Starting Jan. 1, tens of thousands of Soldiers and NCOs will either lose promotion eligibility or may become ineligible for promotion board consideration because they have not complied with Structured Self-Development requirements.
Army Directive 2013-15, released by Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh on July 1 — and MILPER message 13-275, released Sept. 26 — states that SSD-1 must be completed by Jan. 1, 2014, for a specialist or corporal to be placed on the recommended list for promotion to sergeant.
Currently, there are 3,366 specialists who will lose promotable status on Jan. 1, and 41,035 specialists who are not eligible to become promotable unless they complete SSD-1 by Jan. 1, according to the Army G-1.
Soldiers who still need to complete their SSD requirements have until Jan. 1, 2014, to do so. To check their enrollment status, Soldiers need to check the Army Learning Management System, or ALMS, on Army Knowledge Online.
The Army Directive also said all staff sergeants must complete SSD-3 to attain eligibility for promotion to sergeant first class. In addition, all sergeants first class must complete SSD-4 before they are eligible for selection to master sergeant.
According to the Army G-1, there are 11,238 staff sergeants who are otherwise eligible to go before the February 2014 sergeant first class board but will not until they complete SSD-3.
In addition, there are 13,498 sergeants first class who are otherwise eligible to go before the October 2014 master sergeant board who will not until they complete SSD-4.
MILPER message 13-275 only addresses SSD, not ALC-Common Core. The point of contact for the MILPER message is Human Resources Command at firstname.lastname@example.org
This story is part of a periodic NCO Journal feature that takes a closer look at an Army award in an NCO’s career. This month we focus on the Army Commendation Medal with “V” device for valor.
First Sgt. Justin Stewart is currently serving as first sergeant for Bravo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, in Hawaii. But in August 2005, he was a staff sergeant with Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment when his actions earned him the Army Commendation Medal with “V” device.
Stewart’s squadron was part of an effort to “clear, hold, rebuild” in the area of Tal Afar, Iraq. The effort was difficult in Tal Afar, Stewart said, because “there were a lot of foreign fighters — from Syria, Iran, other places were all in there. It was getting pretty ugly.” During a period of several weeks, the Army cleared neighboring areas, chasing the enemy into Tal Afar. Then the effort to clear Tal Afar itself began.
“We started dropping fliers all over the city to say that anybody out on the street was going to be considered a combative,” Stewart said. “So it really took a turn toward a more force-on-force linear conflict, as opposed to the counterinsurgency as we were normally treating it.”
Stewart’s troop was clearing a block when a tank was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade and was disabled. Though recovery efforts began immediately, the tall buildings and high roofs of Tal Afar allowed enemy fighters to swarm to advantageous positions. “[The tank crew] started getting attacked pretty heavily by small-arms fire,” Stewart said. “We were able to see RPG teams starting to maneuver to attack the recovery vehicle, as well as the disabled tank and crew as they were forced to get out and hook up tow winches.
“I’m a fire support specialist (13F) by trade, forward observer,” Stewart said. “I was in a Bradley, and we maneuvered into position to provide direct fire support with the 25-millimeter gun. I was able to engage and destroy two of the RPG teams that maneuvered onto the roofs overhead as they were trying to attack with direct fire. I started calling in indirect fire from the 120-millimeter mortars that were attached to the troop, so we were able to put down indirect fire to basically break up the merge coming down the street from the north. I was able to engage some of the rooftop RPG teams as they were trying to kill the tank and crew recovering it.
“We pulled them out and were able to recover the vehicle. No loss of life, so a successful day. We moved the tank out and continued our mission.”
How do your actions that day show the best of the U.S. Army NCO Corps?
Just in itself, watching out for Soldier welfare, making sure the mission gets accomplished. Our mission was taking the area and destroying the enemy. Really that’s the uppermost responsibilities in the noncommissioned officer’s mind: accomplishment of the mission and welfare of the Soldiers. So, I guess in that case, it was taking care of the Soldiers in the other vehicle, taking care of the Soldiers in my vehicle, making sure they were able to recover property and life and moving out. And then, we continued to accomplish the mission.
What do you hope your Soldiers and junior NCOs learn from your actions that day?
Repetition and training pay off. We spent so much time every day not letting complacency get to us out at our base. We made sure we were continuing to practice our fire support craft, even though at the time, that deployment, we hadn’t been doing much of it. It was where we stepped off the high-intensity conflict, started more stability support. So you didn’t get to do much indirect fire. But practicing and not letting that complacency kick in, making sure the craft was still honed, that’s what ensured that when the time came, I was still able to call for fire and put down effective rounds and, ultimately, kill bad guys.
Why did you decide to join the Army and why have you continued to serve?
I’ve always wanted to be a Soldier ever since I was a little kid building guns out of Legos. I don’t know if I should blame Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Commando movies, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. As I’ve stayed, my motivation has evolved. As I’ve matured as an adult, so have my goals and my reasons for continuing to serve. What may have started out as just an underlying, ‘I want to be a combat Soldier. It’s fun; it’s cool.’ … as I’ve been shaped, I’m starting to understand the Army Values, what it means to lead and train Soldiers. That’s what motivates me now — the ability to continue to stay in touch, continue to train, and watch these Soldiers develop into leaders themselves.
What role have NCOs played in your development?
From my very first chief, who I still stay in contact with … I can remember meeting him the day I hit the ground at my unit. Unfortunately he got wounded in Iraq after we had parted ways. I was a staff sergeant, and he went on to Korea, then back to Iraq, and ended up getting injured and medically discharged. But I still stay in touch with him. The training from day one from him about how to call for fire, how to properly employ the equipment, I used it that day out there and continue to use it and pass it down to my Soldiers.
What makes a good NCO?
Discipline, accountability and leading from the front.
What advice do you have for junior NCOs?
Never waste time. Leadership starts first thing in the morning. You have to take ownership and accountability of every aspect of training and every bit of time you get, from the moment you start doing PT, until the moment the day ends. Don’t waste time. Be accountable for your Soldiers, be accountable for their training.
The Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development wants to hear from you. INCOPD has created an online survey, to seek NCO’s input on how to further enhance the current NCO Education System. NCOs in the ranks of sergeant through master sergeant will receive an email via their Army email accounts with instructions on how to complete the 30-minute survey. NCOs from active duty, Army Reserve and Army National Guard are being included and will be encouraged to participate in the voluntary survey.
“This survey is more important to NCOs,” said Aubrey Butts, INCOPD’s director. “However, it’s important to us so we can design their future. It’s important because we need to know when they train, where they train and if we are training on the right things. We can also reduce the redundancy in NCO training.”
INCOPD is examining what the Army, and its needs, will look like in the year 2020. They are hoping the NCO 2020 survey will help guide them during next seven years to build a solid and relevant NCOES structure and curriculum by 2020.
Although the survey is voluntary, INCOPD’s leadership highly encourages participation.
“This is an opportunity to be serious about what your concerns are and what you would like those influencing and shaping your development to know,” said Dan Hubbard, INCOPD’s deputy director. “If you don’t take the time—and it’s only about 30 to 40 minutes on average to do this—then you’re kind of giving up your opportunity to give us what you think in order to help us shape what is important into the future.”
Both Hubbard and Butts are retired sergeants major.
Tammy Bankus is a senior instructional systems specialist at INCOPD and helped to develop and implement the survey. She said the survey will have questions about what NCOs should be learning at various points in their careers, the appropriate ranks at which they should be learning certain tasks and how the courses should be delivered (such as resident or online courses).
“We will ask very specific questions, on specific topics but we also give NCOs the opportunity to provide broad input with essay questions,” Bankus said. “They can tell us what they think about the training and how they liked the last NCOES course they attended, whether it was a resident course or distance learning.”
The NCO 2020 survey will allow NCOs to give feedback about three of the Army’s four resident NCOES schools: Warrior Leaders Course, Advanced Leaders Course and Senior Leaders Course. The Sergeant Major Course is not included in the survey. Survey’s participants can also give their opinions on distance learning courses like ALC-Common Core and Structured Self Development.
“We also have some questions about distributed learning so we can see how many hours our Soldiers have to spend during the week to work on distributed learning on-duty and how many hours off-duty,” Bankus said. “What do they think about distributed learning? Having that data, we try to tap the institution, the unit and the self-development domain.”
INCOPD, whose mission is solely dedicated to NCO professional development, will share the results of the survey with the Army’s highest levels of leadership.
Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Robert Cone, commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III will carefully look at the survey’s results and provide input for the way ahead.
“I ask that each of you invest the time and thought to ensure your answers provide the Army’s senior leaders a clear vision of what you think the NCO of 2020 should be and what he or she will need to know and understand to meet the complexities of an uncertain security environment in 2020 and beyond,” Chandler said in an email to NCOs.
INCOPD’s sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Trefus Lee, said leaders need to encourage their NCOs to participate in the survey and to provide honest feedback.
“I just left a command sergeant major position four months ago,” Lee said. “Current battalion and brigade-level leaders need to get involved, making sure their NCOs are focused on this and getting involved in this survey. It’s key at the unit level that the leaders take the survey seriously and realize that it’s not just another survey to be put on the shelf. It’s going to help the senior Army leadership focus where we are going.”
Butts and his staff stressed that NCOs should also encourage their peers and subordinates to complete the survey because, he said, improving NCO professional development will improve the Army’s readiness.
“The main goal of INCOPD is to make sure NCOs have the knowledge, skills and ability to bring each and every one of those young people back home [from war],” Butts said.
At the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, located at Fort Eustis, Va., there is one organization whose only mission in the Army is to work to improve the skill set, education and readiness of the U.S. Army noncommissioned officer: the Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development.
INCOPD stood up in September 2009 to provide direction and oversight of the NCO Education System throughout the Army. It functions in three divisions: Learning Integration, Learning Execution and Evaluation and Learning Innovations and Initiatives Division.
In late July, INCOPD welcomed a new director, Aubrey Butts when the institute’s previous, and first director, John Sparks retired.
Butts, a U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Class 46 graduate, retired as a command sergeant major in 2004 after 27 years on active duty. An infantryman for his entire career, he served 17 years in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.
“My transition was really easy, because this is one of the most competent staffs I’ve ever seen assembled,” Butts said. “Each one of them is uniquely qualified in their respective areas across the three divisions, and my deputy (Dan Hubbard) has just a wealth of history and knowledge that has guided me through the process and down the road of success.”
The staff at INCOPD said their success will come from doing what they can to provide direction and oversight to NCOES across the entire Army.
“What we do is integrate all actions and activities that are related to NCO leader development into the Army leader development strategy,” Sgt. Maj. Trefus Lee, INCOPD’s sergeant major said. “We also serve as the subject-matter and NCO expert for Army leader development at [TRADOC].”
Though INCOPD is a part of TRADOC, it’s unique in that it is the only organization focused strictly on NCOs and their professional development.
“There are not too many organizations that are fortunate enough to have a clear-focused lane to operate in,” said Dan Hubbard, a retired sergeant major and INCOPD’s deputy director. “We listen to the NCO Corps, senior commanders and other stakeholders across the Army, as to what they visualize they need an NCO Corps to do.”
Hubbard served in the Army for 30 years and retired as a sergeant major in 2003. He was a USASMA Class 35 graduate and was recently inducted into the USASMA Hall of Honor for his contributions to the advancement of the education and training of the NCO Corps during his service on active duty and as a Department of the Army civilian.
Although there are many initiatives for INCOPD, Butts said its core mission is working to provide the best education and opportunities for NCOs at all levels.
“If we look to the future and what we think warfare may be, I have heard that we will continue to fight in small units. At the center of those formations will be young lieutenants and NCOs in the ranks of staff sergeant and sergeant first class,” Butts said. “However, at the strategic and operational levels, we have to make sure that we teach the skills needed for those NCOs who are master sergeants and sergeants major to be able to work in a joint environment and in multinational and interagency environments. We have to make sure we give those noncommissioned officers those skills to operate in volatile environments that are complex and ambiguous.”
Having served as an NCO for most of his career, Butts said he was eager to, in his position as the INCOPD director, be a part of some of Army’s NCO professional development, to include distance learning and Structured Self-Development.
“When I look at all the positions that I could possibly serve in, at any level, I don’t think I could be more satisfied with being the person that will work with the sergeant major of the Army and command sergeants majors in the field to figure out the needs of the Army for the most valuable asset in the Army, the noncommissioned officer, the backbone,” Butts said. “NCOs give the Army the framework and movement and all the muscle to make it move. And without that backbone, you really couldn’t make things work. So I think I have, at this point in time—with formations that are coming out of war, in a state of preparation—one of the most important jobs in the Army and one of the most important jobs is dealing with education. What we produce will determine how we will fight and what young men and women will endure on the battlefield for the next 50 years.”
Do you want input into the future education of NCOs? Well, INCOPD wants to hear from you. Check out the NCO Journal on Sept. 24 for instructions on how to complete INCOPD’s “NCOES 2020” survey so you can provide your experiences and help shape NCOES.
In the works for more than a year, strict new rules governing things like tattoos and grooming for Soldiers have been approved by the Secretary of the Army and are only awaiting a final signature, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler said Saturday.
Speaking to troops at bases in eastern Afghanistan, Chandler said Secretary John McHugh has approved but not yet officially put his name to the changes to Army Regulation 670-1.
“We’re just waiting for the secretary to sign,” Chandler said during a town hall meeting with soldiers from the 4th Combat Brigade Team, 10th Mountain Division, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi. He made similar remarks to troops at FOB Fenty in Jalalabad.
The regulations cover things such as tattoos, grooming, and uniforms and apply only to Soldiers. Other branches of the military have their own grooming and appearance rules.
Chandler said he expects the changes to become policy in 30 to 60 days.