Staff Sgt. Andrew Dugger served eight and a half years with the Marines, deploying to Afghanistan after 9/11 and later to Iraq. He joined the Army to continue to work toward a military retirement. Since joining the Army in 2005, he has served as a recruiter, Master Resilience Trainer and in his primary occupational specialty as a 92W water treatment specialist.
How do you set the example for your Soldiers?
The best example I’m able to set is to do what I’m supposed to do and be where I’m supposed to be. My Soldiers are a reflection of me. Whatever I do, I know they are going to emulate that, whether it’s good or bad. So I always try to portray a positive image.
What advice do you pass onto your Soldiers?
I tell them that they have to gain as much knowledge as they can — as much as for themselves as for their Soldiers. I encourage them to go to as many military schools as they can and pursue civilian education. As leaders, they should never forget that they need to take care of their own careers. It’s too easy to get so caught up being a leader and taking care of your Soldiers’ careers that you forget to take care of your own. For example, you might be so caught up in maintaining your Soldiers’ records that you forget to take care of your own and, in the process, you might be passed up for promotion.
How has Army training helped you?
Army training has helped me develop as a leader by allowing me to go to a variety of military schools. The Army has also put me in a variety of challenging assignments, allowing me to gain knowledge and a variety of different skill sets. On recruiting duty, it got me to talk to people in different ways. In Master Resilience Training, it gave me the big picture and how to address those situations by having a positive outlook.
How have other NCOs helped your career?
When I first came into the Army, I came in as an E-5. Staff Sgt. Martin had told me to learn as much as I can about the Army regulations and live the NCO Creed. Another, Sgt. 1st Class Teleforo, told me to always be who I say I am. NCOs like that are always pushing you to do better and be better than who you are.
What would you like to see adopted in the Army?
I would like to see the Army use more drill and ceremony. It shows that Soldiers are capable of a variety of tasks and gives NCOs the opportunity to have a sense of command and control over their element. If Soldiers have an understanding of obedience to orders, that allows new NCOs to become comfortable giving commands and seeing those commands executed. It builds and shows the discipline of the unit. But most of all, it shows a sense of pride in the unit.
What advice do you have for other NCOs?
A lot of NCOs might focus on the Soldier who’s doing the wrong thing. Though you have to take care of the wayward Soldiers, you also have to focus on commending the Soldiers who deserve it. Always be who you say you are. Always be a leader of Soldiers. Always set the standard and be that standard-bearer. Know that whatever we do as NCOs, someone is watching us; whatever we’re displaying, that’s what our Soldiers will see. So it’s important to always maintain that positive image. If you’re a noncommissioned officer, then that’s who you are — you’re a leader. We should always lead by example.
The tactical operations center is the collective brain behind any battlefield operation. From headquarters at the battalion, up to a corps (and often higher), the TOC is a bustling network of Soldiers, computers, projectors and charts. It’s where staff sections come together to issue orders and make battlefield decisions. It’s almost a supercomputer of officers and NCOs working together to update the commander and support troops on the ground.
Throughout their careers, officers are schooled on the types of situations that might arise in a TOC. To assist them, the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course will give NCOs the same type of training so they can excel alongside their officer counterparts and become TOC assets in their own right.
The BSNCOC is for any staff sergeants to sergeants major who are working in a staff position, regardless of their military occupation specialty. NCOs not working on a headquarters staff can apply for a waiver to attend the course.
BSNCOC is taught by resident instructors at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas; at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa.; at Camp Williams, Utah; and at Fort McCoy, Wisc. The course is also taught via video teletraining from USASMA around the world. When NCOs successfully complete the course they are awarded the “2S” skill identifier.
All BSNCOC instructors and staff are graduates of the course, said Sgt. Maj. Richard Beaver, BNCOSC’s director.
“That NCO can go out and can help the command and the staff officers in the military decision-making process,” he said. “That NCO will be exposed to 28 hours of [MDMP] here, which allows that NCO to be more viable in a TOC setting. He or she can do other things besides go make copies. NCOs can be a vital part of the planning process.”
No matter the medium or location, the course work is exactly the same.
“It’s 159 academic hours regardless if you physically attend here at Fort Bliss [or the other locations], or if you are attending via VTT,” Beaver said. “We have six testable blocks of instruction. They will cover topics that include the military decision-making process, graphics and overlays, plans, orders, and attachments.”
Getting enrolled in the course
To enroll in BSNCOC, NCOs must go through their unit’s schools NCO or Army Training Requirements and Resources System manager. Each resident course at Fort Bliss has 64 slots available through ATRRS, though Beaver said that can be increased to 80 slots. Fort Bliss typically conducts five residential courses each year.
A record, passing Army Physical Fitness Test from the student’s unit is required, and each student enrolled will be screened for height-and-weight requirements when the class starts. NCOs attending through VTT will be screened by assistant instructors or at that post’s NCO academy.
Beaver said the VTT courses are set up two to three years in advance of the course start date.
“The post asks for so many slots, and it goes through ATRRS. If they get the slots they ask for, then they’re responsible for filling the slots and making sure they meet all the requirements that have to be met,” Beaver said. “There are a bunch of timelines that have to be met through the VTT course manager. Most of the installations we do it with have done it in the past on a regular basis, so they know everything that needs to happen.”
The course curriculum
BSNCOC started in 1988 for reserve-component Soldiers, but soon after, USASMA completed a program of instruction that opened the course to all NCOs. Since then, the course has changed many times and will soon see more changes, said Master Sgt. Philip Eville, the BSNCOC course manager at USASMA.
“It has dramatically changed,” he said. “I think from when I went back in 2006, it has been three course iterations. Ironically a lot of the lessons are the same. We still teach a lot of the same material, but they’ve been updated. When I went back in 2006, the focus of the Army was a lot different. It’s still a lot of the same subject areas, I would say. But how it’s taught and the emphasis has changed a little bit.”
One of the bigger changes recently was moving from two phases to a single phase. There used to be an online distance learning component prior to the start of the resident and VTT courses. However, the distance learning phase has since been written out of the program’s curriculum.
As the course manager, Eville develops the BSNCOC curriculum. He said curriculum changes are designed and implemented a few different ways
“Doctrine drives a lot of what we do. So when a doctrinal update comes out, we have to reassess the lessons and then figure out how the doctrine changes the lesson,” he said. “Some of it is based on feedback from the field, former students and people who have experience in there. When we do get feedback from a student who makes a good recommendation, we’ll say ‘That’s a good idea. How can we implement it in the course?’ We take it very seriously.”
Eville said the curriculum is designed for NCOs to be part of a unit’s military decision-making process and give them the best information available to make those decisions. Students are given instruction based on current operations as well as the basic principles of war that remained unchanged.
“We train NCOs how to track a battle, how to manage a battle, how to fight a war,” Eville said. “A lot of students say, ‘Why are we still teaching basic combat operations? We’ve been fighting these stability operations for the last 10 years. This is what the Army is.’ Well, you still have to understand basic combat operations. So we try to balance it. We focus a lot on stability operations, but still have to teach the basic fundamentals of combat and how you track a battle. Because someday, we may have a full war again, and we need NCOs who know how to track battles as well as the stability operations.”
VTT vs. resident course
Although the resident and VTTs courses teach the same curriculum, each format has advantages.
Obviously the VTT course costs units less to send NCOs to the course, said Master Sgt. Terrance Foster, the BSNCOC VTT course manager at USASMA.
“It’s a money-saver for the units,” he said. “They don’t have to pay [for temporary duty]; the units just have to let their people go to a location on their post to get the same training. It doesn’t matter if we teach 80 students or 16 [via VTT], the cost is the same.”
Each VTT instructor can teach up to five locations at time. For example, one of the 10 VTT instructors at Fort Bliss could be teaching the same course at the same time to students at Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Hood; Texas, Fort Carson, Colo., and Fort Stewart, Ga.
Though the VTT instructors are available to answer student questions, the resident course students get more hands-on training from the classroom instructor. Battle rooms are available to the students during their off time and weekends for study, and in the classroom environment, there are on-the-spot class discussions with the instructors. Sometimes, during a VTT session, an instructor might be working with a different location, which might take more time for questions to get answered.
Assets to the TOC
In a TOC, most sections are run by an officer in charge and an NCO in charge who work together to make decisions relevant to their section. Master Sgt. William Coleman, the Fort Bliss BSNCOC resident manager, said an NCO who is a BSNCOC graduate will only make that working relationship better.
“We are the officer’s counterpart,” Coleman said. “Take a sergeant first class, for instance, who just finished platoon sergeant time and comes up to a battalion TOC or brigade or division TOC. His counterpart is that captain who came out of company command. That NCO needs to be equivalent to the officer as far as knowledge base and [ability to] process orders.”
Because most career Army NCOs will be on a staff at some point in their career, earning the 2S skill identifier will allow them to be assets to their commands, said Sgt. 1st Class Wesley Taylor, a Fort Bliss battle room instructor.
“This is one of those things that will teach you ‘what right looks like,’” he said. “I know from my experience on a battalion staff, we kind of flew by the seat our pants a lot. I went to the battle staff course after I was on battalion staff, but this would have been a good tool for me [beforehand].”
Beaver said the BSNCOC can offer NCOs the opportunity to continue their formal professional development after they complete NCO Education System courses. After an NCO completes the Senior Leader Course, there isn’t an opportunity for military education until being accepted to the Sergeants Major Course at USASMA. Though BSNCOC isn’t part of NCOES, Beaver said the course will assist an NCO’s career and help the NCO’s unit during a deployment.
“I would challenge all the NCOs out in the force: If they have the opportunity to take this course, do so,” Beaver said. “I think it’s a great asset for themselves and the Army as a whole.” ♦
By COMMAND SGT. MAJ. RORY L. MALLOY
U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy
As members of the Army profession, we have been entrusted to defend our nation’s borders, interests and ideals. As noncommissioned officers, we have been entrusted to lead Soldiers, to train them, to teach them to be professionals.
That trust is given to us by our Soldiers, their families and their loved ones. They trust that we will use our authority to make our Soldiers better — to build them up, not tear them down. One of the tools we’re given to accomplish this is corrective training.
Corrective training is an invaluable way for NCOs to enforce standards and hold Soldiers accountable. However, when applied incorrectly, corrective training can cross the line and lead to humiliation, punishment or even hazing. And when leaders cross that line, their actions can become worse than the shortcomings they were trying to correct.
Army Regulation 600-20 is clear that “training, instruction, or correction given to a Soldier to correct deficiencies must be directly related to the deficiency. It must be oriented to improving the Soldier’s performance in his or her problem area. … Such measures assume the nature of training or instruction, not punishment.” And AR 600-20 notes, “Care should be taken at all levels of command to ensure that training and instruction are not used in an oppressive manner to evade the procedural safeguards applying to imposing nonjudicial punishment.”
Punishment is strictly the realm of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Corrective training is intended to correct a deficiency or shortcoming, never to punish.
If a Soldier shows up to formation late, corrective training is in order. Making the Soldier wear a clock around his or her neck for a week is not corrective training. It’s humiliating. So what should an NCO do? Requiring the Soldier to arrive in formation 10 minutes earlier than his or her peers until the supervisor feels the Soldier has overcome this deficiency would be acceptable corrective training.
If a Soldier arrives to work and he hasn’t shaved properly, having him conduct a “shaving class” in formation, in which he puts on shaving cream and shaves in front of his peers, isn’t corrective training — it’s humiliating, it’s unprofessional and it could be considered hazing. However, his NCO could have that Soldier arrive 30 minutes early and shave in the latrine under the supervision of the NCO. In that case, it’s clear the action is intended to ensure the Soldier knows how to shave properly. It takes place in private. It’s not intended to harass, humiliate or haze. If a supervisor believes his or her whole platoon has a problem with shaving properly, he or she might conduct a class to correct the issue, but the intention should never be to humiliate or punish.
Small research projects about a shortcoming or incorrect action can also be valuable corrective training. They engage and inform Soldiers in the importance of proper behavior and professionalism. For instance, that Soldier who was late might be required to research the backward planning model of the Army and explain why Soldiers need to be in place on time and how important an individual’s punctuality can be to the entire group.
Physical training is sometimes warranted. If a Soldier is goofing off in formation and he or she has been warned once or twice, an NCO might require that Soldier to do pushups to get him or her focused and back on task. A few pushups are OK. One hundred are not.
Our nation, our leaders and our Soldiers have entrusted us with a great deal of authority to enforce Army standards. If we abuse our authority, as we do when we don’t use corrective training as it’s intended, then we might lose that authority. And that would be detrimental to the good order and discipline of the force and diminish the power of the noncommissioned officer to do what’s right. ♦
Command Sgt. Maj. Rory L. Malloy is the 18th commandant of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.
Several initiatives are under way to let Soldiers develop personally and professionally while they’re in the Army and to better prepare them for life after their service. And the Army Career Tracker is there to help. The online portal, originally launched in June 2011, is continually being updated to assist Soldiers and their leaders to define career goals, create and ensure timetables are met for those goals, and help fulfill objectives both inside and outside the Army.
“The idea here of the Army Career Tracker is to support what we call the lifecycle of the Soldier,” said Jeffrey Colimon, a project officer with Training & Doctrine Command’s Institute of NCO Professional Development. “In other words: to provide a development program and development opportunities with a timetable that must be formally instituted as soon as individual service members enter the military to ensure not only that they are military-ready, but that they are also career-ready.”
The ACT encourages Soldiers to develop an Individual Development Plan, with both short- and long-term goals related to their military careers and their careers after the Army. The IDP can be used by Soldiers and their leaders to track training, military education, civilian education and a host of other development paths. The ACT is also open to Department of the Army civilians.
Sgt. Maj. Jerry Bailey is the course manager for Structured Self-Development, based at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. The ACT has become an important part of his briefings when he’s telling Soldiers and leaders about SSD.
“The No. 1 way I tell them to access SSD is through the Army Career Tracker, because it eliminates a lot of steps and gets Soldiers where they’re supposed to be at the level they’re supposed to be. It takes out the guess work.”
That’s one of the big advantages of the ACT — it consolidates information from several systems and presents it at one central site, said Master Sgt. Chadwick Wormer of INCOPD’s Learning Integrations Division, which oversees the ACT.
The ACT “is still up and coming, he said. “There are still a lot more enhancements that we’re working on. But as far as what it can do and what it’s really designed for, it’s a leadership development tool. It will integrate training, education and on-the-job experience, and it puts everything into one easy-to-use interface. It gives you search capabilities, mostly for other systems that house education and training resources. It’s more efficient and effective for a Soldier to use it to monitor their career development. It’s something that I never had when I was a young Soldier. I was only as good as my first-line leader, so what my first-line leader knew is all I knew. What the Army Career Tracker does is it
puts younger Soldiers on a level playing field.”
The ACT includes the Integrated Total Army Database, GoArmy Education, the Army Learning Management System, the Army Training Requirements and Resources System, and nearly a dozen other resources. And the LID is constantly working on including more systems, Wormer said.
Among the latest improvements to the ACT being worked on is the full integration of available credentialing, which will help Soldiers obtain private-sector certifications they qualify for based on their military occupational specialties and work within the Army.
In June 2012, President Barack Obama announced the “We Can’t Wait” initiative, which is intended to let service members obtain civilian credentials and licenses for manufacturing and other high-demand skills they received from attending military schools. “Our economy needs their outstanding talent,” Obama said in his address in Golden Valley, Minn., announcing the initiative.
Under the president’s direction, the Department of Defense established the Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force, which identified military specialties that readily transfer to high-demand jobs and worked with civilian credentialing and licensing associations to address gaps between military training programs and credentialing and licensing requirements.
In October, the Defense Department launched a pilot program that included five occupational areas — aircraft mechanics, automotive mechanics, health care, supply and logistics, and truck drivers. Seventeen military specialties are included in those occupational areas.
“What we’ve asked the services to do … is to look at those five areas. Look at their specific military occupational codes, marry them up and get some people into the pilot program,” said Frank C. DiGiovanni, the Defense Department’s director of training readiness and strategy.
The program began in October, he said, and as it progresses, officials will examine whether existing military training is sufficient to qualify service members for civilian credentials. Where the current training is found to be insufficient, DiGiovanni added, the department will determine if the program can be adjusted or if training from external sources is necessary.
The pilot is one of several Defense Department Credentialing and Licensing Task Force initiatives, Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said.
“We’re looking at how we can better document and translate military training and experience so that civilian credentialing agencies and states can better understand the nature of military training and award appropriate credit,” she said.
Although the credentialing program is still in the pilot phase and Colimon said MOS-credentialing information won’t be completely integrated until 2014, the ACT already includes a bevy of information on civilian accreditations and their relationships to military MOSs.
“We’ve been working a lot of things with [credentialing],” Wormer said. “Because we link to training, and we link to not only the training you’ve completed in the past but the training you’re scheduled for, we also show other training that you might want or need to enhance your career. And some of that training is credentialing.
“Credentialing is, for some MOSs, very specific. For instance, the Army has truck drivers; well, civilians have the CDL, the commercial driver license. It pretty much goes hand-in-hand. What we work to do is to bridge the gap between what the civilian equivalent and the military is training. In other words, when you go to school to be a truck driver in the Army, you’re going to get about 90 percent of the training and you would need an additional 10 percent to finish your CDL. Army Career Tracker is working to bridge that gap, so that you’re receiving almost 100 percent. So when you complete your AIT in the Army, it’s a done deal: You’re CDL qualified. And it’s not just the truck drivers; it’s many MOSs. And some of them are more obvious and more comparable than others.”
A complete list of MOS-specific credentialing opportunities is available at the Credentialing Opportunities On-Line site, www.cool.army.mil, and that information is also available through the ACT.
“The idea of the IDP inside the Army Career Tracker to support the military lifecycle is actually to provide [users] an integrated approach — an integrated approach to supporting the Soldiers’ personal and professional development that capitalizes on the mutual needs of lifelong learning,” Colimon said. “So the Soldier does not concentrate on trying to get a degree, trying to get some credentialing at the point of transition or at the point of departure. Instead they start throughout their career, whether they’re a one-term Soldier or going to retire from the Army. They actually supplement the military training with civilian training and education so that, at the point of the departure, they are more credible. This approach is mutually beneficial to the Army because it gets a better-prepared Soldier while he or she is serving and potentially a better civilian at the exit point — whatever that is at the point of transition, whether it’s separation or retirement.”
In addition to promoting the ACT as a tool for SSD, Bailey has used the system to track his Soldiers’ and employees’ goals.
“It builds a counseling report for you, so that you don’t have to guess,” Bailey said. “It gives me that information that I can use to provide the positive feedback or the things that I think we need to get after. Then I can provide that input into the Army Career Tracker. It provides a lot of data.”
Soldiers and their leaders build goals together in the ACT, and Soldiers can also request that users who are not necessarily their supervisors act as mentors through the system.
“Soldiers had asked me to be their mentor when they signed up,” Bailey said. “Now I can look at those Soldiers, and the same things that I do for my employees, I can do for those Soldiers as a mentor.”
That reinforcement from mentors can be invaluable, Bailey said. “If you see information and direction from a leader and a mentor, you’re more apt to do it.”
Bailey has also used the system for his own professional development.
“At USASMA, we’re not doing MOS-material things. It’s all educational stuff,” he said. “I’m an Army engineer, and there’s not an Army engineer department over there. So I’m not necessarily keeping up with all the different gates or things that engineering has to offer. But through the Army Career Tracker, it keeps me in tune with: Here are upcoming things for engineers, here are what engineers are now doing, or here are the credentialing classes or schools or courses out there for engineers. I don’t have to go through GoArmy and all this other stuff to find out this same information. It’s already there on that site.”
Colimon said growth in users of the ACT has grown quickly, with the site adding about 4,000 users a week and more than 25,000 goals already created. And Wormer said reaction to the site has been universally positive.
“We have very good reviews. Our hardest part is getting the word out there about our system,” he said. “We use a profile communication, where we are able to target certain profiles of people, whether it’s by installation, whether it’s by MOS, whether it’s by their rank, or maybe we just want to target somebody Armywide. … When we send the profile communications out, we often get feedback: ‘Hey, what’s this? I’ve never heard of it,’ or sometimes we just assume they’re deleting it because we don’t get anything. But we send these out, and the users who have never seen it, the very first time we show them the functionalities, immediately you can see a lightbulb come on: ‘Hey, I wish I’d known about this. It’s amazing.’” ♦
The American Forces Press Service contributed to this story.
Top Army Career Tracker questions
What is an Individual development Plan? It is a document completed by individuals to track self-development, both short-term (a year or less) and long-term. This plan is then reviewed and discussed with a leader or mentor to match the individual’s goals with an organization’s goals. Various options and approaches to achieve the plan are discussed. This plan is reviewed and updated at a minimum annually.
Why is it important to have an IDP? IDPs can be a win-win strategy because they benefit both the Soldier and the Army as a whole. Implementing an IDP helps Soldiers enhance their knowledge, skills and experiences. The Army benefits by developing improved Soldier capabilities and enhanced communication. IDPs also support a Soldier’s lifelong learning and transition lifecycle by allowing him or her to plan and track development from enlistment to transition.
Why do you have to create an IDP? The Secretary of the Army Memorandum, “Army Transition Policy,” dated Aug. 29, 2011, established mandatory use of the IDP. It ensures first-term Soldiers receive counseling within 30 days of arrival to their first permanent duty station; part of the process is creating an IDP.
How does the ACT help Soldiers develop an IDP? The Army Career Tracker allows users to plan and track their development in concert with their leaders and mentors. ACT provides an easy-to-use interface for users and supervisors to create, approve and track an IDP.
NCOs must adapt to meet the needs of the Army of 2020
By COMMAND SGT. MAJ. DANIEL A. DAILEY
U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command
Since 9/11, our Noncommissioned Officer Corps has truly lived by the NCO Creed. During more than a decade of combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, NCOs demonstrated time and again that they are the backbone of our Army. In countless small-unit actions, we proved our technical and tactical proficiency while executing our two primary responsibilities: accomplishing the mission and taking care of Soldiers. We can rightfully be proud as NCOs, leaders and American Soldiers.
Yet, there are many challenges ahead. We concluded our combat mission in Iraq and began drawing down our forces in Afghanistan while transitioning the mission to NCOs in the Afghan National Security Forces. Our nation’s leaders published a new strategy, one focused on preparedness for a wide range of military operations potentially anywhere in the world.
We must be prepared to lead Soldiers and teams for humanitarian assistance missions at home or abroad. And we must be equally prepared to lead them to deter and defeat enemy forces in the Asia-Pacific Region, the Middle East or wherever else conflict erupts. The requirement to deploy almost anywhere and execute the full range of military operations is a significantly different challenge than that of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan — not a harder or easier challenge, just a different one.
In order to meet the challenges of the Army of 2020, we are adapting doctrine, organizations, training and leader development. We are leveraging technology for both warfighting and training, and we are evolving our procedures for readiness, deployment and operations. As we transition to the Army of 2020, we are leaning forward to prepare the NCO Corps to lead that Army. Here are some of the initiatives the Army’s NCO leaders are taking to ensure that you remain the leaders our nation and our Army needs.
The NCO development timeline
To prepare our NCO Corps to lead the Army of 2020, we structured our NCO development timeline so that each NCO is proficient in the competencies necessary for the four NCO roles of leading, training, maintaining standards, and caring for Soldiers and equipment at the skill level they are entering, the leadership position they will hold and the organization they will lead. This timeline is a synchronized relationship between professional military education, promotions and assignments in a way that is deliberate, continuous, sequential and progressive. During their careers, all NCOs will progress successively through NCO Education System courses, developmental assignments, and Structured Self-Development.
The NCO development timeline is designed to ensure that each NCO is prepared for new challenges and increasing responsibilities. While it assists NCOs to understand their role in their own career progression, it more importantly signals to leaders their roles in developing subordinates.
For example, for a number of reasons during the last decade of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, we could not always ensure our subordinates attended the next NCOES course when scheduled. But, as the pressure of short dwell time and manning deploying units eases, each leader should ensure subordinate NCOs are scheduled for NCOES courses on time and are able and prepared to attend. We must reduce our backlog of NCOs who have not yet attended the courses they need to be promoted and assume positions of greater responsibility. As leaders, that is our responsibility in taking care of Soldiers and our Army.
Warrior Leader Course
Shortly after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, our Army recognized that the NCO Education System was not meeting the needs of our leaders in the challenging environment of warfare in the 21st Century, when any unit could be required without warning to transition to active combat against smart, capable enemy forces. One of our key initiatives was transitioning our initial NCOES course, the Primary Leader Development Course, to the Warrior Leader Course. The focus of the Warrior Leader Course was just that — preparing NCOs from every branch to be warriors leading warriors.
WLC has served us well, as for a decade our NCOs have successfully built cohesive and effective teams and led our Soldiers to victory in combat in every imaginable situation. We continue to improve the WLC to meet the needs of our NCO Corps and our Army.
Over the past year we gathered feedback on NCOES and the WLC from units downrange, from NCO leaders, from schoolhouses and from Soldiers. Based on that feedback, we have piloted an improved course. Slightly longer, the course will add more land navigation, more physical fitness and the Army Physical Fitness Test, and will increase education in counseling and assessing subordinates. The new WLC will provide our newest and youngest NCOs the education they need to develop and lead Soldiers and teams for new missions in new locations under a variety of conditions.
Developing NCO Instructors
“Competence is my watchword,” the NCO Creed states, and we achieve such competence through quality, effective instruction. Each of us as NCOs has a responsibility as an instructor — whether in NCOES courses, in organizational training, or in individually coaching and mentoring our subordinates.
As NCOs we develop our subordinates in six major areas: the Army as a profession, comprehensive fitness, professional competence, adaptability, team building and life-long learning. Yet, the environment in which NCOs instruct and Soldiers learn has changed considerably in recent years. Formal and informal simulations, social networks, and learning communities affect how we conduct instruction and achieve learning. Each of us as NCOs must master these instructional tools.
To improve these capabilities, we proposed developing a cadre of expert instructors through an Instructor Development Program. We will formally select NCOs for participation; develop those selected to achievement at three levels: instructor, senior instructor and master instructor; continuously assess instructor abilities; and manage our instructor cadre to ensure the Army’s instructional needs are met in both the institutional and operational force.
Army Career Tracker
The Army Career Tracker enables Soldiers, NCOs, officers, and Department of the Army civilians to understand and map out their individual career path, and helps supervisors to assist subordinate’s self-development.
The ACT supports individual NCO development by providing a framework for the creation and management of an Individual Development Plan. The system allows leaders, supervisors and mentors to make recommendations for the next step in each Soldier or NCO’s career. The ACT supports planning and managing individual training, both mandatory and suggested training opportunities.
Beyond training, the ACT supports each individual’s management of their education and life-long learning, to include transition to civilian life without loss of educational credits. The ACT truly is one-stop shopping for each Soldier and NCO to manage their own training, education and development throughout their career.
The NCO development domain in which we have made the greatest progress is that of self-development. Though improvements have been made to NCOES in the institutional domain, and our NCOs are gaining incredible depth of experience as leaders in the organizational domain, it is the self-development domain where our NCOs can broaden their knowledge base and competencies.
The first initiative I’d like to address is Structured Self-Development. We’ve known for a long time that there were gaps or delays in our individual development — primarily the years spent in between schools, such as the gap between completion of One Station Unit Training or Advanced Individual Training and attendance at the Warrior Leader Course. SSD enables us to fill those gaps while developing knowledge and competencies that build the confidence of our Soldiers to lead at the next higher level.
Soldiers and NCOs conduct SSD entirely online. It is self-paced to account for different schedules based on MOS, duty position, rank and unit schedules. We deliver SSD to each individual through interactive multimedia instruction, accessed via the Army Learning Management System. SSD topics range from combat operations to administration and logistics to training and leadership.
For example, SSD-1 for Soldiers preparing for WLC, consists of 36 distinct distance learning packages totaling 80 hours of instruction. We fielded SSD-1 in October 2010 and SSD-3 in May 2011 for NCOs who have completed the Advanced Leader Course and are preparing for the Senior Leader Course.
Thus far, over 21,000 Soldiers have completed SSD. Our current rate of completion is over 2,000 Soldiers and NCOs per month. But we can and must do better.
SSD is self-paced, but it must be completed in order to attend the next level NCOES course. Online instruction at first may seem challenging, but those who have completed SSD demonstrate for all of us that it can be done. For further information on SSD contact the Institute for Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development at (757) 501-5637/5446 or www.tradoc.army.mil/INCOPD/contact.html.
College of the American Soldier
A second initiative in the self-development domain is the College of the American Soldier. It provides the opportunity for virtually all training and education in an NCO’s career to be translated into college credits at colleges across the nation. Examples of training and education that can be converted into college credits include Initial Military Training, NCOES courses, Army correspondence courses, functional courses, self-development and, under certain circumstances, experience in operational units.
Today, almost 40 civilian colleges and universities are integrated into CAS, and NCOs can earn degrees in management, business administration, organizational development, human resources management and organizational leadership. CAS provides opportunities to earn college degrees despite the incredibly busy schedule our NCOs encounter, whether deployed or at their home stations.
NCOs have achieved much during the past decade, accomplishing missions and taking care of Soldiers. Yet, our job is never done. We must continue to adapt ourselves and our teams for new challenges in new environments.
As we transition to the Army of 2020, the initiatives discussed above represent our path to strengthening and adapting our NCO Corps. Each of us must continuously strive to develop ourselves and our subordinates in the three domains of organizational experience, professional military education, and individual self-development. I look forward to serving and working with you as we provide outstanding leadership to each and every Soldier.
Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Dailey is the command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Eustis, Va.
The official magazine of noncommissioned officer professional development