All posts by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Stadel

INCOPD needs input for “NCO 2020” survey

NCO JournalNCO 2020b

The Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development wants to hear from you. INCOPD has created an online survey, to seek NCO’s input on how to further enhance the current NCO Education System. NCOs in the ranks of sergeant through master sergeant will receive an email via their Army email accounts with instructions on how to complete the 30-minute survey. NCOs from active duty, Army Reserve and Army National Guard are being included and will be encouraged to participate in the voluntary survey.

“This survey is more important to NCOs,” said Aubrey Butts, INCOPD’s director. “However, it’s important to us so we can design their future. It’s important because we need to know when they train, where they train and if we are training on the right things. We can also reduce the redundancy in NCO training.”

INCOPD is examining what the Army, and its needs, will look like in the year 2020. They are hoping the NCO 2020 survey will help guide them during next seven years to build a solid and relevant NCOES structure and curriculum by 2020.

Although the survey is voluntary, INCOPD’s leadership highly encourages participation.

“This is an opportunity to be serious about what your concerns are and what you would like those influencing and shaping your development to know,” said Dan Hubbard, INCOPD’s deputy director. “If you don’t take the time—and it’s only about 30 to 40 minutes on average to do this­­­—then you’re kind of giving up your opportunity to give us what you think in order to help us shape what is important into the future.”

Both Hubbard and Butts are retired sergeants major.

Tammy Bankus is a senior instructional systems specialist at INCOPD and helped to develop and implement the survey. She said the survey will have questions about what NCOs should be learning at various points in their careers, the appropriate ranks at which they should be learning certain tasks and how the courses should be delivered (such as resident or online courses).

“We will ask very specific questions, on specific topics but we also give NCOs the opportunity to provide broad input with essay questions,” Bankus said. “They can tell us what they think about the training and how they liked the last NCOES course they attended, whether it was a resident course or distance learning.”

The NCO 2020 survey will allow NCOs to give feedback about three of the Army’s four resident NCOES schools: Warrior Leaders Course, Advanced Leaders Course and Senior Leaders Course. The Sergeant Major Course is not included in the survey.  Survey’s participants can also give their opinions on distance learning courses like ALC-Common Core and Structured Self Development.

“We also have some questions about distributed learning so we can see how many hours our Soldiers have to spend during the week to work on distributed learning on-duty and how many hours off-duty,” Bankus said. “What do they think about distributed learning? Having that data, we try to tap the institution, the unit and the self-development domain.”

INCOPD, whose mission is solely dedicated to NCO professional development, will share the results of the survey with the Army’s highest levels of leadership.

Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, chief of staff of the Army,  Gen. Robert Cone, commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III will carefully look at the survey’s results and provide input for the way ahead.

“I ask that each of you invest the time and thought to ensure your answers provide the Army’s senior leaders a clear vision of what you think the NCO of 2020 should be and what he or she will need to know and understand to meet the complexities of an uncertain security environment in 2020 and beyond,” Chandler said in an email to NCOs.

INCOPD’s sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Trefus Lee, said leaders need to encourage their NCOs to participate in the survey and to provide honest feedback.

“I just left a command sergeant major position four months ago,” Lee said. “Current battalion and brigade-level leaders need to get involved, making sure their NCOs are focused on this and getting involved in this survey. It’s key at the unit level that the leaders take the survey seriously and realize that it’s not just another survey to be put on the shelf. It’s going to help the senior Army leadership focus where we are going.”

Butts and his staff stressed that NCOs should also encourage their peers and subordinates to complete the survey because, he said, improving NCO professional development will improve the Army’s readiness.

“The main goal of INCOPD is to make sure NCOs have the knowledge, skills and ability to bring each and every one of those young people back home [from war],” Butts said.

INCOPD: Developing Army NCOs

NCO Journal


At the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, located at Fort Eustis, Va., there is one organization whose only mission in the Army is to work to improve the skill set, education and readiness of the U.S. Army noncommissioned officer: the Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development.

INCOPD stood up in September 2009 to provide direction and oversight of the NCO Education System throughout the Army. It functions in three divisions: Learning Integration, Learning Execution and Evaluation and Learning Innovations and Initiatives Division.

In late July, INCOPD welcomed a new director, Aubrey Butts when the institute’s previous, and first director, John Sparks retired.

Butts, a U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Class 46 graduate, retired as a command sergeant major in 2004 after 27 years on active duty. An infantryman for his entire career, he served 17 years in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.

“My transition was really easy, because this is one of the most competent staffs I’ve ever seen assembled,” Butts said. “Each one of them is uniquely qualified in their respective areas across the three divisions, and my deputy (Dan Hubbard) has just a wealth of history and knowledge that has guided me through the process and down the road of success.”

The staff at INCOPD said their success will come from doing what they can to provide direction and oversight to NCOES across the entire Army.

“What we do is integrate all actions and activities that are related to NCO leader development into the Army leader development strategy,” Sgt. Maj. Trefus Lee, INCOPD’s sergeant major said.  “We also serve as the subject-matter and NCO expert for Army leader development at [TRADOC].”

Though INCOPD is a part of TRADOC, it’s unique in that it is the only organization focused strictly on NCOs and their professional development.

“There are not too many organizations that are fortunate enough to have a clear-focused lane to operate in,” said Dan Hubbard, a retired sergeant major and INCOPD’s deputy director. “We listen to the NCO Corps, senior commanders and other stakeholders across the Army, as to what they visualize they need an NCO Corps to do.”

Hubbard served in the Army for 30 years and retired as a sergeant major in 2003. He was a USASMA Class 35 graduate and was recently inducted into the USASMA Hall of Honor for his contributions to the advancement of the education and training of the NCO Corps during his service on active duty and as a Department of the Army civilian.

Although there are many initiatives for INCOPD, Butts said its core mission is working to provide the best education and opportunities for NCOs at all levels.

“If we look to the future and what we think warfare may be, I have heard that we will continue to fight in small units. At the center of those formations will be young lieutenants and NCOs in the ranks of staff sergeant and sergeant first class,” Butts said. “However, at the strategic and operational levels, we have to make sure that we teach the skills needed for those NCOs who are master sergeants and sergeants major to be able to work in a joint environment and in multinational and interagency environments. We have to make sure we give those noncommissioned officers those skills to operate in volatile environments that are complex and ambiguous.”

Having served as an NCO for most of his career, Butts said he was eager to, in his position as the INCOPD director, be a part of some of Army’s NCO professional development, to include distance learning and Structured Self-Development.

“When I look at all the positions that I could possibly serve in, at any level, I don’t think I could be more satisfied with being the person that will work with the sergeant major of the Army and command sergeants majors in the field to figure out the needs of the Army for the most valuable asset in the Army, the noncommissioned officer, the backbone,” Butts said. “NCOs give the Army the framework and movement and all the muscle to make it move. And without that backbone, you really couldn’t make things work. So I think I have, at this point in time—with formations that are coming out of war, in a state of preparation—one of the most important jobs in the Army and one of the most important jobs is dealing with education. What we produce will determine how we will fight and what young men and women will endure on the battlefield for the next 50 years.”


Do you want input into the future education of NCOs? Well, INCOPD wants to hear from you. Check out the NCO Journal on Sept. 24 for instructions on how to complete INCOPD’s “NCOES 2020” survey so you can provide your experiences and help shape NCOES.

July 1996: U.S. Navy honors Army NCO

Compiled by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Stadel
NCO Journal

During a ceremony in July 1996, the United States Navy became part of U.S. Army noncommissioned officer history by paying homage to a decorated U.S. Army NCO.

Medal of Honor recipient Master Sgt. Gary Gordon was honored by the Navy on Independence Day in Newport News, Va., when a Navy roll-on/roll-off ship was christened the USNS Gordon.

USNS Gordon (Photo by U.S. Navy)
USNS Gordon (U.S. Navy photo)

During the naming ceremony, Gordon’s widow, Carmen, smashed a champagne bottle against the hull of the ship to officially name the vessel after her husband.

“This ship gives us faith that Gary’s spirit will go forward,” Carmen Gordon said to the more than 6,000 who attended the ceremony.  Then Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis Reimer was among those in attendance.

The USNS Gordon is still in service today.

Gordon, a member of the U.S. Army’s elite 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, colloquially know as “Delta Force,” was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993.

His actions were famously told in the book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War and in the movie Black Hawk Down.

Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart were providing sniper cover to a downed UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the air. They requested to be inserted near the downed helicopter to provide ground support to any surviving crew members. Both Gordon and Shughart were killed in action and were each posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

The Navy also honored Shughart by naming a ship after him.

Some information for this story was taken from the Daily Press article “USNS Gordon Good to Go,” written by Daily Press staff writer L.A. Finneran, July 5, 1996.

NCO promotions will be linked to SSD

NCO Journal

Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh released Army Directive 2013-15 on July 1, which established Army policies that link completion of structured self-development (SSD) and professional military education courses with promotion under a newly defined “select-train-promote” methodology. The directive applies to Active Army, Army National Guard and the Army Reserve.

Effective January 1, 2014, specialists and corporals cannot be promotable until they complete SSD-1. Soldiers are automatically enrolled into SSD-1 upon completion of initial entry training. The directive outlines the differences between all Army components.

In the Active Army and Army Reserve, specialists and corporals will be eligible for the promotion board to sergeant once they complete SSD-1. In the Army National Guard, they must complete SSD-1 before attaining eligibility for promotion against a valid promotion vacancy.

Also taking effect January 1, commanders will no longer have the ability to waive the Warrior Leader Course requirement prior to a sergeant being promoted to staff sergeant. In the past, if circumstances allowed (deployment, etc.), commanders could allow promotable sergeants, who hadn’t yet completed WLC, to advance in rank and grade to staff sergeant with a waiver, provided the newly promoted staff sergeant would successfully complete WLC after redeploying. That authority has been rescinded. Now every sergeant, in each componet, must complete WLC prior to being promoted to staff sergeant.

The Army Directive also said all staff sergeants must complete SSD-3 to attain eligibility for promotion consideration to sergeant first class. In addition, all sergeants first class must complete SSD-4 before they are considered eligible for selection to master sergeant.

To learn more about SSD click →here.

Click here → ad2013_15 to download Army Directive 2013-15.

Toolkit: Dealing with the media

NCO Journal

In every conflict since the Revolutionary War, members of the media have been present on the battlefield documenting American servicemembers on the front lines. During World War II for example, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal was embedded with the U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima when he snapped the iconic photo of five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the Stars and Stripes on Mount Surabachi. During the Vietnam War, reporter Joe Galloway was alongside Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division and then famously told the story of their fight in the la Drang Valley in Vietnam.

Modern wars are no different. In the early 1990s, media members reported from Baghdad during Operation Desert Storm and were with Army units when U.S. forces crossed into Iraq in 2003. Even today, there is media embedded with units on patrol in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Brett Perry and former Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta, who received the Medal of Honor in 2010, are interviewed by WGN radio in Chicago in December 2010. (Photo by Master Sgt. Alberto Betancourt)
Staff Sgt. Brett Perry and former Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta, who received the Medal of Honor in 2010, are interviewed by WGN radio in Chicago in December 2010. (Photo by Master Sgt. Alberto Betancourt)

Because the Army’s public affairs branch is small, public affairs officers and NCOs cannot be assigned to each media member embedded on the battlefield. That’s why it’s important for all NCOs to prepare their Soldiers to deal with the media.

“Preparing for a media event should be no different than any other task we do as Soldiers,” said Sgt. Maj. Kanessa Trent, U.S. Army Pacific Command’s public affairs sergeant major. “Dealing with the media requires thorough preparation. It is important to consider who the interviewer or media representative is and the story he or she intends to tell. It’s also important to know who the intended audience is and the story that you want to tell. Taking time to establish that in your mind before speaking to the media ensures that you, as the subject-matter expert, remain in control of the interview.”

The media will tell their stories with or without the help of Soldiers on the ground, Trent said. To make sure the media gets the facts correct; NCOs need to make sure their Soldiers only talk about what they know. 

“Don’t allow yourself to speculate about something that you’re not at liberty to discuss,” she said. “Stay in your lane and tell the truth. Follow those rules when interacting with the media and you can’t go wrong.”

When an event happens that media will want to cover, it’s important to get the correct information out to the public. That starts with Soldiers and NCOs on the ground.

“Releasing as much information as we have quickly is critical to maintaining credibility with the public,” Trent said. “Withholding information only serves to feed those who believe we have something to cover up. Our fundamental practice is maximum disclosure with minimum delay while ensuring the information is as accurate as we know. Of course, the facts will change quickly as more details become available. So providing constant and consistent updates is absolutely necessary, otherwise the Army’s credibility is once again deeply scrutinized.”

Trent added that a well-prepared NCO conducting an interview with a civilian press outlet has the ability to challenge any incorrect information or unwarranted negative coverage but should always be mindful of operational security measures as a top priority.

“No matter how quick we are with the truth or how quickly the truth we’ve released is trumped with additional facts as more is learned, there will always be those who want to portray the news negatively,” she said. “The Army can’t concern itself with the small portion of the media that might wish to twist information to meet their agenda. Being honest, candid and forthright with what we know — even and especially when we’ve made a mistake — is what is necessary to maintain trust with the American public.”


Media tips

Here are some more tips to for dealing with the media that are taught by Army Public Affairs:

  • If you don’t want to talk to the media, you don’t have to. But there are some definite benefits to telling the Army story. The American people are the military’s biggest supporters; by talking to media and getting the word out to them, you build credibility for both the Army and your unit.
  • Remember to always maintain operations security. You can still give general information, but avoid any specifics such as times, unit or equipment numbers, and locations, anything that could give the enemy an advantage and place troops in danger.
  • Always give factual information and avoid speculating. It is OK to say you don’t know the answer to a question.  But avoid the phrase “no comment,” as it makes it seem like you’re hiding something.
  • It’s best to only discuss things you have direct responsibility for or have personal knowledge of. It keeps you out of trouble and makes you sound more intelligent.
  • Feel free to give your opinion, but be aware you are representing the military while in uniform. Don’t talk bad about the chain of command or push political or social issues.
  • There is no such thing as “off the record.” Even when you’re joking around during a card game, everything you say can be published You don’t need to be paranoid, just be mindful.
  • Keep things rated PG-13. Your words will go out to the general public, so you need to make sure your language doesn’t offend and that your description of things is not too graphic.
  • When being interviewed on camera, make sure you present yourself as a professional. That means no chewing tobacco, cigarettes, gum, uniform infractions or general sloppiness. You represent the Army.
  • Avoid jargon, slang and acronyms — anything the general public wouldn’t understand.
  • Above all, be respectful. You are a direct reflection of the Army, your unit and the Soldiers around you. Do them proud.

Sgt. Edward Garibay, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, contributed to this story.