USASMA begins work on new Master Leader Course

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

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

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

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

Filling the gap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Developing the course

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ammunition specialists keep warriors’ weapons stocked

BY JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

A U.S. Army unit can have the biggest and baddest guns, grenade launchers and tanks, but without a steady supply of ammunition, all those weapons won’t do Soldiers a bit of good. That’s where the NCOs trained as 89B ammunition specialists come in.

Much of that training, especially for Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, happens at Fort McCoy, Wis., where, last year, instructors taught seven classes of about 25 students each the ins and outs of ammunition control and supply.

The 89B course at Fort McCoy is taught in two, 14-day phases. Because Reserve and National Guard Soldiers have civilian careers and responsibilities to get back to, those Soldiers taking both phases go for 28 straight days, with no days off. There’s no such thing as a weekend at this school.

The 89B course manager at Fort McCoy, Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Dobitz, said the training and learning they pack into those 28 days is impressive.

“Active-duty Soldiers would probably be surprised at the level of training we give to our Soldiers,” Dobitz said. “We really put the time and effort into getting the material across. The biggest challenge is that our people are older, they’ve got a civilian job they have to worry about, they have a family they have to worry about, and then they come out here for a month, from all over the country. But when they leave here, I’m confident they can do this job.”

VARIETY OF TRAINING

There are a surprising number of skills — from forklift driving to hooking up sling loads onto helicopters — that ammunition specialists must master to do their jobs safely and effectively. One of the first things students are required to do is memorize all of the different types of ammunition used by the Army and be able to name each by sight.

Staff Sgt. Justin Creswell, left, and 89B course instructor at Fort McCoy, Wis., helps Spc. Scott Harris tie a girth hitch with an extra turn to connect a transmission line to the main line before a demolition blast. The class spent the day at a demolition range learning how to safely do demolition blasts. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)
Staff Sgt. Justin Creswell, left, an 89B course instructor at Fort McCoy, Wis., helps Spc. Scott Harris tie a girth hitch with an extra turn to connect a transmission line to the main line before a demolition blast. The class spent the day at a demolition range learning how to safely do demolition blasts. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

“You have to be able to identify all these rounds,” Dobitz said. “Artillery is probably the biggest one that we do; mortars are kind of in with that. Then there are hand grenades, mines, rockets, pyrotechnics and demolition material. Memorizing all that is probably the biggest concern with the students. We always get a few who panic over that, so usually after class, I’ll stay for a couple of hours and show them how I tried to memorize them.”

In addition to classroom work, the ammunition specialist course at Fort McCoy uses three ranges to complete instruction: a demolition range, a sling load range and a firefighting range.

“If there is a fire at an ammunition supply point (ASP), you don’t always have enough fire extinguishers,” Dobitz said. “It can spread so fast that we actually teach them how to fight it by hand. We go down to the fire range, break out some straw and burn it, and they have to put it out.”

At the sling load range, Army Reserve pilots from B Company, 7-158 Aviation Regiment, fly up helicopters for two days from Olathe, Kansas, and students get to practice hooking up sling loads to the helicopters during both day- and night-time training.

Then, there is every NCO’s favorite: blowing stuff up at the demolition field. The students spend a day out in the field learning how to safely set off different charges.

“We do a big chunk of demo just because it’s so dangerous, and they have to be able to set this stuff up themselves,” Dobitz said.

Perhaps less exciting, but no less important, is the training on how to drive a forklift. Much of the way ammunition moves is by forklift, Dobitz said.

“We teach them how to operate forklifts, how to PMCS (perform preventive maintenance checks and services) them, because once they are an 89B, they’re in the forklift a lot,” Dobitz said. “We try to give them as much ‘stick time’ as we possibly can. Although our bay can only hold 8, we carry 12 forklifts at a time because they break down quite a bit, especially with students using them. Students don’t necessarily know how to operate them real well, so they make mistakes. So the forklifts are in for repair quite often.

“We also use this building, especially in the winter, to do what’s called preservation packaging,” Dobitz said. “That’s where we teach the students how to re-purpose old ammo boxes. They re-paint them and re-stencil them.”

The class even uses Wisconsin’s brutal winter weather as a teaching tool, showing students how to keep ammunition stored safely for the long-term, no matter the weather.

“Dealing with weather is part of it, so we teach them that when these ammo boxes deteriorate, you have to get those rounds out of there and into a different box,” Dobitz said. “The ASP here turns in every piece of wood there is, and the Army repurposes it all.”

CHALLENGES OF RESERVE AND NATIONAL GUARD

All of the students in the 89B course at Fort McCoy are noncommissioned officers who are re-classing. They are almost all Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, though a few active-duty Soldiers have taken the course.

Sgt. 1st Class Jeanne Ondrejka, an 89B course instructor, teaches students about the blasting cap initiators and transmission lines that will be used to set off a blast. The hands-on instruction helps calm nerves before the blast, Ondrejka said. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class Jeanne Ondrejka, an 89B course instructor, teaches students about the blasting cap initiators and transmission lines that will be used to set off a blast. The hands-on instruction helps calm nerves before the blast, Ondrejka said. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

Sgt. 1st Class Sheniko Taylor of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 50th Regional Support Group, Florida Army National Guard, traveled to Wisconsin for the course when she needed to re-class after her unit was reorganized. She was a 42A human resources specialist during her entire Army career and was a little nervous upon getting her first, up-close look at the combat side.

“Now, I get to see a whole different side and see how valuable 89Bs are to war missions,” Taylor said. “Before I got here, I was really nervous because I didn’t know what to expect, what we were going to be doing, what the class dynamic would be. I really didn’t think there would be a lot of females in this [military occupational specialty], so it was great when I got here to see that it is diverse. It’s not all males; there are females in the MOS, so that makes it better.”

Taylor said some of her nervousness vanished as soon as she met the instructor for her course, Sgt. 1st Class Jeanne Ondrejka.

“For me, to see Sgt. Ondrejka up there, to see a female in this MOS, it let me know it’s going to be all right,” Taylor said. “She can do it; I can do it. So from a female perspective, to see another female teaching this MOS is awesome.”

Ondrejka said her main challenge is being able to teach students like Taylor, who have no experience, as well as those who do have experience. She said her goal as an instructor is to pass along her knowledge before she retires from the Army.

“I try to make this class as real-world as possible,” Ondrejka said. “In Phase 2, we get out and do forklift operations, move ammunition around and document all the paperwork that needs to be done to maintain stock-control records.”

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hagen of Joint Force Headquarters, Nebraska Army National Guard, had been a 92G food service specialist until he saw an 89B opening in a unit getting ready to deploy. That’s when he decided to give it a shot.

To show the power of blasting caps, and the need for safety around them, 89B course instructors blew up some fruit with blasting caps at the end of the day at the demolition field at Fort McCoy, Wis. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)
To show the power of blasting caps, and the need for safety around them, 89B course instructors blew up some fruit with blasting caps at the end of the day at the demolition field at Fort McCoy, Wis. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

“The first couple days, it was a lot of information,” he said. “I was actually quite surprised. I didn’t realize how much there was out there to learn. It’s very interesting. It’s been one of the most interesting schools I’ve attended in my 21 years in the Army.

“The history stuff has been fascinating,” he said. “They go back as far as how the first grenade was made — which dates back to the Chinese — and then how things progressed through the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and II, and how it’s developed to modern day. It’s a good history lesson on how it expanded through the years.”

One of the most difficult things about training in an MOS like 89B in the National Guard and Reserve is the amount of time that can go by between a Soldier’s training and when that Soldier actually has to do the job in the field. After the course, a Reserve Soldier might go several years without handling ammunition, when suddenly his unit is called to deploy and he has to be on-point as the subject-matter expert.

“You don’t get a waiver to say, ‘Well, I haven’t used this in a year and a half,’” Hagen said. “You’re here. You hold the MOS. You’re required to know it. Let’s go.”

The instructors of the class attempt to ease that burden by making sure students know they can always call back to Fort McCoy for help, Dobitz said.

“We tell our students that they can contact us anytime and we will help them,” he said. “We just got a phone call a week ago. We had a student who was running an ASP for his unit, and they had issues. He knew the answer, but he couldn’t find it in the manual to show his lieutenant. So all three instructors, we stayed late that night, found what he needed in the manual, and took a picture of it and sent it to his smartphone. We know that there are challenges for the Guard and Reserve because they don’t do this every day. We try to be their support channel if they need it. I’ll probably have the same cellphone number for the rest of my life and still be getting calls when I’m 90 years old asking about this stuff.”

IMPORTANCE TO THE ARMY

Finding quality NCOs who can re-class into being an ammunition specialist is imperative to the Army’s mission, Ondrejka said.

“89B is in high demand in the military,” she said. “You can’t fight without ordnance. It’s an 89B who is issuing, maintaining and receiving ammunition to support the combat front lines.”

Though there are a variety of duties required of ammunition specialists, Soldiers usually only see the work done at their local ASP, Dobitz said.

“Those in the 89B MOS, we actually control the ASPs,” he said. “We’re the ones who get the Soldiers their bullets, their mortar rounds, their artillery rounds. And people don’t always use all their ammunition, so they bring it back and we re-package it, re-condition it and get it ready to issue out again.”

Just like NCOs are called the backbone of the Army, Hagen called ammunition specialists the backbone of the combat mission.

“You are crippled without them,” he said. “It’s kind of like the whole logistics field. If you don’t have the backbone, you’re crippled wherever you are.”

At a Fort McCoy, Wis., demolition range, students in the 89B ammunition specialist course watch a powder bag fire from a 105mm HE round. The students were learning how to dispose of the black powder after it's turned into an ammunition supply point. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)
At a Fort McCoy, Wis., demolition range, students in the 89B ammunition specialist course watch a powder bag fire from a 105mm HE round. The students were learning how to dispose of the black powder after it’s turned into an ammunition supply point. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

HRC: New NCOER to ‘help shape Army across the board’

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

The recent overhaul of the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report will help identify the next leaders of the Army by ensuring that NCOs meet requirements before they are given greater responsibility, said officials at U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky. Ultimately, the new NCOER — which will transition from a one-size-fits-all report to one based on the NCO’s rank — will offer Army officials a better tool in determining which Soldiers to place in key assignments.

Plans call for the Army to transition from one NCOER to three separate reports for NCOs of different ranks. The new NCOER, which is due to roll out in September 2015, will also feature new responsibilities for raters and senior raters.

“We need to align [the NCOER] with current doctrine,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III after addressing students in August at the U. S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, shortly after NCOER changes were announced. “We should be measuring people against what we say leaders should be, know and do. … [New control measures] may be part of the solution, but it’s really going to be about noncommissioned officers upholding a standard to define what means success, failure or excellence.”

“With new control measures, everyone cannot receive a 1/1 (exemplary rating) anymore,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Charles E. Smith, the command sergeant major of HRC. “It’s also going to help shape the Army across the board because when promotion boards and senior leaders are looking at those files to pick the next future leader of the Army, there will be a clearer distinction between who is among the best.”

Reviewing the old NCOER

The Army began a review in 2010 of the NCOER, which has been in place since 1987. Army leadership wanted to align what they saw as an aging and “over-inflated” NCOER with current leadership doctrine. The goal was to establish and enforce accountability among raters, and determine whether the one-size-fits-all approach of the old NCOER was still appropriate.

Army feedback on the current NCOER, lessons learned from it and comments from centralized selection boards − which noted the difficulty in identifying the very best in the Army for promotions or key assignments − were among the factors that helped contribute to the development of the new NCOER, said Sgt. Maj. Stephen J. McDermid, the sergeant major of HRC’s Evaluation Systems Branch.

The new noncommissioned officer evaluation report, which is due to roll out in September 2015, will transition from one to three separate reports for NCOs of different ranks. The new NCOER will also feature new responsibilities for raters and senior raters. (Photo by U.S. Army)
The new Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report, which is due to roll out in September 2015, will transition from one to three separate reports for NCOs of different ranks. The new NCOER will also feature new responsibilities for raters and senior raters. (Photo by U.S. Army)

“The bottom line is it’s going to force rating officials to identify the very best, because centralized selection board comments have noted the difficulty that, when everybody’s file looks the same, it makes it really hard to know for sure that you’re picking the right individuals,” McDermid said.

Change was due for the “highly inflated” evaluations of the previous NCOER, McDermid said. Approximately 90 percent of all senior NCOs were basically rated as being among the best in the Army with a 1/1 box check, which is the best possible assessment, he said.

“It was very difficult for the Army, selection boards and career branch managers to identify the best talent [with the previous NCOER],” he said.

Transitioning from one to three reports helps establish the differences between junior and senior NCOs while allowing the assessment to focus on grade-specific technical performance objectives, McDermid said. The new NCOER also delineates official rating roles and responsibilities: Raters are to focus only on performance while senior raters are to address the NCO’s potential. The idea is to eliminate the inconsistent ratings often found with the current NCOER.

“[The advantage of the new NCOER for NCOs is] it’s going to level the playing field and ensure fairness across the board,” McDermid said. “Right now, we have a system where there is no accountability for the rating officials. … If raters use [DA Pamphlet 623-3], it clearly identifies, particularly for the senior rater, what those assessments mean and stand for. With a highly inflated system, everybody feels they must have a 1 in order to be competitive. But the reality is that a 1 should only be used for those truly deserving NCOs who have demonstrated the potential to serve at a higher grade or responsibility.”

Big changes ahead

Another key change of the new NCOER is that support forms will require senior raters to counsel NCOs twice, at a minimum, during the rating period. But despite the changes on the horizon, rating officials don’t need to change their rating philosophies until the new NCOER is implemented, McDermid said.

In moving to a senior rater profile, it becomes even more “critical that [the senior rater] sit down, counsel and mentor that rated NCO,” he said.

The counseling sessions will force rating officials to sit down with NCOs to make sure that the expectations laid out by leaders are followed through and that the NCOs stay on track, Smith said. Additional responsibility will also be placed on the rated NCO to set a goal for that rating period and to achieve it.

“[NCOs will then hear raters say], ‘If you want to remain competitive, if you want to be a future leader in the Army, you’ll have to do the things that are going to get you there,” Smith said. “You have to stay proficient in your core competencies. You have to go to school to improve yourself. You have to continue to improve on your physical fitness. All those things that have been laid out for years, those things are really going to come to the forefront because now not everybody is going to receive a 1/1 [rating]. This is going to force leaders and Soldiers to strap up their boot laces and really get after it every day.”

In order to ease the transition to the new NCOER, mobile teams will begin training in April at HRC at Fort Knox. Once completed, mobile training teams will then instruct trainers throughout the Army in May. Those trainers will then return to their installations, and they will train their assigned units and personnel from June through August 2015 in time for the rollout of the new NCOER in September.

“During this time, when we start to roll out and we start training and bringing out mobile training teams to different organizations, it is critical that senior leaders at all levels in the Army are really engaged in this process so that we can properly train the entire Army,” Smith said. “The people who should be putting a lot of emphasis on it are the senior leaders, because if we don’t get this right, we can [adversely] affect some Soldiers’ careers in the long run.”

Establishing and enforcing accountability for rating officials will be paramount in eliminating rating inflation in the evaluation system, officials say.

“Leveling the playing field and making sure that everyone plays by the same rules will create fairness across the board,” McDermid said.

“[The current NCOER] is outdated and highly inflated,” he said. “NCOs must understand the move toward [establishing] the accountability of the rating official, which will ensure that we provide accurate assessments because … not everybody is a 1 [rating],” he said. “When we talk about a culture change, we’re talking about a significant emotional impact on the NCO Corps once the new NCOER is implemented.”

▪▪▪

 

Key changes in the new NCOER

Secretary of the Army John McHugh approved the following revisions to the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report on Aug. 1, 2014. The changes apply to all components: active, Reserve and National Guard. Use of the new NCOER is due to begin in September 2015.

  • Three NCOER forms aligned with Army leadership doctrine (Army Doctrine Publication 6-22)

▪ Sergeant — will focus on proficiency and is developmental in nature

▪ Staff sergeant through first sergeant/master sergeant — will focus on organizational systems and processes

▪ Command sergeant major/sergeant major — strategic level report will focus on large organizations and strategic initiative

  • A rater tendency label or rating history for raters of staff sergeant through command sergeant major/sergeant major that will be imprinted on completed NCOER
  • A senior rater profile established for senior raters of staff sergeant through command sergeant major/sergeant major (managed at less than 50 percent in the “most qualified” selection)
  • Delineation of rating officials’ roles and responsibilities to eliminate inconsistent ratings

▪ Rater assesses performance

▪ Senior rater assesses potential

● Assessment format

▪ For raters:

▫ Bullet comments (for sergeant through first sergeant/master sergeant forms)

▫ Narrative comments (for the command sergeant major/sergeant major form)

▪ For senior raters, narrative comments for all forms

  • The senior rater willcounsel the rated NCO, at a minimum, twice during the rating period
  • A supplementary reviewer will be required in some situations where there are non-Army rating officials in the rating chain

Source: U.S. Army Human Resources Command Evaluation, Selections and Promotions Division, Evaluations Branch

Drill sergeant and ‘Rising Star’ winner to sing at White House

Army News Service

Sgt. Christiana Ball, the 2013 winner of Operation Rising Star, has been invited to participate in the music annual gala called “In Performance at the White House,” today. The event will be hosted by President Barack Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama.

Ball, a drill sergeant in the 787th Military Police Battalion, 14th Military Police Brigade, at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., outperformed 12 finalists from Army garrisons around the world and won the Army Entertainment’s annual Operation Rising Star competition, conducted by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command.

Sgt. Christiana Ball, a drill sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and the 2013 winner of Operation Rising Star, sings "God Bless America" during a Springfield Cardinals game in Springfield, Mo., in June 2014. She will cap off a year of performances with one at the White House on Nov. 6. (Photo by Michael Curtis)
Sgt. Christiana Ball, a drill sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and the 2013 winner of Operation Rising Star, sings “God Bless America” during a Springfield Cardinals game in Springfield, Mo., in June 2014. She will cap off a year of performances with one at the White House on Nov. 6. (Photo by Michael Curtis)

“I’ve had an unbelievable year as the winner of Op Rising Star. Singing at the White House will be a great honor,” Ball said. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to reach out and show my appreciation of my veteran brothers and sisters both past and present. Even in these stressful times, I’m focused on the idea that I get to be part of such a fantastic tribute.”

This year’s program “A Salute to the Troops: In Performance at the White House” will be a celebration of the men and women who serve the United States, featuring such nationally recognized acts as Mary J. Blige, John Fogerty and Willie Nelson, according to a White House press release. Grammy award winner Don Was will be the music director.

Ball said the White House program will be the pinnacle of a year full of memorable performances.

“Rising Star has already opened so many doors for me to perform in my Fort Leonard Wood community, as well as to sing for televised sporting events and military ceremonies,” Ball said. “I’m so grateful for having performed on national TV as a part of the Academy of Country Music Awards ‘Salute to the Troops,’ and I sang a duet with Lee Brice on his hit ‘I Drive Your Truck’ — a song which captures perfectly the emotion of a survivor working through their pain of loss and grief.”

The Army’s Operation Rising Star program gives active-duty Service members and family members a unique opportunity to entertain their comrades around the world, and fulfill their own personal musical ambitions. The competition starts at the garrison level, and finalists are chosen from among the local winners to compete at Joint Base San Antonio—Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

The 2014 competition is currently underway and the new Operation Rising Star winner will be selected in December. More information about Operation Rising Star can be found at www.OpRisingStar.com.

“I was invited to be a judge for Fort Leonard Wood’s [Operation Rising Star] this year,” Ball said. “So I have definitely been following this year’s competition and am very excited to see what talent ends up competing down in San Antonio for the finals this year.

“I’ve seen first-hand the positive effect that music has had and made on Soldier’s lives,” she said. “Programs like ‘In Performance’ give Soldiers a chance to get the recognition they deserve, and Operation Rising Star gives them an outlet and a chance to better themselves personally. It automatically makes for a more well-adjusted, purposeful and resilient Soldier.”

“In Performance” will be broadcast at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on Nov. 7 on PBS stations nationwide as part of their Arts Fall Festival. The program will also be available online at www.WhiteHouse.gov/live starting at 7:25 p.m. Eastern Time. The entire performance at the White House will also be broadcast on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, on the American Forces Network.

“When I perform, I look in the eyes of my audience and try to connect in a personal way,” Ball said. “What do I see? I guess it just depends. If I’m singing to my people in Fort Leonard Wood, I often see a lot of pride in their faces, and rightly so. I can’t wait to bring my voice now to an even wider audience. I’m representing the U.S. Army.”

Ball will soon complete her active-duty contract and plans on joining the Missouri National Guard.

“I’ve created a band of my own now and have been performing as much as my job allows me. Our plan is to take off and do as many shows as I can,” said Ball. “It will be an honor to have a chance work with the National Guard band, too. I can’t wait.”

The next SMA: ‘You just have to work hard, take the hard jobs and do the right things’

By MICHAEL L. LEWIS
NCO Journal

After 25 years as a Soldier and three years as the command sergeant major of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine command, the Army still managed to surprise Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Dailey last month when its chief of staff, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, told Dailey he had been chosen to become the 15th sergeant major of the Army. Dailey’s appointment to replace the office’s incumbent, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, was announced Monday and is expected to take effect at the end of January with Chandler’s retirement.

“I was extremely humbled,” Dailey said. “It’s really tough to realize that you would ever be selected for such a prestigious position that requires a great amount of responsibility and accountability to the Soldiers of the U.S. Army. I was surprised and shocked, but mostly I was humbled by the fact that the chief of staff of the Army has chosen me to represent Soldiers. But I tell people that anybody can be the sergeant major of the Army; you just have to work hard, take the hard jobs and do the right things.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Dailey, then the command sergeant major of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, stops by a checkpoint in Baghdad on Oct. 30, 2008, during his fourth combat deployment. It was announced Nov. 3 that Dailey will become the 15th sergeant major of the Army in January 2015. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)
Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Dailey, then the command sergeant major of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, stops by a checkpoint in Baghdad on Oct. 30, 2008, during his fourth combat deployment. It was announced Nov. 3 that Dailey will become the 15th sergeant major of the Army in January 2015. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)

Dailey, originally from the eastern Pennsylvania town of Palmerton, enlisted as an 11B infantryman in 1989. During his first assignment as a radio telephone operator and rifleman with 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, at Schweinfurt, Germany, he deployed to Saudi Arabia and Iraq in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Upon returning to Germany, he continued with the 1-15 as a team leader and as a commander’s gunner, and was soon promoted to sergeant.

“I attribute my success to great leadership at the start of my career,” Dailey said. “I had the best squad leader in the battalion — it was Staff Sgt. Davis — and he did everything he could to make sure we were brought up right. The first leader a Soldier has is critically important and sets the foundation of success for that Soldier. That’s why I say first-line leadership is the most important leadership the Army has.”

At his next assignment, as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle commander and battalion master gunner with 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, he rose to the rank of staff sergeant. In 1996, he spent 12 months with 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, at Camp Casey, South Korea, where he served as a section leader and was promoted to sergeant first class.

“I spent a lot of time taking the hard assignments,” Dailey said. “I always went where the Army told me to go — even when it was tough to leave your family and go to Korea, or to the other theaters of operation.”

After his tour in Korea, Dailey served as a Primary Leadership Development Course instructor and later as a platoon sergeant at Fort Stewart, Ga. During his time as an instructor, Dailey says he grew much as an NCO professional, which is why he recommends such work to all noncommissioned officers.

“The NCO of the future has to have a broad range of assignments,” Dailey said. “We’ve got to get out of the traditional mindset of staying in the operational domain. [NCOs] have to go out there and be a drill sergeant; they have to go out there and be an instructor. It builds subject-matter expertise and, in the end, is a payback to the organization while broadening the capabilities and skills of noncommissioned officers.”

In 2001, Dailey was reassigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Carson, Colo. There, he was promoted to first sergeant of C Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and later of the battalion’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, with whom he deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003 to 2004. He was a member of Class 54 of the Sergeants Major Course at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, in 2004 before returning to the 1-8 to serve as the battalion’s command sergeant major and again deploying to Iraq.

Gen. Robert W. Cone, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Dailey, TRADOC's command sergeant major, salute the colors as the flag is lowered during Dailey's welcome ceremony at Fort Eustis, Va., in December 2011. (Photo by Sgt. Angelica Golindano)
Gen. Robert W. Cone, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Dailey, TRADOC’s command sergeant major, salute the colors as the flag is lowered during Dailey’s welcome ceremony at Fort Eustis, Va., in December 2011. (Photo by Sgt. Angelica Golindano)

He was selected in 2007 to become the command sergeant major of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, with whom he deployed a fourth time from 2007 to 2009. In March 2009, he was selected as the 4th ID’s command sergeant major, serving also as the command sergeant major of Fort Carson and of U.S. Division–North in Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn during his fifth combat deployment.

He began his most recent assignment at TRADOC in December 2011. As the top enlisted leader at the command in charge of Soldiers’ professional development, Dailey said he has relied on his educational experiences to be successful.

“I always took my institutional education very seriously,” he said. “I always tried to do the best that I could and maintain focus on staying in the books. What I also attribute to my success was going to Ranger School. That’s a very, very good school that develops leaders and produces the type of Soldier that can sustain over time. Also, the Master Gunnery Course — in my field, it’s a very challenging course that a lot of noncommissioned officers stay away from. But that really helped me advance my career as a young, junior noncommissioned officer.

“I also always encourage noncommissioned officers to go out and get their civilian education,” said Dailey, who graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree from Excelsior University. “Though the NCO Education System will provide the fundamental skills necessary to perform NCOs’ duties and responsibilities, NCOs also have to be well-rounded, and college is going to give them that level of expertise. It’s definitely something that noncommissioned officers need to pursue on their own.”

Though he has not begun his tenure as the senior enlisted advisor to the chief of staff of the Army, Dailey said he will continue pushing forward the Army’s focus on leader development.

“I told the chief that I fully believe in his strategic priorities,” he said. “NCO 2020 really identified for us where we need to take the NCO Corps for 2025. We need to take a look at our curriculum and add rigor and relevance to the levels of NCOES. We need to do a better a job synchronizing our Structured Self-Development levels with the institutional training and experience they are supposed to complement. We’re getting ready to add another level of NCOES — there was always a gap at Skill Level 5 and master sergeant. We’re also looking to maximize the equivalency for accreditation for what Soldiers do in their MOSs and how that translates to civilian and academic equivalency.

Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Dailey
Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Dailey

“But overall, I think we are postured for success in the future. We have to make sure our noncommissioned officers realize that, in order to maintain the pace of staying ahead of our adversaries, we have to embrace change. Change is always going to occur, and sometimes it’s the toughest thing to do because it’s not how we’ve done things in the past. But if we want to stay ahead of the game, we’re going to have to continue changing.”

As he looks ahead toward being sworn in as the 15th sergeant major of the Army at a Pentagon ceremony Jan. 30, Dailey said he couldn’t be more proud of where the NCO Corps is and where it’s headed.

“We are heading into a world that is complex and we know the challenges we face in the future. But we remain the best NCO Corps in the world,” he said. “We’re going to be faced with challenges, and they’re going to be different. It’s going to continue to take sacrifice, as it does now. It’s not going to get any easier. But I think the future is bright for the noncommissioned officers of our Army.”

 

The sergeants major of the Army

  1. William O. Wooldridge July 1966–August 1968
  2. George W. Dunaway September 1968–September 1970
  3. Silas L. Copeland October 1970–June 1973
  4. Leon L. Van Autreve July 1973–June 1975
  5. William G. Bainbridge July 1975–June 1979
  6. William A. Connelly July 1979–June 1983
  7. Glen E. Morrell July 1983–July 1987
  8. Julius W. Gates July 1987–June 1991
  9. Richard A. Kidd July 1991–June 1995
  10. Gene C. McKinney July 1995–October 1997
  11. Robert E. Hall October 1997–June 2000
  12. Jack L. Tilley June 2000–January 2004
  13. Kenneth O. Preston January 2004—March 2011
  14. Raymond F. Chandler III March 2011—January 2015 (announced)