Tag Archives: Training and Doctrine Command

New software helps Army roll out training apps faster

Combined Arms Center

The Army is picking up the pace to make more training mobile applications available for Soldiers’ smart phones and computer tablets.

Recently a team of Soldiers and civilians at Fort Eustis, Virginia, started using software to ensure Army mobile apps meet government security requirements and other standards.

“With this new vetting software, we can expedite getting proponent-approved and cyber-secure mobile apps to the force,” said Lt. Col. Joe Harris, Training and Doctrine Command Capability Manager-Mobile (TCM Mobile). “Soldiers are getting accurate, up-to-date training content.”

TCM Mobile has used the software to vet nearly 80 mobile applications for infantry training, gunnery practice, reporting sexual harassment and other topics. Its effort is part of a broader Army campaign to get training and educational materials to Soldiers when and where they need them.

Last year, TCM Mobile started posting mobile applications to the TRADOC Application Gateway hosted by TRADOC Capability Manager, Army Training Information System as well on commercial sites such as iTunes, Google Play and Windows Phone.

To make sure the applications met standards, TCM Mobile relied on a private company or another defense organization.

“The process was expensive and time consuming,” Harris said. “We decided to get our own vetting software from a private company. Now we can do the vetting ourselves. Our goal is have 200 or more mobile applications, vetted, approved and posted by the end of next year.”

TCM Mobile also is certifying units’ applications for wider use in the Army.

“A number of Army organizations developed mobile applications for themselves,” said Matt Maclaughlin, TCM Mobile’s senior mobile instructional design specialist. “By vetting these units’ applications, we’re building a validated, secure, mobile application library to help Soldiers throughout the Army.”

In addition to using the software, TCM Mobile utilizes a human-in-the-loop check to ensure the applications meet standards.

TCM Mobile is part of the Combined Arms Center—Training at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. CAC-T develops training requirements, fields training systems, delivers leader training and sustains training capabilities to support Army institutional and operational training of Soldiers, leaders, and units to successfully execute Unified Land Operations in complex, ambiguous environments.

Retention program changes affect NCOs

U.S. Army

Career counselors are urging Army Soldiers to read the changes to the Army enlisted force retention program, re-class and initial entry requirements that took effect in 2016.

The changes not only ensure Soldiers are aligned into the fields best suited for them, but offer the most qualified Soldiers avenues for career advancement.

“The key is to re-enlist quality Soldiers to meet our purpose of fulfilling end strength to better posture the Army, maintain readiness and care for Soldiers,” said Sgt. Maj. Cielito Pascual-Jackson, Army Training and Doctrine Command career counselor.

“In order to meet that mission we need key people to understand the responsibilities in embracing and communicating this program.”

Enlisted force retention

The Army Directive, (AD 2016-19), will result in re-enlistment and career progression changes through three programs: the Bar to Continued Service Program, the Noncommissioned Officer Career Status Program and Retention Control Point System.

Bar to Continued Service Program

Formerly known as the Bar to Re-enlistment Program, all enlisted ranks in the active and Reserve components can be notified of punitive separation due to performance issues ranging from fitness ratings to professional development standards through the Bar to Continued Service Program.

According to Sgt.1st Class Pedro Leon, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Retention Operations Active component career counselor, Soldiers can now be barred to continue service at any rank even if they were indefinite or career Soldiers.

Soldiers who are under the current NCO Career Status Program will not be grandfathered into the previous program. The bar will be reviewed at periods of three and six months before separation procedures begin.

Some of the key areas Soldiers should focus on to prevent bar from continued service are (list not all-inclusive):

• Physical assessment standards.

• Staff sergeants with 36 months’ time in grade must graduate from the Advanced Leadership Course.

• Sergeant first class’ with 36 months’ time in grade must graduate from the Senior Leaders Course.

• NCOs with two or more years’ time in grade and more than 18 months until their established retention control point may be denied continued service under the Qualitative Service Program.

Career program and time in service retention changes

Under the new directive, the Indefinite Re-enlistment Program has changed to the NCO Career Status Program.

According to Leon, the program is similar in nature, but in an effort to align with the military’s new blended retirement system, the application date has been moved to a Soldier’s 12th year of service, rather than their 10th.

The directive also reduces retention control point levels, starting at the rank of staff sergeant, by reducing the number of years NCOs can continue to serve.

Every Soldier will have more than a year to plan their retirement as the implementation of the new control points will be staggered based on basic active service dates and rank:

Command sergeant major/sergeant major in nominative positions can stay past 30 years.

Re-class and initial entry changes

When Soldiers re-class or recruits enter the Army they will have to take an occupational physical assessment test that determines if they are able to handle the physical demands of various career fields.

According to Leon, the test will determine a Soldier’s or recruit’s fitness level, which will directly correlate with jobs available to them. Those who score in the highest level will have every specialty available, while those who score lower will have the jobs at or below their level available.

Soldiers or recruits preparing to take the test should practice the following exercises to ensure they meet their desired specialty requirements.

Standing long jump:

• Minimum: 120 centimeters.
• Standard: 140 centimeters.
• Maximum: 160 centimeters and above.

4.4 pound medicine ball seated power throw:

• Minimum: 350 centimeters.
• Standard: 400 centimeters.
• Maximum: 450 centimeters and above.

Interval aerobic run, similar to suicides at 20 meter timed intervals:

• Minimum: 36 shuttles.
• Standard: 40 shuttles.
• Maximum: 43 shuttles.


• Minimum: 120 pounds.
• Standard: 140 pounds.
• Maximum: 160 pounds.

Another change to the re-class system is allowing female Soldiers into combat arms professions. Thus far approximately 140 female Soldiers have enlisted into combat arms.

For Leon, this means quality female NCOs must take the opportunity to step up as mentors to these new Soldiers by re-classing into a combat position.

“I tell any female Soldier that comes into my office for career counseling to re-class into a combat position,” Leon said. “It’s a huge development and promotion opportunity. When you’re in a board and they see that you have combat experience, even if it was just for four years and you went back to your original MOS, that’s huge.”

Soldiers seeking more information on these changes should contact their supervisors and unit career counselors.

“We’re a force alignment tool not a force reduction tool,” Leon said. “We’re here to re-enlist, qualify and transfer Soldiers.”

In order to best align Soldiers for their career path, supervisors and leaders must counsel their Soldiers on the new changes and professional development options and specialty paths available, Pascual-Jackson said.

“We are just facilitators, so when leaders don’t understand the purpose of the retention program for the Army or where they fit in, it’s a real problem,” Pascual-Jackson said. “It can cause confusion and unnecessary actions that could unnecessarily end a Soldier’s career.”

Pascual-Jackson stressed that the key steps in helping Soldiers are supporting, instilling, promoting, communicating and monitoring retention programs, implementing policies, evaluating personnel, providing resources and utilizing career counselors.

“Our line of effort and the mission of retention for the Army is readiness and end strength,” she said. “In order for us to meet our mission, we need leaders to understand their role, which is to embrace and communicate the retention program by instilling the importance to subordinate leaders.”

Fort Sill’s move to certify drill sergeants at brigade level paves way for Armywide POI

NCO Journal

Drill sergeants are entrusted with transforming civilian volunteers into new Soldiers. They must be symbols of excellence for new recruits, as they are everything their Soldiers know of the Army. The Army’s future rests on them and their ability to mold motivated, disciplined, fit and capable Soldiers.

“The ultimate goal is to produce and maintain the highest quality trainer so they can produce the highest quality Soldier,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, command sergeant major for the Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia. “The better drill sergeant we can produce, the better Soldier we can produce for the force.”

So how does the Army ensure only the best of the best continue to train America’s Soldiers? Training and Doctrine Command Regulation 350-16 stipulates that drill sergeants must certify each year to prove they are still subject matter experts in all the warrior tasks and battle drills. But the process by which the drill sergeants certify varies across the Army’s training centers, and even from one battalion to another.

To remedy the problem, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, now conducts the certification at brigade level. The change ensures a more consistent training experience for each Soldier, and has paved the way for standardization of drill sergeant certification Armywide.

“Fort Sill has an outstanding [certification] program that it has in place right now, almost to the point where it is a model that we can look at as a best practice to incorporate into other facilities, into the Program of Instruction,” Gragg said.

Gragg said he hopes to standardize the requirements for drill sergeant certification across all four Basic Combat Training locations. The POI that would accomplish that should be in place by the end of 2016, he said.

“We will definitely use some tenets from the program in place at Fort Sill,” Gragg said. “What Fort Sill has done – is doing, and continues to do – is awesome, and I can honestly say they are producing day in and day out some of our best Soldiers coming out of basic training.”

Fort Sill drill sergeant certification

When Fort Sill’s drill sergeant certification was being implemented at the battalion level, drill sergeants were grading other drill sergeants, which created staffing issues.

“Anytime certification needed to be done, the units had to cut this position out – that is a drill sergeant that could be utilized to train Soldiers that they can’t use to train Soldiers because they have to train or maintain consistency in the drill-sergeant population,” Gragg said. “That’s why Fort Sill doing it at the brigade level eases some of the manning requirements; it is one level teaching it as opposed to duplication of efforts at a battalion level.”

Staff Sgt. Franco Peralta, Fort Sill’s Drill Sergeant of the Year for 2015, noticed that, in addition to staffing challenges, the grading and the tasks being graded differed greatly from one battalion to another, and that the certification was not much of a challenge for the drill sergeants to obtain. He worked with his command to standardize the certification process and raise the bar for drill sergeants across the 434th Field Artillery Brigade. The new process was implemented in February 2016.

“Now, at brigade level, it is more rigorous and more challenging,” Peralta said. “And, drill sergeants are graded by cadre from Headquarters and Headquarters Support who are subject-matter experts. For example, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear tasks are graded by CBRN experts in that field. If it is a medical task, it is graded by medics.”

The certification is offered once a month, after a four-day refresher course in which drill sergeants train on the 30 tasks outlined in the Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks (SMCT 21-1.) On certification day, the drill sergeants are tested on 15 of the 30 tasks, but do not know beforehand which those will be.

“A drill sergeant is an expert in the warrior tasks and battle drills,” said Staff Sgt. Dustin Randall, Fort Sill’s Drill Sergeant of the Year. “That’s what we are. We should be experts in everything in SMCT 21-1. We train Soldiers right out of that book, and if we don’t know how to do it ourselves, how are we going to teach them? The whole idea of this certification is to get everybody on post on the same page, so that every Soldier is getting trained to standard, across the board.”

If drill sergeants fail the certification test – which has happened quite a bit across the brigade, Randall said – they receive counseling and are required to recertify the next month. If they fail twice, they will receive counseling and be removed from the drill sergeant program for a month. They will remain with their unit, but will not be allowed to train Soldiers for 30 days.

“The idea behind that is to get them 30 days of solid training so they can meet the standard,” Randall said. “If they fail a third time, they will be recommended for removal from the drill sergeant program all together.”

Both Randall and Peralta said they have noticed a marked difference in the confidence of the brigade’s drill sergeants and in the quality of the training they provide.

“I think it’s good because when the drill sergeants know they can do everything by the book, they get in front of the Soldiers and teach them with confidence,” Peralta said. “That extra pressure – it’s hard when someone is looking at you and testing you. ‘OK, let me see how you clear an M4, how you load an M4.’ It makes them nervous. But after they prepare, study, read through the book, they have more confidence to teach their Soldiers and know they are teaching a task the right way, just how TRADOC wants it to be taught.”

“I think everybody is kind of walking with their chest puffed out, walking a little taller than they used to,” Randall said. “They feel more proud to be drill sergeants, and if they haven’t certified yet, they look at it as a competitive game. It’s good stuff.”

Moving toward an Armywide standard

Though Gragg praised the measures Fort Sill has taken to standardize certification across the brigade, he pointed out that the process still varies from one brigade to another. The fact that the 434th Field Artillery Brigade will soon be breaking down basic training under two Advanced Individual Training brigades, he said, further highlights the need for an even higher-level standard to maintain consistency.

“Right now, the advantage of brigade-level certification is that it provides a consistent standard from that brigade on down. The only concern with that is that if the standard they are teaching at brigade A is different than what they are teaching at brigade B, then you have an inconsistent product that is being produced,” Gragg said. “My goal is to have a Program of Instruction in place across TRADOC so that, whether it is being utilized at the brigade level or the battalion level, the product is the same.

“Whether the Army Training Centers choose to utilize the POI at the brigade level or the battalion level is going to be up to them. The Center for Initial Military Training isn’t going to tell units how to conduct their certification. We just want to ensure that the certification is conducted to a standard that we feel all drill sergeants need to meet.”

Gragg said he hopes to have the POI completed by the fourth quarter of this year. Meanwhile, he is gathering feedback from the force as to what should be included. What are the most important perishable skills that drill sergeants need to brush up on every year? He is working to identify those areas and get drill sergeants the tools they need to keep those skills sharp and deliver the best training possible to U.S. Soldiers.

“We in IMT are in the business of process improvement,” Gragg said. “We have been making Soldiers for 241 years, but we still aren’t perfect at it. We are always looking at ways to improve our ability to produce the best Soldiers we possibly can.”

U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeants with the 108th Training Command stand at attention during a change of command ceremony at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, June 13, 2015. (Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar / U.S. Army)
U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeants with the 108th Training Command stand at attention during a change of command ceremony at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, June 13, 2015. (Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar / U.S. Army)

Town hall discussions were wide-ranging, vital to NCOPD

Previously in The NCO Journal:

NCO Journal

OK, you missed it live. But it’s a week later, and you still haven’t found the time to watch the NCO Professional Development Town Hall? Allow The NCO Journal to give you a little inspiration.

The following are a few excerpts from the conversation to whet your appetite. You can hear much more on these topics, plus plenty of others, by watching the full town hall here.

Moderating the town hall was Master Sgt. Mike Lavigne of the 1st Infantry Division. Answering questions were Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, command sergeant major of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command; Aubrey Butts, director of the Institute for NCO Professional Development; Sgt. Maj. Annette Weber, G1 and G4 sergeant major for TRADOC; Command Sgt. Maj. Brunk Conley, command sergeant major of the National Guard; and Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Wills, command sergeant major of the Army Reserve.

Select, Train, Educate, Promote

The first question of the night came via video, from Sgt. Joseph Wilson, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division: “With the new STEP program, a Soldier has a certain time frame to attend the corresponding NCO Education System upon promotion. For smaller career fields that offer the Advanced Leader Course a few times a year, this creates a backlog of highly qualified NCOs and hinders their progression. Is there any plan in the future to fix this?”

Davenport: “Sgt. Wilson, I think your question really gets at capacity. Do we have the capacity to train? We do. But when you go in and look at the allocation of school seats, especially as you indicated, in low-density MOSs, we have to make sure we are spreading those seats across the year so that Soldiers have the opportunity to attend those schools.”

Weber: “I think it also gets back to communication. Soldiers have to communicate with their branches, their leaders, and get their thoughts out there, so that we can get them into those schools that they need to go to.”

Conley: “Especially in the low-density MOSs, and especially in multiple-phase courses, it’s very challenging for our Soldiers who have a three-phase course. … One of the things my command sergeant major advisory council in the National Guard is looking at is, if a Soldier shows good faith and attends phase one of a course, we’re looking at adjusting the policy so that we could promote them upon completion of phase one, conditionally. If they’ve shown good faith — they’ve gone to school, they’ve met height and weight, they’ve met PT — we promote them pending completion of the follow-on courses. Then, if they don’t complete, that promotion would be taken away. But it starts the clock on time in service, time in grade, and if they’ve shown the effort to finish the first phase, I think we need to look at that.”

Wills: “We are going to have to work together and probably look at some of the challenges we’ve had in the past, we will need to look at the size of the classes … the student-to-instructor ratio, so that we can conduct more frequent classes and allow more opportunities, especially for the Guard and Reserve.”

Army University

This question came via Twitter: “Are Army University and its programs accredited, and by whom? And if not, when are these expected?”

Butts: “Right now, Army University isn’t accredited. However, we are going to use the joint transcript to record all Soldiers’ experience and education. We want the Soldier to be able to get a degree from the college they want a degree from.”

Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, command sergeant major of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, has makeup applied before sitting under the bright lights of the town hall studio March 3 at Fort Eustis, Virginia. (Photos by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)
Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, command sergeant major of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, has makeup applied before sitting under the bright lights of the town hall studio March 3 at Fort Eustis, Virginia. (Photos by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

Davenport: “If there is any cohort who benefits from the Army University concept, it’s the noncommissioned officer cohort. Because what Army University does for us is it takes our education and our experience in leading Soldiers and it puts it in terms that academia understands. It translates into college credits.”

Broadening assignments

This question came via the chat board: “How does the Army reconcile the fact that broadening assignments, such as drill sergeant and recruiter, have a little role in being selected for promotion during centralized selection boards?”

Weber: “The proponencies are updating their messages to the boards, so that information will get to the boards, because those jobs are very important jobs to the different CMFs (Career Management Fields).”

Lavigne: “It is safe to say it’s weighted differently, though?”

Davenport: “Of course, by CMF. Because they have a view of what they think makes a successful master sergeant or whatever grade we’re talking about, and the proponents write that guidance.”

Wills: “It’s important for the Army Reserve Soldiers to understand that once they go out to that broadening assignment, they need to go in, do their time and move on to another opportunity. We have a lot of folks who want to, kind of, homestead an opportunity. They don’t want to get out of it.”

Master Leader Course

This question came via the chat board: “How will the Master Leader Course be implemented? Is it residency, online or MTT (Mobile Training Team)?”

Butts: “It’s going to be in some form or another, all three. However, we’re trying to get it to residency or MTT.”

Davenport: “We’ve gone through a pilot at Fort Bliss, Texas. We did an iteration at Camp Williams, Utah; the National Guard hosted that. And next week at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Sgt. Wills will have the second pilot of the MLC. We’re getting a lot of positive comments back about the rigor. … It’s not the First Sergeant Course, if I can get that plug in there. This course is really designed to start making those senior noncommissioned officers aware of the transition from the tactical level of our Army to the operational, and giving them a glimpse into the strategic level.

A group of NCOs and policy experts quickly answer questions posed during the town hall.
A group of NCOs and policy experts quickly answer questions posed during the town hall.

“Dr. Butts is exactly right. We will do it brick and mortar. We’ll have the ability for MTT. And then we will do it by distance learning for the reasons we talked about earlier, for our Guard and Reserve, to make sure they’re not penalized. Because STEP applies to everybody. It’s not just staff sergeants and sergeants first class. If you want to become a master sergeant, our gap analysis said you have to be certified in those core competencies before you move forward.”

Structured Self-Development

This question came via video, from Sgt. 1st Class Caleb Barrieau: “With all the educational distance learning systems out there that our Soldiers are using to get their civilian degrees with, what is TRADOC doing to update or improve the SSD courses so that they are more interactive and valuable as a tool so that our Soldiers are completing their institutional training requirements?”

Davenport: “I hear a lot about SSD, and the comments are that it’s not to standard, and I somewhat agree. So, what we’ve done is we’ve formed a working group down at the United States Sergeants Major Academy and have begun a review of SSD-1 all the way up to level six.

“I’ve heard from the force. They want some type of academic grade to come as a result of this rather than just a ‘go’ or ‘no go’ and they want it to count for something. We’re working on that. Another comment that has come from the force is that if a Soldier doesn’t understand, or just tries to check the block, lock them out. We’re working on that, as well.”

Drill sergeants

Amy Robinson of U.S. Army Public Affairs, left, and Liston Bailey, chief of the Learning Innovations and Initiatives Division of the Institute for NCO Professional Development, respond to NCOs’ questions on social media during the town hall screen.
Amy Robinson of U.S. Army Public Affairs, left, and Liston Bailey, chief of the Learning Innovations and Initiatives Division of the Institute for NCO Professional Development, respond to NCOs’ questions on social media during the town hall.

This question came via the chat board: “Do we plan to bring drill sergeants back into the AIT (Advanced Individual Training) environment?”

Davenport: “We are moving forward with putting drill sergeants back into the AIT training environment. It’s a recommendation. Of course, we have to see about funding, but we’re trying to do everything we can to make sure our Soldiers are successful when they transition to their first unit of assignment.”

The standard

This question came via the chat board: “What does equivalency mean in our NCOES? If it means the same standard for the active component and Reserve component, and the Reserve component has a hard time meeting the standard of the active component, should the standard be adjusted? Do we expect the same standard across all three components when it comes to NCOES?

Conley: “The standard is the standard. Period, end of discussion. There is no active component/Reserve component standard: It’s an Army standard. Our Soldiers don’t want any different standard than anybody else who’s going through any course, any training, any event.”


This question came via Twitter: “How are senior NCO boards affected by the new NCO Evaluation Report and rater profiles?”

Davenport: “I don’t know yet, because we haven’t experienced it. We don’t know how the board will interpret this. We will learn a lot during this next promotion board.”

Conley: “It has to be OK to get a ‘C.’ A ‘C’ is a passing grade. You want to get to the ‘B,’ and maybe your first year or the first time you’re evaluated as a staff sergeant, you’re not as good as somebody who has been doing it two or three years. Maybe you get a ‘C’ your first year, and you say, ‘OK, what do I need to do to get up here to a “B” and an “A” when it’s time for me to be considered for promotion.’ If you don’t get a true evaluation, you don’t know what to improve on.”

Weber: “I’m really excited about the new NCOER because I think it forces leaders to really sit down with Soldiers and counsel Soldiers. … It gives you that opportunity to sit down with your leader so that he or she can tell you what you are doing or not doing, and how to get to where they need to get.”

USASMA begins work on new Master Leader Course

NCO Journal

The Army has announced plans to create a new level of the NCO Education System — a new Master Leader Course that will be a branch-immaterial course attended by NCOs after the Senior Leader Course and before the Sergeants Major Course.

Senior NCO leaders say they identified a knowledge gap within the E-8 population. To address the issue and better prepare master sergeants and sergeants first class promotable for their responsibilities, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command tasked the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, to create the MLC.

Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis E. Defreese, USASMA’s commandant, said the academy plans to start a pilot course by fall of 2015. The course would be implemented Army-wide after three iterations of the pilot, he said.

Filling the gap

This knowledge gap within the force was caused in part when the Army developed Skill Level 6 a couple of years ago, Defreese explained. Both E-8s and E-9s were once classified as Skill Level 5 personnel, but once Skill Level 6 was developed, many critical common tasks shifted to E-9s. That said, it remains unclear which critical tasks should be assigned to Skill Level 5, he said.

“You have clear tasks, conditions and standards that have been established for an E-7,” said Charles Guyette, the director of USASMA’s Directorate of Training. “When you get into Skill Levels 5 and 6, those tasks have not been fully developed as far as understanding what the tasks, conditions and standards are going to be. … We really have to get into the meat of the tasks and how we are going to write them in order to develop the lesson plans and get them into a course [format].”

To analyze the tasks that should be assigned to E-8s, USASMA hosted a critical task site selection board. Board members, including command sergeants major and battalion commanders selected from across the Army, gathered at USASMA in October. They agreed that there was a knowledge gap at Skill Level 5, and that many master sergeants entering the Sergeants Major Course have not been prepared for their studies. The board partially blamed the fact that it is often more than five years between the time an NCO attends the Senior Leader Course and the time he or she is selected for the Sergeants Major Course, which has been made even more challenging in the past few years.

The board identified skills and attributes E-8s should possess and areas of study that should be taught in a potential Master Leader Course before NCOs go to the Sergeants Major Course, including oral and written communication, critical thinking and problem solving, management, preparing and conducting briefings, and knowledge of the military decision-making process.

“When we elevate an E-7 or an E-8 from a company level organization and move them up to the battalion level and higher, they [often] have had no experience in how the headquarters operates as far as the interaction between staff agencies,” Guyette said. “So they are coming in with a very hard learning curve to grasp and comprehend what they have to do to get integrated, and what their role and functions are within that staff.”

“I’ll quote one of the board members,” Defreese said. “Command Sgt. Maj. Brunk W. Conley, who is the National Guard CSM, said that when he was a sergeant first class, a platoon sergeant, he kind of knew what he would need to do as a first sergeant because he watched his first sergeant every day and was mentored by him. But when he made E-8 and was reassigned to a corps staff or to a two- or three-star [general’s] staff to work as an NCO in a staff section, he had never seen that before. That was a huge gap in learning.”

Defreese said the new Master Leader Course will significantly improve NCOs’ ability to see the bigger picture and to understand mission command. After completing this course, NCO graduates will be better able to “understand, visualize, direct, assist, train and lead,” he said.

NCOs at the E-8 level need to know more than just how to do their jobs well, Guyette said. They need to understand the art and science of leading.

“I always use baseball as an analogy,” Guyette said. “If I’m here to learn how to be a first baseman, I’m going to learn everything I need to know to be a first baseman. But if I need to learn about how to coach — send signals to the baseline coaches or whether the batter has to bunt, swing away or steal, that’s the science of playing baseball. So we’ve got to teach NCOs – get them away from just knowing what their job is to the science of understanding the Army.”

Developing the course

USASMA staff members working to develop the MLC are in the first phase of the ADDIE, or Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation, process. As it is early in the process, there are many unknowns about the course, and Defreese said that before decisions can be made, USASMA must analyze carefully the Army’s needs and seek input from every corner.

USASMA began by conducting focus groups with sergeants first class, master sergeants and sergeants major who were at the academy and on Fort Bliss. They were asked to rate 321 critical common tasks on their importance to E-8s. Following these focus groups, the critical task site selection board convened, which included the command sergeants major of TRADOC, U.S. Army Forces Command, the U.S. Army Reserve and the National Guard, three battalion commanders, company commanders and other nominative command sergeants major from TRADOC, FORSCOM and U.S. Army Materiel Command. Board members discussed the tasks and what NCOs need to know to be the best master sergeants possible.

“[The board was asked] to do the same thing that the [earlier] focus groups did … evaluate the importance of all of those critical tasks we think an E-8 should have,” Defreese said. “We also had discussions with that same group of senior leaders – verbalized what we think an E-8 should possess as far as attributes and skills and knowledge. … We are analyzing the results of that critical task site selection board now.”

After reviewing the board’s recommendations, USASMA staff members will categorize the critical tasks into the Army’s three domains for learning: the organizational domain, the institutional domain and the self-development domain. That means the tasks will be separated into those that should be taught within a unit, those that should be taught at an institution, and those that should be an NCO’s responsibility. Once they know which tasks should be taught at an institution, they will then be able to determine how long the new Master Leader Course needs to be, where it will be taught and how much of it will be offered through the Army’s online learning systems.

Defreese said USASMA is directing all available resources into creating the new course, as it takes about 450 man-hours to develop one online hour of instruction, and 60 man-hours to develop one hour of face-to-face instruction. He wants to have it ready as soon as possible, he said, but emphasized that USASMA staff members will do whatever is necessary to ensure the course is exactly what the Army needs.

“The USASMA staff is working feverishly to get this done,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Tedd J. Pritchard, USASMA’s deputy commandant. “[It’s our duty to] provide the right training at the right time for the right Soldiers to go out there and have these strong leadership abilities and skills.”

The U.S. Army promoted Master Sgt. Frank Munley from the rank of sergeant first class, effective Feb. 1. Command Sgt. Maj. Lebert Beharie, senior noncommissioned officer for the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command congratulates Munley on his promotion. Munley is assigned to the office of the RDECOM command sergeant major. (U.S. Army Photo)
The U.S. Army promoted Master Sgt. Frank Munley from the rank of sergeant first class, effective Feb. 1. Command Sgt. Maj. Lebert Beharie, senior noncommissioned officer for the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, congratulates Munley on his promotion. Munley is assigned to the office of the RDECOM command sergeant major. (U.S. Army Photo)


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