Penn strongly encourages Soldiers to update their records as often as possible.

“Make sure your NCO evaluation reports contain quantifiable bullet comments and include substantive information that will separate you from your peers,” Penn said. “Because at the end of the day, under this program, the Army is really looking to retain the best of the best of the best.”

Since June 2012, more than 1,200 Soldiers have been identified for involuntary separation through the QSP program, Smith said.

Data accuracy campaign

Human Resources Command uses road shows to engage the Army community. “We speak to them about where the Army is right now and where we are going in the future,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Charles E. Smith, command sergeant major of Human Resources Command. Smith, center, is shown at a road show in Daegu, South Korea. (Photo by Cpl. Dong-weon Kim, U.S. Army
Human Resources Command uses road shows to engage the Army community. “We speak to them about where the Army is right now and where we are going in the future,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Charles E. Smith, command sergeant major of Human Resources Command. Smith, center, is shown at a road show in Daegu, South Korea. (Photo by Cpl. Dong-weon Kim, U.S. Army)

In the Army’s current climate of drawing down, it’s also very important that Soldiers review their records for accuracy and completion, said Sgt. Maj. Myrna Magapan, the sergeant major of HRC’s Army Personnel Records Division. It’s the Soldier’s responsibility to update and review his or her record annually as it may have a significant impact on promotions, selections and assignments, she said.

On average, most Soldiers only have about 50 percent to 60 percent of the supporting documents that belong in their records, Magapan said. Errors in a Soldier’s Enlisted Record Brief involving mailing addresses, awards, overseas service and deployment histories are common. A Soldier’s ERB also offers other pertinent data, such as marital status, awards and assignments information.

“It’s [vital] that you have an accurate record because it’s important when considering future assignments, promotion, retention, separation or professional development opportunities,” said Sgt. Maj. Galin Bowens, the sergeant major of HRC’s Field Services. “With the downsizing of the military, it’s very important that you have a correct and accurate record because it’s very competitive out there. You never know what might happen.

“It’s very important [to have all documents in order] if a Soldier’s record is going before a board or if commanders are reviewing a record for future assignment or separation.”

Along with important changes ahead related to the Army’s downsizing is a new NCO Evaluation Report system, which remains a work in progress. The new Officer Evaluation Report was unveiled in April, but the NCOER has been under revision for the past two years, said Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Jackson, sergeant major of the Army’s Adjutant General Directorate. The rating system dates back to 1987.

Though changes in the NCOER may be forthcoming, NCOs are advised to do whatever they can to remain competitive in the evolving Army.

“Soldiers have got to go out there and go get it,” Smith said. “They can’t sit and wait. Wait on it, and someone is going to pass you by.”

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea Smith, U.S. Army) Drill Sergeant of the Year competitor Sgt. 1st Class Ryan McCaffrey completes the pushup event of the Army Physical Fitness test at Fort Jackson, S.C. Senior Army leaders urge Soldiers to take on a generating force assignment to remain competitive in the Army, said Command Sgt. Maj. Charles E. Smith, command sergeant major of Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky.
Drill Sergeant of the Year competitor Sgt. 1st Class Ryan McCaffrey completes the pushup event of the Army Physical Fitness test at Fort Jackson, S.C. Senior Army leaders urge Soldiers to take on a generating force assignment to remain competitive in the Army, said Command Sgt. Maj. Charles E. Smith, command sergeant major of Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea Smith,  U.S. Army)