As a scout, Sgt. Charles W. Ray often saw danger before most Soldiers in his unit did.
On Oct. 19, 1899, Ray not only laid eyes on a perilous situation near San Isidro on the Philippine island of Luzon, he went headlong into it. While leading a reconnaissance mission with 12 Soldiers of I Company of the 22nd U.S. Infantry during the Philippine-American War, Ray and his group fought a large Filipino force in a battle for a key bridge that traversed the Pampanga River. His actions that day earned him and a fellow Soldier the nation’s highest honor.
The Philippine-American War arose after the United States’ acquisition of the Philippines from Spain after the Spanish-American War in 1898. The conflict, also known as the Philippine Insurrection, occurred from 1899 to 1902 and ended with American occupation of the Philippines and the dissolution of the First Philippine Republic.
In the fall of 1899, the 22nd U.S. Infantry was fighting its way toward San Isidro where earlier that year, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo had been ousted as president of the Filipino republic. On Oct. 19, Ray led a 12-Soldier detachment toward the town ahead of the main force. He was to report any enemy activity.
As Ray’s team wandered into an area a few miles from San Isidro, it encountered about 200 Filipino insurgents at the Rio Grande de la Pampanga, the second largest tributary on the island of Luzon and one the Americans needed to cross to reach their objective. When Ray observed Filipino soldiers removing planks from the narrow bridge in order to slow any American advance, he made the decision not to await orders and poured all efforts into capturing the bridge. After sending one of his scouts back to request reinforcements, one account of the day states, “Ray led his scouts in a mad dash for the bridge.”
The opposing force fired on the small group of Americans, wounding three of them. Ray ordered those hit by bullets to stay back. One Soldier, Pvt. Charles Pierce, refused and proceeded with the scouts to the bridge where they began crossing it via its horizontal support beams. The scouts valiantly held the bridge for more than an hour before the main force arrived to drive away the insurgents. The bridge was saved from demolition and I Company was able to proceed safely to San Isidro.
For their actions, both Ray and Pierce were awarded the Medal of Honor. Ray received his medal by mail in Democrat, N.C., where he was living in 1902. Ray experienced hardships throughout the rest of his time in the Philippines. He contracted malaria after his action near San Isidro. Upon rejoining his unit, he was captured by insurgents who beat and stabbed him, inflicting wounds that would eventually result in the loss of his left arm. He retired from the Army in December 1900.
Ray and his wife, Myrtle, had eight children. Ray died at the age of 87 on March 23, 1959, in Grandfield, Okla.
Knowledge sustainment is a key tenet of today’s Army. That notion is not only harbored by the NCOs that are part of the Project Warrior program at the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, or AMEDDC&S, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, it is practiced on another level.
The program is geared toward taking battle-experienced Soldiers and putting them in positions where they can pass on the insights and knowledge they’ve gleaned from combat training centers, or CTCs, to benefit Army schools as well as the rest of the force. One vital component to foster this learning is the Lessons Learned program, a compilation of reviews and research that helps provide combat health service support on the battlefield.
Project Warrior, which was introduced in 1989, garnered the spotlight again in May 2013 when the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, announced its re-establishment in an effort to infuse the force with seasoned officers who had completed rotations as an observer, coach and trainer, or OCT, at a combat training center.
Though, the program had previously been largely suspended throughout several Army disciplines because of the operational requirements of Iraq and Afghanistan, it never stopped at Fort Sam Houston, where up to 42 AMEDDC&S NCOs at a time have continued honing the skills necessary for success in the highly technical world of Army medicine.
“We haven’t stopped in the NCO realm,” said Master Sgt. Mike Eldred, the senior enlisted advisor for AMEDDC&S’s Center for Pre-Deployment Medicine. “In the rest of the Army, they’re re-establishing. But we’ve been doing it the whole time.
“When the rest of the Army stopped their programs, AMEDD decided to keep it, because it was beneficial for the way ahead into the future for 2020-type Soldiers,” he said. “They would learn and be able to apply those lessons learned and those insights that they’ve gained from their peers that have been gone that could be applied to training down here.”
Evolving with changing times
The precursor to the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School was established in 1920 at Carlisle Barracks, Pa. For more than 25 years, the Medical Field Service School developed medical equipment and doctrine for the battlefield before having its mission transferred to Fort Sam Houston in 1946.
The school underwent significant changes in structure throughout the years while incorporating the functions of the Army Medical Department. In July 1991, the Army surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Frank F. Ledford Jr., established the AMEDDC&S and in 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure process co-located a large portion of enlisted technical medical training (the Army’s, Air Force’s and Navy’s) at Fort Sam Houston.
Project Warrior, which has had a presence at the post since the mid- ’90s, has been a vital part in helping Soldiers evolve with constantly changing tactics and technology, Eldred said, ensuring AMEDDC&S can meet its mission to “envision, design and train a premier military medical force for full spectrum operations in support of our Nation.”
“Basically, what we’re doing with the program is we’re taking experienced Soldiers who have already taken a little bit of ‘baptism by fire,’” Eldred said. “They’ve been out there in a combat zone or in some significant training events that really set them apart as experienced Soldiers. We draw them in through a voluntary program. We go out and advertise and recruit. Once we bring them in, they go to the CTCs. They basically get those big wrinkles knocked off; their tactical and strategic skills are refined. Then they come here for two years and start to spread that higher education and are better able to articulate the needs of advanced training.”
Building a Project Warrior
The process of developing a Project Warrior is relatively the same for both officers and NCOs.
In the case of AMEDDC&S NCOs — most of whom are Army MOS 68W health care specialists — Soldiers who are identified as candidates and pass review from the program’s command sergeant major serve a 24-month assignment at a combat training center such as the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. Upon completion of their rotation, they are assigned to positions at Fort Sam Houston and Fort Rucker, Ala., where they can make the biggest impact and dispense the knowledge they’ve accrued.
“The CSMs have been very good with the Project Warriors when [the program’s graduates] PCS,” said Master Sgt. Michael Cluette, the former AMEDDC&S Project Warrior program manager and current AMEDD Flight Paramedic Program NCOIC. “They don’t send them in a downward spiral. What I mean is while they were at the CTCs, they were a platoon sergeant trainer and they were training platoon sergeants how to be better at what they do. So when they come here after they’ve learned and start pushing these tactics through doctrine and everything else, the last thing you want to do is take this guy and put him back as a platoon sergeant or as an aid-station NCOIC. You want him to continue forward with his knowledge.
“A lot of times, they’ll look to try to get [Project Warrior graduates] into those brigade positions or somewhere with a higher position, if possible. Sometimes it may not be possible, and that’s just where the cards may fall. But their knowledge won’t be lost, because it’s like a virus. If I teach my 38 soldiers in my platoon what I know, as they grow up, they’re going to take their knowledge and spread it. So it just festers like a virus.”
To ensure knowledge sustainment and adaptability, Cluette said, Project Warrior candidates must be well-rounded and not focused on one role of care.
“We don’t want somebody who has only been in a CSH (combat support hospital). We don’t want somebody who has only been mechanized,” Cluette said. “We need to get that soldier and that medic who has diversified and not just somebody who is in that tunnel.”
The diversification proves helpful in tying together the multiple medical assets on a battlefield, knowing their respective expectations and how those assets work together.
“At that training event — when they get to teach somebody and they’re coaching them at the CTCs — they have to be able to talk to them at a strategic level and say, ‘Look, when you do your piece here and when you look forward, you’ve got to know what that next guy is going to do for you and provide for you,’” Cluette said. “You’re going to have to link, ‘Well once it gets there, he’s going to have to go here.’ And you have to know what’s on that battlefield to do that.”
“It’s not just tactics or strategy. It’s also equipment,” Eldred said. “So we have people that go evaluate new equipment. They assist these highly experienced Soldiers who are going out and actually fielding this equipment. They’re testing it and seeing what the future of equipment in the Army is. But also, if there’s a problem with equipment out in the field, we capture that, bring it back and help them make modifications to the current equipment or change a set kit and outfit so what we give to Soldiers and the units is better.”
A synergy of information
Once Project Warrior NCOs are in place, they have proved to be able teachers, an invaluable source of knowledge and a vital asset for officers, Eldred said.
“[The Project Warrior Soldier] knows what that team needs in order to accomplish the mission,” Eldred said. “They’re helping an officer see what their needs are. We, as NCOs, teach those individuals and teams. We understand that mentality. So if you’re only pushing officers through this program, you’re only going to get an oversight, you’re only going to get the planning aspect, you’re only going to get the overall project idea. But if you get the NCOs injected in there, like we are now, then you’re giving the rest of the project or program a perspective of what it takes to get the individual and the team trained. They put it in the ‘Blue Book,’” he said referring to the key job that NCOs perform. “This is what we do; we do drills. That’s what we’re still doing. It’s just that now, this is a highly refined level of how to do drills.”
But one of the important facets of Project Warrior is that it is not a license for top-down training approaches. It is cooperative learning with all Army branches at its best.
“We really don’t dictate to anybody or give orders on anything,” Cluette said. “It’s more of the teaching, coaching and mentoring of our peers, and even some of the seniors that are here who ask us questions. We have Project Warriors who teach [Basic Officer Leadership Course], who teach the Captains Career Course. We have senior NCOs who influence those officers. So it’s a strategic-level oversight that we’re trying to influence and not just at the squad-level or company level. We’re trying to do that broad strategic planning kind of thing to where we can get that information out.”
And getting information out is critical in the domain of Army health care, where mere minutes can make an enormous difference in the outcome of tending to an injured Soldier.
“We’re so technically heavy,” Eldred said. “When you’re talking about a program of instruction like we have in the 68W training that covers things like anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, the Tactical Combat Casualty Care course — all those things and we have to get certification for emergency medical technician. It’s a very intense amount of training and knowledge base that they already have to have. So if we don’t front-load that information (through Project Warrior) as far as tactics and strategy, they never ever get it. They just get focused on just the technical aspect. That was a problem in the old Army. We had leaders who were coming up with no strategic and tactical knowledge because all they did was just technical. So we’re trying to overcome that and get these guys past that level and widen their knowledge base.”
‘You’re keeping people informed’
The resurgence of the Project Warrior program Armywide comes during a lull in the near constant deployments that have been a fixture throughout the past 13 years. As the Army shifts focus away from Iraq and Afghanistan, Eldred and Cluette said, it is a prime time to get a firm grasp on lessons learned during the past decade and prepare to apply them to future conflicts.
“The different platforms for lessons learned are expanding. We’re trying to reach the individual,” Eldred said. “We’ve been able to assist in creating programs like the BCT3 (Brigade Combat Team Trauma Training course), which is a mandatory train-up for all 68Ws before they deploy. So the combat medic gets this training because of Project Warrior’s influence. Down the road, we want to put a lot of the lessons learned straight from the field — not just into the manuals that people sometimes read — but into training at the lowest level. We’re trying to inject that information and keep people relevant, keep their tactics and their concept of combat relevant.
“The future is mobility and flexibility,” Eldred said.
Ensuring that an eye is fixed keenly on the future will pay dividends for the Army’s future Soldiers, Cluette says.
“I think the CTCs are going to be very advantageous to all the brigade combat teams,” he said. “This time around was a COIN fight; the next time around, we might be back in a linear battlefield. These Project Warriors are going to be those guys who learn how to do the strategic linear battlefield. But we’re going to be gone. So as we phase out, those younger Project Warriors are going to have to pick up that knowledge and be able to push that out. There’s so much that we do, medically, to support the warfighter that the Project Warriors have a wider, strategic grasp on then, say, maybe one of the Soldiers down in the trenches. The Project Warriors just understand it better. And that’s why we’ve pulled them in to teach that at the CTCs to teach that.”
Adds Eldred: “If you’ve ever read The 360-Degree Leader, it’s this great book on leading from the middle. That’s what this is. It’s teaching people laterally, not just vertically. You’re keeping people informed. If someone has a tactical or a strategic question, they come to us. They come to a Project Warrior.”
MONROVIA, Liberia — When Sgt. 1st Class Shawnte Reynolds first walked down the dusty lanes at Edward Binyah Kesselly barracks, Liberian soldiers offered only stares and double-takes.
Amid a four-month tour mentoring the Armed Forces of Liberia, Reynolds, 39, of Flint, Mich., has returned to soldiering basics, with hopes of having male AFL troops understand her role as senior noncommissioned officer — and more importantly, have them respect women serving among their own ranks.
An administration NCO from U.S. Africa Command, Reynolds is the first female Soldier to take part in the Liberia Security Sector Reform program, a U.S. State Department-led effort to help build leadership capacity within Liberia’s military — a force recently reestablished after years of civil war.
“My being here shows the men in the AFL that females are senior NCOs and how I understand leadership,” Reynolds said. “They now see that I have a wealth of knowledge to share.”
Sometimes Reynolds shares advice for routine challenges any army might face; accountability, pay issues, family problems and the need for equipment and food.
“This is just the beginning,” Reynolds said, during an interview in late-April. “But every small step means something.”
Still, male soldiers among Liberia’s ranks are slowly adjusting to women in leadership roles. Only a handful of Liberian women serve in the AFL. Most of the women work in administration, while others are mechanics or musicians. So far, only two Liberian women serve as NCOs.
Part of the problem, Reynolds found, was that new female soldiers lacked discipline and pride. Reynolds worked with female AFL soldiers to make sure the women kept their appearance and uniforms neat. She stressed the importance for them to adhere to military schedules and complete their assigned tasks.
“The females now understand that they have to pull their own weight,”
Reynolds said. “By keeping their end of the bargain, they gain the respect they deserve.”
Another part of the problem was cultural, Reynolds said. The men in the Army are not accustomed to women being in charge. To help, Reynolds spends time with them, sharing ideas from her nearly two decades of experience in the U.S. military.
“Now, it doesn’t matter that I’m female. They know I bring experience to the table and how I can help,” Reynolds said. “Now, I walk down the road and they see me as an NCO.”
Armies in several African nations are in the early stages of integrating females into their defense forces. To do this successfully, they have turned to U.S. Army Africa for help.
USARAF has previously hosted gender-integration workshops in Botswana and Namibia. Soldiers attended the classes to discern what issues need to be addressed before their can recruit females into its enlisted ranks. Those efforts set the stage for a week-long gender integration seminar this summer involving seven African nations.
Male and female leaders and representatives from Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Zambia, as well as from the United States and the United Nations, gathered June 23 — 27 in Windhoek, Namibia, for the first Regional Gender Mainstreaming Seminar to share ideas and best practices.
“There are some African countries that are much more forward than others [in the process of integrating females into their forces]. That’s why it’s important that we have the conference, so that these nations can share,” said Sgt. Maj. Carolina Johnson, USARAF’s equal opportunity sergeant major and one of the main organizers for the event. “Because maybe, when they look at America, they think, ‘You’re the great Westerners with all the money. Of course you do well.’ But when they hear from other countries [in Africa] that have some of the same struggles, some of the same cultural challenges, and see how they move forward, I think that has a great impact.”
Progress is slow, and culture is hard to change, Johnson said. But with perseverance and strong leadership support, she said she is confident milestones can be reached.
“Our NCOs should learn about our own history,” Johnson said. “All of these challenges that these countries are facing, they were once our challenges as well. They are traveling the same road we traveled, with some of the same struggles. We’ve been there. Brig. Gen. Peter Corey (USARAF’s deputy commanding general) spoke about how some of the same things they are dealing with now we were dealing with in the 1800s, and about how valuable females have proven themselves to be in the U.S. Army.”
Though the majority of nations that participated in the seminar do not yet have enlisted females within their forces or utilize NCOs to their full capacity, country leaders have expressed their desire for improvement in those areas. Johnson said her presence during the workshops and the presence of U.S. female NCOs at the seminar were key in setting an example and demonstrating the manner in which the United States utilizes NCOs and empowers females.
“U.S. NCOs should take to heart these situations in other countries,” Johnson said. “They need to take advantage of all the programs we have in the U.S. that these countries are striving to attain. If somebody needs help, there are resources available to us, but oftentimes enlisted Soldiers don’t know about the programs. NCOs should be making sure every Soldier knows about the resources available to them – locally and Armywide – because sometimes you need to reach out beyond your command. NCOs should know that it’s up to them to continue to push our Army forward. Somebody has worked to get us to where we are as NCOs, and it is now our responsibility to move the Army forward.”
Working in Botswana
Michelle Gavin, the United States’ ambassador to Botswana, expressed her support for the changes taking place in Botswana. She said cultural change has not been, and will never be, an easy path – not in the United States, Botswana, nor any other nation.
“Barriers restraining women’s ability to add value to an organization remain in place only to the detriment of that organization,” she said. “It is common sense to use your entire pool of talent to build the strongest possible organization. Passion to serve is not tied to whether you are a man or woman. It is what is in your heart; it is in your commitment to country, and it is in the talents you bring to the fight. On these measures, men and women walk the same path.”
The Botswana Defence Force was established in 1977 and began recruiting female officers in 2008. Most soldiers were supportive of the idea of females in the force, but the transition was not easy, Johnson said.
“They said when [females] showed up, they didn’t know what to do with them,” she said. “Some of the ladies had master’s degrees in intel and other areas, but they didn’t know how to use them, because they were stuck on the female role within society – my girlfriend, my secretary, my coffee-maker. And so those were the roles that women assumed in the BDF. Now, I think they are all at that point where the females think, ‘I came here to be a soldier, to add value to the defense force. I’m nobody’s “girl.” Don’t call me “sister.” Respect me as the officer that I am.’”
The first workshop came about after the BDF’s deputy commander, Maj. Gen. Placid Segokgo, sought assistance from Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahue, USARAF’s commanding general at the time, to integrate enlisted females into the BDF. In response to this request, Johnson and Col. Sara Simmons, USARAF’s G-1 director, taught a workshop in the spring of 2013 to about 35 BDF soldiers, both male and female, to discuss their concerns and figure out what the United States could do to help make the integration of females there a success.
“The females who were [in the workshop] were very interested, and they were all ready for total integration, even in the combat units. They’re ready to go forward,” Simmons said. “It was great to be a part of something that is so much bigger than yourself.”
The group of lieutenants – BDF NCOs were not included in the workshops, as they are not yet utilized as leaders – came up with 15 initiatives they felt would help their defense force move forward. They broke into groups to discuss different topics, analyze strengths and weaknesses, and come up with courses of action. At the end of the workshop, each group briefed BDF leadership on their initiatives.
“We really helped them to articulate it and made sure they looked at resources as well, because oftentimes, we want great ideas, but we don’t consider the resources that it really will take to implement the initiative,” Johnson said. “When we left, everybody was motivated. The leadership had been briefed. This is going to be implemented; it’s going to help with women integration; it’s going to give them fair opportunities for promotion and to excel within the defense force.”
Unfortunately, after Johnson and Simmons left, not much progress was immediately made. The two remained in contact with the group, asking, “Are you moving forward? Are you implementing any of these things? Are you writing these policies?” They received little feedback.
“Of course the females want it, but they don’t have the power or authority to make it happen,” Johnson said. “I think their top leadership wants this as well, but the middle management is not so committed. And middle management is where it really needs to happen for change to take place.”
Segokgo requested a second workshop, in the hope of spurring better progress. During the second trip in September 2013, Simmons and Johnson asked the group to choose their top three initiatives from the 15 they had previously identified.
The initiative they decided was most critical was the development of a fair physical fitness test. Without a fair test, they knew they could never expect fair promotions. Another initiative they chose was the establishment of fair housing policies. If soldiers are not able to obtain housing on-post – often the case if they do not have children – they are given very little money for off-post accommodations.
The BDF soldiers said they have to be able to live decently. They don’t want nine soldiers living in a house together, or their soldiers living in the “slums.”
The third initiative involved recruiting and retention. The BDF struggles with matching skill sets to job requirements, Johnson said.
“When they set up the recruiting process, they mimicked the Indian army,” she said. “They literally took it and changed the name. They didn’t craft it to fit their concepts. So what you saw is that they recruited this person with this skill set, but the job required a different skill set.”
The BDF lieutenants requested a revision of the requirements so that they could recruit individuals with the skill sets that were actually needed. Simmons and Johnson helped the group as they began to craft new policies.
Progress continues slowly in Botswana, but within the last year, small victories can be noted, Johnson said. Some of the females who participated in the workshops have been promoted with waivers until issues with the physical fitness test can be resolved, and the country has sent its first female soldier to the Defence Command and Staff College in Gaborone, Botswana.
Based on funding, training and housing, Botswana is not yet ready to bring enlisted females into the force, Johnson said. Through USARAF’s workshops, the BDF was able to identify some of the main roadblocks standing in the way of that goal. Now it is up to the leadership and middle management to make the changes happen, she said.
The sharing of ideas
As word spread about USARAF’s gender-integration work in Botswana and the similar workshops being conducted in Namibia, several countries in the region expressed interest. To facilitate the sharing of ideas between these nations, USARAF organized a conference. Seven countries were invited, all of which participated. Botswana sent two officers – one of them a female who had participated in the previous workshops – to the first Regional Gender Mainstreaming Seminar in Namibia.
Several countries had key leaders in attendance, and all of them had leaders there who are in a position to influence positive change in their defense forces – positive change for both NCOs and females. In almost all participating nations, enlisted soldiers are not yet involved in decision-making processes. However, in addition to the United States sending female NCOs to the seminar, Malawi sent its highest ranking enlisted female, Warrant Officer I Linda Chikondi, whose rank is the Malawi Defense Force’s equivalent of a U.S. Army sergeant major. Chikondi graduated first in her class in April from Africa’s first NCO academy in Salima, Malawi, and is now an instructor at the school. Johnson said it set a high bar for many nations as they observed Chikondi and saw the success other militaries are experiencing in the area of gender mainstreaming.
“So when they see countries like Zambia, Namibia and Malawi, they are given hope,” Johnson said. “The sharing of information is how culture can be mended. [Participants] see how women have proved themselves in other forces. Culture is difficult to change, but seeing other countries in Africa succeed shows others how it impacts mission readiness, and that the change didn’t cause a whole culture to be lost.”
Guest speakers from each participating country discussed their nation’s assessments, challenges and best practices. Topics included housing, training and recruiting, pregnancy, women’s health issues, and sexual assault.
Speakers from the Pentagon, United Nations, African Union and Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Africa Program based in Washington, D.C., helped facilitate discussions, and Brig. Gen. Corey expressed the U.S. Army’s dedication to support African partners in their effort to integrate females into their forces.
“This Regional Gender Mainstreaming Seminar is directly related to the global effort to educate, promote and support gender awareness. Patriotism and national loyalty are not felt by men alone,” Corey said.
Johnson said the workshops and seminar support U.S. Army Africa’s mission to help Africans help themselves.
“The diversity and inclusion of females in the defense force maximizes and capitalizes on different skills, attributes, experiences and backgrounds that further enhance the defense force’s capabilities and contribute to an adaptive, culturally astute force,” she said.
“After the conference, I could see that enthusiasm had spread. I think it started a lot of dialogue. It is difficult to measure the return on the investment because so many different countries are involved, but they are all now talking about the way ahead.”
‘Their challenges were once our own’
The topics addressed at the conference all centered on equality and fairness. Maternity leave and maternity uniforms were issues for many countries, and views on pregnancy ranged from one extreme to the other: Some viewed it as a part of life and recognized the need for policies to accommodate pregnant females. Others expressed a belief that pregnancy is a liability, the reason females shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the military. Some voiced the concern that females use pregnancy as a crutch to get away with doing what they want.
Johnson said she was surprised at first that topics such as pregnancy took such a spotlight in the discussion. But she said she soon remembered that the United States went through the same process, and that it has been difficult to change our culture as well.
Females in the United States have come from having to enlist disguised as men during the Civil War to serving today as respected four-star generals. And though the U.S. has come far in granting equal respect to both sexes, the process of integrating females into combat arms military occupational specialties is still underway.
There are always going to be challenges, Johnson said, but the United States continues to make gender integration a priority for its own forces. She said she hopes the U.S. Army can continue to help African partner nations learn from our history and our progress.
“Many of the countries have equal opportunity policies, [even some] that mimic the United States’. But they don’t implement them,” she said. “The great challenge is enforcing the policies. Middle managers are key; they supervise and manage the lower army. They are the future. The future army depends on how they shape the personnel below them. They are the ones who implement the policies. Just like a sergeant first class in our Army, how he teaches, coaches and mentors a staff sergeant, a specialist, an E-5 and an E-4, that is the future.”
Johnson said working with African nations on gender mainstreaming issues has been both frustrating and enlightening.
“I am upset about the challenges women still experience,” she said. “I had to come to the reality that it is quite different from America. Here in our Army, we have clear policies and regulations about equitability, fairness. But there is no recourse for them. If I feel I am discriminated against, I have options. If she does, there is nothing she can do about it, and that is their frustration.”
Tucked into rural Wisconsin, neighboring Amish farms and a few small towns is an NCO academy quietly going about the business of creating the future NCO leaders for the U.S. Army Reserve.
Serving mostly U.S. Army Reserve and Active Guard Reserve Soldiers, the Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell NCO Academy at Fort McCoy, Wis., may not be the most well-known of the Army’s 34 NCO academies, but the leaders there are determined to make it one of the best.
Sgt. Daniel Mcgee, a 37F psychological operations specialist with the 318th Psychological Operations Company, an Army Reserve unit in St. Louis, Mo., said the Warrior Leader Course at the academy was helping him reset and get in the proper mindset for an NCO.
“This course has really opened my eyes to things I’ve been doing wrong as a leader, or things I didn’t know before,” Mcgee said. “For example, we are being taught how to properly write a recommendation for an award, and what exactly an NCO should be to his or her junior Soldiers. I have already, in six days of classes, learned a lot of things that I’m doing wrong, and a lot of things that I’m doing right, and how to adjust to fix those things I’m doing wrong. It’s like a reset. You get so used to coming in one weekend a month that you forget a lot of those small things that they go over in basic training, and you learn about, but you don’t really completely understand them.”
Though active-duty Army Soldiers, as well as Active Guard Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, attend classes at Fort McCoy NCO Academy, the majority of the students are part of the Army Reserve, while all of the instructors are part of the Active Guard Reserve.
Serving and instructing Soldiers in the Army Reserve presents bonuses and challenges to the academy. One of the bonuses is the variety of talent and skills that Reserve Soldiers bring from their civilian careers.
“Reserve NCOs come with two identities,”said 1st Sgt. Reginald Jefferson, the first sergeant of the academy. “They have professional lives in the civilian sector. When they bring their experience in the civilian sector, incorporating that with their military instruction, it brings real life to the training that they receive. They can share those experiences with their classmates. It helps develop the Soldier 360 degrees. By a Reserve Soldier having a civilian profession, they give added value to their training.”
The various skill sets can add up to some unique solutions to military problems, Mcgee said.
“An advantage of having people who work in the civilian world is that you have people from a bunch of different backgrounds with expertise in different things — from financial planning, to carpentry, to corrections officers, police officers, just a multitude of different backgrounds,” Mcgee said. “You bring all that together, and it really helps you as a unit to think outside the box for ways to achieve things.”
Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Stevens, a senior small group leader at the academy, said he stresses to the students who come through that they should use their different and varied skills to the advantage of the team and the Army.
“One of the best things about the Reserves is that you can take all of these different experiences and bring them all to the table, so you have a more dynamic unit once you build that cohesion with the group,” Stevens said. “Everybody shares their own experiences. I stress to them to come together as a team and help the group, because not everybody is going to be at that tactical level. But at the same time, the tactical guys aren’t going to know the paperwork. There are so many different aspects to being a quality noncommissioned officer that you can’t just pinpoint one. You have to know the whole spectrum.”
And that military training can have a positive effect on a Soldier’s civilian career, as well, said Sgt. David Frasher, a WLC student and a 92Y supply sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 334th regiment, an Army Reserve unit in Milwaukee, Wis. Frasher is a corrections officer at a county jail in his civilian career.
“A lot of the values that the Army gives us really follow over into my civilian job,” Frasher said. “Basically, what I’m doing as a corrections officer is leading inmates’ day-to-day lives. In that, you kind of become a mentor to them. Not every person who goes to jail is bad, necessarily. You take a lot of what you learn as an NCO to that profession.”
But putting on the Army uniform only a few times a month has its disadvantages, as well.
“The Reserve Soldiers do not perform their military functions as often as they would like, because of their civilian careers, but leaders within the Army Reserve ensure their Soldiers are properly trained.” Jefferson said.
Stevens said that it can take Reserve Soldiers a little extra time to get back in the swing of things.“Sometimes you have to reinforce or reinstate some of the standards that you would think wouldn’t even be thought of, just muscle memory, but for the most part, after they get their mind right, they are good to go,” Stevens said.
As he went through WLC, Sgt. Anthony Sejaan, a 91H track vehicle repairer with the 402nd Cyber Company, an Army Reserve unit in Des Moines, Iowa, said his fellow Reserve Soldiers helped him and others get past some of the Army basics they had fallen behind on or forgotten during their time away from Soldier life.
“Sometimes it won’t come back to me,” Sejaan said. “Like, when we were doing drill and ceremony this week, I could not remember the rear march, something I haven’t done since basic training. I had to watch someone three or four times until it came back to me, because I don’t do that on a regular basis.”
Students who come to the school have to “flip the switch” and jump into their Soldier role after spending time in their civilian role, said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Boyles, the WLC course manager at the academy.
“The biggest challenge I see is, they don’t wear the uniform every day,” Boyles said. “So though they might be a CEO in the civilian world, when they come here, they are not that same authority figure. Or they might be a squad leader here, but in the civilian world, they work for someone else and have no authority. A majority of the time, their civilian professions are totally different from their Army profession. Because they don’t wear the uniform every day, they may not get the chance to practice everything that is required to be a leader of Soldiers.”
Because of limited personnel, Reserve and Active Guard Reserve Soldiers are called on to fill many roles. So a Reserve Soldier can be asked to be an expert in a variety of areas, said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Jenkins, an Advanced Leader Course-Common Core facilitator at the academy. Being an ALC facilitator may be his main duty, but he takes on a lot more. (Editor’s note: As of Oct. 1, the Army has transitioned from ALC-CC to Structured Self-Development II.)
“Four of the additional duties I have are: Master Resiliency Trainer, the unit prevention leader, the public affairs/social media officer, and also the operational security manager,” Jenkins said. “Those four things allow me to cover down on those silos whenever the Army requires.”
Staff Sgt. Derrick Randle, a senior supply sergeant with the 319th Expeditionary Signal Battalion out of Sacramento, Calif., was at the academy taking the Battle Staff NCO Course. He said the need to step into many roles meant Reserve Soldiers have to ignore the Army axiom to “stay in your lane.”
“Some of the Reserve units do a lot of work because they are understaffed,” Randle said. “In the active component, you have 100 people in your company every day. At a Reserve unit, our staff is about 10 people. Only on the weekend is when you have those 100 people. You still have physical training. You still have to meet those demands of the U.S. Army. You still have to meet every training demand that active duty meets, and you have to do it in half the time. You have to apply yourself that much more.
“You can’t just be in your lane, doing supply,” Randle said. “I have to do a little bit of admin. I have to do a little bit of training. You have to be well-versed in every field. It teaches you that. Coming into the Reserves, you can’t just stay in your lane. You have to get inside of everybody’s lane, so that you can make sure that we all work together to get to our common goal.”
NCOs who lead these once-a-month Reserve Soldiers still have to stay involved with their Soldiers’ lives and problems. So these NCOs use a variety of methods, both modern and time-tested, to stay in touch with their Soldiers and make sure missions get accomplished.
Master Sgt. Jeremy Nixon, a 38B civil affairs specialist with the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion, a Reserve unit in Grand Prairie, Texas, was at the academy attending the Battle Staff course. He said being an NCO for Reserve Soldiers involves staying in contact as much as possible.
“The Army wants you to be responsible for your Soldiers all the time, whether you’re on-duty or not,” Nixon said. “We always make sure that, even though we don’t see them every day, we are still in contact with our Soldiers, whether it’s to remind them about certain things coming up for drill or battle assembly, or maybe just because you want to make sure that things are going OK for them.”
As a Reserve NCO, you may have Soldiers spread out over a large distance, Stevens said.
“When I was an Army Reserve Platoon Sergeant, I had Soldiers from four different states,” Stevens said. “It’s a big challenge to contact and show your genuine concern for your Soldiers because you are just calling them on the phone and not having that [in-person] contact. Being a platoon sergeant, a squad leader, something like that, at a Reserve unit, you really have to show your genuine care for your Soldiers and show them the proper way to do things with the time you do have with them.”
Because it can be difficult to keep up with Army requirements when putting on the uniform only once a month, it’s important to also provide your Soldiers with a plan of action, Jenkins said.
“You have to provide that mentorship and let them know that they have to stay physically fit, competent in their duties, always be in a state of ready to deploy,” Jenkins said. “And it’s not just a matter of telling them that, because anyone can tell you that. You have to give them a course of action and make sure they understand they have to stick with the course of action in order to always be at the ready.”
Randle said he uses modern technology to make sure he stays connected with his Soldiers.
“A Soldier may not check his Army email, but they will check their Facebook,” Randle said. “So you have to get involved with things that interest them. We text them. We use apps where they have to show they ran or exercised.”
And when that once-a-month weekend comes around, NCOs have to be well-organized, prepared and professional.
“When they come in on the weekend, those two days are critical,” Randle said. “You have to use those two days well. You have to put out all the information they need to know, so that by the time they leave, you have everything you need from them, and they have all the information that they needed to know. You have to be well-prepared when that weekend comes. As an NCO, you have to be on your game when it comes to your Soldiers, otherwise it will fall by the wayside.”
A new barracks was constructed this year at the academy that can house up to 244 students. Students in the academy’s Battle Staff NCO Course, Small Group Instructor Course and Army Basic Instructor Course will fill the barracks while classes are in session. A new project to build a dining facility within the multi-acre academy has begun, which will allow the academy to be totally self-sufficient and reduce student requirements to leave the campus, Jefferson said.
“At this facility, we have the ability to train 160 WLC students at any given time, as well as 64 Battle Staff students,” Jefferson said. “We have some state-of-the-art facilities for our Soldiers. Our newly built barracks provides the academy with 122 additional rooms to house Soldiers. They are two-man rooms, so we can house 244 Battle Staff Course, Army Basic Instructor Course and Small Group Instructor Course students. In a separate facility, we are able to house 160 Warrior Leader Course students. We have state-of-the-art Internet connections here. The amount of funding that the Department of Defense has allocated for this institution is unbelievable, but well worth it as we prepare tomorrow’s leaders to take on the responsibility of our nation’s defense.”
The academy, which falls under the command of the 83rd U.S. Army Reserve Readiness Training Center at Fort Knox, Ky., is busy creating the next generation of Army leaders, Jefferson said.
“The very first day that these Soldiers walk through the door, they are perceived to be tomorrow’s leaders,” Jefferson said. “On the very last day, I will classify them as today’s leaders. What I would like to instill in them is professionalism and to build true leaders of Soldiers. I want them to understand that our country will always be at war at sometime or other, so they need to remain tactically and technically proficient at all times.”
Cpl. Danny Eng, an 88M motor transport operator in the 724th Transportation Company, an Army Reserve unit in Bartonville, Ill., said as soon as he arrived at the academy, he felt the importance and respect of being one of “tomorrow’s leaders” that Jefferson spoke about.
“The overall atmosphere here is good,” Eng said. “It’s really nice to feel like you are respected for your rank and what they are training you to become. I feel like [the instructors and staff] are easily approachable. They are very knowledgeable. They highly motivate the students.”
Sejaan said the academy’s WLC was exceeding his expectations.
“Coming into it, I thought it was just going to be a ‘check-the-block’ Army training. But I came here, and I’m actually learning a lot about leadership,” Sejaan said. “[Drill and Ceremony] has always been a problem for me. But luckily, I had a lot of Soldiers in my class who helped me, so I passed it, no problem. The Army writing style was another tough point for me. I overthought it; it’s a lot simpler than I thought it was. We’re learning a lot of leadership skills. They put you in random leadership positions on different days, just to see how you can handle it.”
The academy is working hard to make sure young Soldiers know the right way to do things in the Army, Boyles said.
“We teach them leadership,” Boyles said. “We teach them what right looks like. We teach them how the Army is supposed to operate, as opposed to how people think the Army operates. We teach tactical, technical proficiencies and the relentless pursuit of excellence.
“We’re changing the Army one Soldier at a time, not just the Reserves, but the Reserves, National Guard and active duty. We receive all components,” Boyles said.
Leading, teaching and mentoring Soldiers is what every NCO academy is about, and the NCOs of the Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell NCO Academy are proud of the work they are doing, every day, to make sure NCO leadership stays strong.
Staff Sgt. April Lucas, a team leader for ALC-Common Core distributed learning at the academy, said the academy’s work is being noticed by active duty, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers.
“We’re strong NCOs,” Lucas said. “We have strong leadership. We cover down and take care of each other, and that’s what I love about being here at the NCO academy. It’s a symbol that NCOs can maintain. We’re the strong backbone of the Army, and we’re running this academy.”
The official magazine of noncommissioned officer professional development