David Crozier is a retired Public Affairs NCO who has spent the last 18 years as a writer/editor/photojournalist both in the civilian market and the Department of Defense. Prior to his assignment as the Command Communications Specialist for the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy in 2013, he spent 10 years as the managing editor and editor of the NCO Journal Magazine, the only military magazine devoted to the NCO Corps.
By Danielle O’Donnell NCO Leadership Center of Excellence, Public Affairs Office
THERE was a day, before the advent of the A-bomb and its more destructive offspring, before smart bombs and nerve gas, before computer technology and war games, when professional soldiers regarded reading history as a useful pastime. Many who have scaled the peaks of the military profession have testified to the utility of studying military history.
Most of these, however, seem to be commanding voices out of the past.
Jay Luvas, Military History: Is It Still Practicable?
The NCO Leadership Center of Excellence believes history is practicable and has created a website through the Office of the Historian to receive written or recorded contributions from all service members, past and present, to tell their NCO story.
“A profession which started more than 200 years ago, has progressed over time,” Dr. Everett Dague, Command Historian, NCOL CoE said. “Today’s NCO knows more, trains more, and has more responsibility than any NCO in history.”
The purpose of the website, he said, is to collect information on the NCO profession over the years, then disseminate the information to the shared experience section of the website as a reliable resource after is has been analyzed and interpreted. Dague added that all contributions are categorized based off the six NCO Common Core competencies: Readiness, Leadership, Training Management, Communications, Operations, and Program Management. The website is an emerging product designed to provide leadership and mentorship, which can help develop, integrate and deliver training readiness throughout the NCO Corps.
“The Office of the Historian supports the NCOL CoE’s mission by collecting, analyzing, developing, interpreting and publishing NCO history,” he said.
“The idea behind this website is that it works for the NCO and works for us as we analyze and synthesize the information,” Dague said. “Through this process we can look at what the experiences have in common, what is unique to one and what is common to all. We are looking to draw out the commonality of the NCO experience and make it a part of the NCO definition.”
Once the information is analyzed it is disseminated into various sections on the shared experience page, it is broken down into four main categories: Courses, NCO Corps Military History, the NCO Profession, and Training. These categories are further broken down into subcategories, which help the service member find exactly what they are looking for.
“The idea is, if a Soldier is assigned to the Basic Leader Course or is going to teach at BLC, they would look in the main category of courses, then the subcategory of BLC. This is where they go and find out what common experience is out there from the NCO perspective,” Dague said. “However, in order to have this base of information we need everyone from corporal through sergeant major to tell us their story.”
Telling that story does not have to be only in written form said Sgt. Maj. Haywood Vines, senior NCO researcher.
“We will accept videos of NCOs telling their story,” Vines said. “We will determine where the recorded video falls when it comes to NCO CC. If you want to write, write. If you want to record your story on how to perform a barracks inspection on your Soldiers, tell us. This will help an NCO who has never performed an inspection and it will give them a place to start. This website is a resource to help the NCOs of the future.” `
The NCO profession provides, he said, is more than a technical understanding due to the recent changes in the professional military education for the NCO Corps.
“We are looking for the everyday life of the NCO,” Vines said. “An NCO can perform great in combat, [that] has been proven. It is the everyday life of taking care of Soldiers the NCOs struggle with. This is what we are interested in. We want our NCOs to use their critical thinking skills because we know some Soldiers will put NCOs in a predicament. How NCOs overcome these challenges is what we want NCOs to share.”
The website is created to help future NCOs learn valuable lessons obtained from experience. The history office is seeking pieces on all aspects of the NCO experience. If you have an experience you think will contribute to the identity, mission, understanding or professional development of your peers, or if you want to contribute to NCO history in general, be a part of history by telling your NCO story and providing leadership and mentorship for the NCOs of the past, present and future. For more information on making a submission go to https://ncolcoe.armylive.dodlive.mil/submit-your-story/.
With the passing of the unit colors during ceremonies held Feb. 1, at the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence, Command Sgt. Maj. David Lee assumed the responsibility of director of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy from Command Sgt. Maj. Nuuese Passi Jr.
Officiating the event, Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, commandant, accepted the Academy colors from Passi and handed them to Lee signifying the change of responsibility. With the ceremonial transfer of responsibility complete, Sellers addressed those in attendance.
“It’s always a great day in our Army when we can take time out of our schedules to recognize, and pay tribute to, Army professionals,” he said. “I can’t think of two NCOs who personify professionalism more than Command Sgt. Maj. Nuuese Passi and Command Sgt. Maj. David Lee.”
Lee, a member of cohort 1 of the USASMA Fellowship program, is the first Soldier to move from the platform to being director of USASMA.
“Lee’s rise is a testament to the NCOL CoE, USASMA and the fellowship program,” Sellers said. “We are producing smart educated leaders who come from a history of education and technical backgrounds.”
Sellers added the USASMA director position is now a part of the competitive process of within USASMA.
“The new broadening position as USASMA director will now serve as the foundation and framework for how future leaders are selected into the NCOl CoE,” Sellers said. “Command Sgt. Maj. Lee is a game-changer and an absolute right fit for the institution given our operational environment.”
Lee and his new deputy, Sgt. Maj. James Halchishick are now charged to effectively lead and manage the large portfolio of courses consisting of the Sergeants Major Course; resident and distance learning course; the Master Leader Course, resident and distance learning; the Spouse Leadership Development Course; and the Battle Staff NCO Course.
Sellers said, the command team at USASMA worked tirelessly prior to the change of responsibility ensuring the resident SMC receives accreditation under the academic governance of the Command and General Staff College, and also effectively transitioned the contract instructors to Department of the Army Civilians professionalizing the civilian instructor cohort. The team also codified and improved the instructor development and recognition, as well as the badging program raising the number of badged instructors from five to 64.
In making his farewell remarks, Passi thanked the leadership for the honor and privilege of being able to serve as the USASMA director. He went on to thank the staff and faculty for “the lessons in my development, for the grace, mercy for understanding, and the wisdom and humility. To the students, before we are deprived of your company, I would like to let you know you do matter, to the Army, this institution, and us more than we have ever said, or you will ever perceive.”
Concluding his remarks Passi addressed the support he and Gooden received from their wives.
“You took on many roles you didn’t ask for, but when you did, you did so with your own grace and compassion,” Passi said. “Thank you for your unconditional support.”
Lee said he was privileged to be chosen for this position.
“I attended this institution as a fellowship student (several) years ago,” he said. “This is not something I could have dreamed of. Success for me was defined by the people who I have had the enormous honor and privilege to serve with and learn from.”
Sellers said Lee becoming the new director of USASMA has proven all things are possible.
“He displays a strong understanding of the complexities associated with educating USASMA’s class 69 and beyond to meet the challenges NCOs will be faced with during large scale combat operations, while fighting in a multi-domain environment,” Sellers said.
Lee ensured all that he is there for them and understands he works for them.
“You have to remain approachable, available and accessible. I promise to do that for all of you,” he said.
Story and Photos by David Crozier, Command Communications
The students of Sergeants Major Course Class 69, who are in the Department of Professional Studies, were treated to a panel discussion November 6, on NCO Roles and Responsibilities. Command Sgt. Maj. (ret) Dave Stewart, from the Department of Force Management, facilitated the event. Panel members included Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, commandant, NCO Leadership Center of Excellence; Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Henry, deputy commandant, NCOL CoE; Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Barker, 5th Armored Brigade, First Army West; and Sgt. Maj. LaDerek Green, a facilitator in the Department of Command Leadership.
The session began with the showing of the video, “CSM/SGM Roles and Responsibilities – Leader Core Competencies” which intertwined the NCO Creed and the LCCs – Program Management, Operations, Readiness, Leadership, Communication, and Training Management – creating a correlation to NCO roles and responsibilities.
“That is probably not the first time you have seen that video or had a discussion on the NCO Creed,” Stewart said. “But what is an NCO?”
The question received several different answers ranging from mentor to standard bearer and Stewart agreed with them all saying there were similarities in everything they said, but there were some differences as well, and asked, “Why the difference?”
“We always refer back to the NCO Creed to determine what we should be doing in any given situation,” he said. “But when the LCCs were first brought out by the NCOL CoE it (helped us) define and codify those roles and responsibilities so we can have a shared understanding of what an NCO is.”
Stewart added the LCCs are not going to tell you to get up every morning at 5:00 a.m. and do certain things; they were derived to give NCOs their left and right limits.
“Good NCOs fill in the voids that a unit has, but by defining the leader core competencies what we are able to do is give you a minimum (level) of the things that you should have your hands in.”
The Leader Core Competencies are identity statements derived from the NCO Creed, Stewart said as he introduced the panel members who would discuss them and then take questions from the students.
Starting off the panel discussion Sellers said his role was to provide context and clarity about where the Army is going with NCO roles and responsibilities. For many years the Army trained using the Eight-Step Training Model at the battalion or leader level. The NCO Creed tells us what to do on a daily basis, but how do we measure the NCO Creed, he asked.
“We see the NCO Creed as the foundation of how we operate and the framework on how we build that foundation,” Sellers said. “The Leader Core Competencies came about in 2015, surfaced from this organization, because we were lacking in leadership skills, operations skills, program management skills, communication skills and training management skills. We needed to fill those gaps, so we created the LCCs.”
Inside of the NCO Professional Development System or outside of it, you are going to see the Leader Core Competencies, Sellers said. Starting with the Basic Leader Course all the way through to the Sergeants Major Course, it is the highest priority for each course.
“We are putting the ‘L’ back in leadership,” he said. “So, no matter what course you’re in you are going to know leadership the same way.”
Sellers continued saying the corps needs to figure out how to get involved in, and own, training.
“As sergeants major you really have to be involved (in training) regardless of what level you are at,” he said. “We put the onus and responsibility back on us… We need to do better as sergeants major in getting our roles and responsibilities straight and allow the commander to go his or her way and the sergeant major goes (his or her way) with the commander’s intent.”
Speaking to Soldier education Sellers said the corps needs to change the culture of a lack of fitness and a lack of education.
“We need to do a better job of educating our Soldiers where the Army is going in terms of education and training,” he said. “The Army Combat Fitness Test is our opportunity as senior leaders to change the fitness culture of the Army.”
Concluding his remarks Sellers said when you take the NCO Creed daily and break it down, this is where NCOs can have a lot of leverage and kind of “BE, KNOW, DO” and go out and effect change in your organization.
“This is not the one all, be all, of exactly how you accomplish your day in and day out,” Sellers said. “But it is the left and right limits of what you should be thinking about.”
Henry took on the topics of Leadership and Training Management.
“The biggest thing about leadership is presence,” he said. “Your presence is huge, and it starts with physical readiness training every morning.”
Henry said moral courage in leadership is important noting that as a sergeant major you are always being watched and should set the standard for appearance but should also have the moral courage to correct things you see that are wrong. Leadership is also executing enlisted talent management utilizing Soldier knowledge, skills and attributes.
“I always go back to the NCO Creed – ‘I will know my Soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own,’” Henry said. “As a battalion command sergeant major, I had a Team Leader Course, and on my own a Pre-Ranger Course. I had a squad leader put it together … because it was squad leader business.”
Speaking to mission command, Henry said he ties that in with developing agile and adaptive leaders because he looks at that as the heart of the NCO Creed.
“‘I will exercise initiative and take appropriate action in the absence of orders,’” he said. “It’s about taking and exercising discipline initiative in the absence of orders to be able to accomplish the mission you need to do. It’s huge to do that.”
The next subject Henry addressed was Training Management.
“I look at it as outcome-based; what is the outcome we need to get to within the training management process?” he said. “You have to eliminate training distractors because it goes to making sure you have a readiness posture.”
Sergeants major should collaborate efforts and resources to allow for cross-training and continuity, Henry said, recounting an operation Barker and he was involved in several years ago during a live fire exercise in Italy.
“We collaborated our efforts as battalion CSMs and with the brigade to meet the intent of the commander showing what we could do as an Army,” he said. “It was impressive.”
Henry concluded his discussion with verifying completed training using the tools provided by the Army, specifically the Digital Training Management System.
“You can either accept the difficulties of it and work within the confines or you can fight it,” he said. “I always choose to work with it because that is what the Army has said our system is, and it works. You just have to learn how to use it as a training tool.”
Barker took on the topics of Operations and Readiness.
“Competence is my watchword,” Baker said referring to the NCO Creed. “Competence is your credibility. If you are not competent, you have no credibility.”
Barker said that if you lack competence you should seek out those that do, people who have been there before.
“You have a great network here,” he said of Class 69. “Rely upon that network and gain competence.”
“My two basic responsibilities will always be uppermost in my mind – accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my Soldiers,” Barker read.
“That’s a big responsibility and they are kind of opposing each other,” he said. “We are in a dangerous business. So how can I accomplish my mission if my mission is to fight and win our nation’s wars?”
You know you are going to have Soldiers wounded and possibly killed by accomplishing the mission, “So what is more important? Accomplishment of my mission, right?” he said.
“What you don’t want to do, and what you cannot do as an NCO, and what you are responsible for, is having Soldiers not come back because you failed to train them,” Barker said. “It’s a huge responsibility we have as NCOs.”
Sergeants major need to understand their operational environment and learn where those gaps are, he said adding that sergeants major don’t have priorities, their commanders do.
“You need to utilize mission command to support those priorities,” he said. “You have to be able to see an opportunity and capitalize on it. Too often opportunities pass by because we are not looking.”
Sergeants major must extend the operational reach of the commander in all aspects.
“You are the trusted right arm of your commander. They will turn to you and trust what you will have to say,” he said. “Make sure you are not steering him or her wrongly and you are doing what is right for the organization.”
Someone smarter than himself, Barker said, once told him when you get to be a battalion or brigade command sergeant major, once you understand the operation pick two or three things that you want to change and hold those dear to accomplish those in the time you are there.
On training, Barker said that too often you go to a training event and focus on one task you want to train on – like squad live fire. So, we focus on squad movement. There are a lot of things that can tie into that.
“At the National Training Center, you will fall apart at the most basic level,” he said. “Don’t wait for the perfect time for the perfect event. There are opportunities out there to train.”
Last to speak was Green who addressed Program Management and Communication.
Beginning with Program Management piece Green said, Shape leaders through talent management efforts that grow NCOs through educational and training opportunities.
“How are we integrating Soldiers into our formations? How do we measure their ability to perform?” he asked. “Sergeants Major are critical to those programs that drive our formations.”
Green said to ensure programs are done properly sergeants major should integrate teams to optimize performance.
“We have programs that organizations must do like the command inspection program or the command supply discipline program,” he said. “How are we leveraging those teams? We need to train and educate our formations and assess the capabilities of your leaders and understand what these teams have to offer us.”
Speaking of Communication, Green said that sergeants major have a responsibility to communicate a commander’s vision and have a plan to ensure that vision is understood by all. In closing his remarks, he said knowing a unit’s history was important.
“Understand the history and heraldry of the unit and ensure your Soldiers understand it and know it,” he said. “Become stewards of your profession.”
Stewart told the students you don’t know where you are going to be five years from now. This information you received today is critical.
Sellers ended the discussion with some closing remarks noting that as a new battalion command sergeant major, he thought he had his left and right limits, but stumbled along the way. He said you must be engaged and part of that is showing up. “Don’t miss an opportunity to engage,” he added.
Sellers continued that sergeants major need to understand priorities and balance family, profession and free time to decompress and reenergize.
Sellers concluded, “This (LCCs) has nothing to do with doctrine. These are fundamental tasks of sergeants major and noncommissioned officers.”
The roles and responsibilities of noncommissioned officers and the Leader Core Competencies will be put into the next revision of the NCO Guide.
The NCO Leadership Center of Excellence recognized Ms. Betty Bradford, NCOL CoE Registrar December 14, for her contributions to the education, training and lineage of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps and NCO Education System by inducting her into The NCOL CoE Hall of Honor. Charles Guyette, Assistant Dean, U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, hosted the event along with Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy J. Sellers, commandant of the Center of Excellence.
“Today I have the honor of introducing the newest inductee into the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy and Noncommissioned Officer Leadership Center of Excellence Hall of Honor,” Guyette said. “We are the proponent for NCO History, so I am going to tie a little bit of history into my remarks.”
Guyette gave a brief history of Army education and training beginning with Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, the author of the Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States (The Blue Book) in 1778, to the establishment of the 2nd Constabulary Brigade’s NCO school in Munich Germany in 1947 and later the Seventh Army Noncommissioned Officers Academy, to ultimately the creation of the Sergeants Major Academy in 1972.
“In 1986 the academy made a significant and lasting investment when Ms. Betty Bradford was hired as a clerk typist,” he said. “She later served as a computer operator, evaluations clerk, academic records clerk, supervisory academic records technician and as the first to date and only Registrar in the history of this institution.”
Guyette then recounted all of her accomplishments during her 33 years of service saying she saw both evolutionary change in NCO Education and is a part of the revolutionary change of the NCO Professional Development System. He noted the other Hall of Honor inductees and said that Bradford certainly demonstrated she belongs as the 48th inductee.
Guyette continued noting the 27 NCO Professional Military Education programs of record supporting more than 250,000 Soldiers and NCOs. He asked those in the audience to raise their hands if they received a 1059 or diploma from a course this institution, which garnered nearly all hands being raised.
“Betty, that is a testament for what you have accomplished in this academy,” Guyette said. “Those hands are Soldiers you personally touched. Every 1059 is a Soldier.”
Guyette concluded his remarks by reading a letter of congratulations from former commandant and Hall of Honor inductee, Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Rory Malloy. He then turned the podium over to Sellers for the induction remarks.
“Today is a very historic day,” he said noting not only the Hall of Honor induction and Betty’s retirement after 33 years, but for all that is happening at the NCOL CoE – transition from SSD to DLC, work being started on the design of a new academy, and the pending accreditation of the USASMA. “Betty has left a tangible mark on our institution; 33 years of phenomenal work; everything that was mentioned earlier, she is the definition of revolutionary change.”
Sellers remarked that in a conversation with Betty she relayed to him that she has worked with 17 commandants over the years and that now he has the honor and displeasure of being the one who finally drove her to retirement.
“In 33 years, a lot of things has changed since Betty became a part of this organization,” he said. “For the past 18 months I have witnessed Ms. Bradford’s tireless efforts. She is committed to excellence. She is dedicated, a professional, selfless, very competent and is the subject matter expert on everything ATTRS and getting folks into school.”
Concluding his remarks, Sellers accompanied Bradford to the center of the stage for the unveiling of her Hall of Honor induction plaque. He then offered Bradford the podium to make a few remarks.
I am truly honored to be here today,” Bradford said. “The academy has been very good to me and I have been blessed many times over as a member of this organization.”
Bradford thanked her family for their support as well as her second family.
“All of you, my second family,” she said. “I love my job and will always be grateful to have touched so many lives, but to be touched by so many people in return.”
Bradford specifically recognized Jeanie Tapia, her co-worker for many of her 33 years and said she will miss being a part of a team and the comradery that goes with it but will enjoy her time now doing things she loves.
“I am truly humbled,” she said.
The NCO Leadership Center of Excellence Hall of Honor was established in May 2006, with the purpose of providing a highly visible and prestigious means of recognizing individuals who significantly contributed either to the Sergeants Major Academy or to the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System.
Inductees must have served meritoriously in a position of great responsibility and provided service distinguished by meritorious achievement and significant improvements, or enhancements, to existing programs or procedures.
Across the Army’s 33 NCO Academies facilitators, formerly known as instructors, are leading military education classes for Soldiers preparing to become noncommissioned officers and master sergeants. During the weekend of October 13-14, the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence held a competition to see who the best was at facilitating the Basic Leader Course and the Master leader Course.
“Each of these competitors were selected to represent their academy,” Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Simmons, director of NCO Professional Development and Education said. “They volunteered to be here.”
Simmons explained the competitors were selected to represent their academy through an arduous process that began at their academy and included a digital board conducted by members of the Center of Excellence.
Once selected, the competitors were tested over the two-day event on their physical fitness, their facilitation of a 20 minutes class using the Experiential Leaning Model, and their ability to answer a 5-essay test. A total of nine Soldiers competed in the inaugural event: Staff Sgts. Johnnie Ayala from the Fort Dix, New Jersey NCOA; Vanessa R. Carillo from the 7th Army NCOA in Germany; Jeremy S. Dodge from the Fort Indiantown Gap NCOA in Pennsylvania; Jimmee S. Laster from the Fort Bragg NCOA in North Carolina; Sgts. 1st Class Andre Mangual from the Fort Dix NCOA; Michael V. Davis from Joint Base Lewis-McChord NCOA in Washington; Master Sgts. Colbie T. Jackson from JBLM NCOA; Aaron L. Griffing from Fort Bragg NCOA; and Larry D. Foreman from Fort Dix NCOA.
The winners were announced during ceremonies October 15 at the NCOL CoE. Facilitator of the Year for the Basic Leader Course is Staff Sgt. Vanessa R. Carrillo. Facilitator of the Year for the Basic Leader Course Senior Facilitators is Sgt. 1st Class Andre Mangual. The Facilitator of the Year for the Master Leader Course is Master Sgt. Larry D. Foreman.
“It was good, very different,” said Carillo who explained that her leadership asked her to compete. “I liked that everything was a mystery and I liked that they incorporated the physical events as well.”
Carillo said she enjoys being a facilitator and always puts 100 percent into everything she does, so she takes great satisfaction in being able to compete and win.
“For me it gives me a lot of pride, not only for being a Soldier, but being a part of my academy and being a facilitator,” she said.
For Mangual, he wanted to do something different and pave the way for others to come to the competition. He also enjoyed the not knowing what to expect.
“Not being able to prepare yourself for the competition, I kind of like it in the sense of you just had to go with it,” he said adding that similarly, the same could be said about having to do the Army Combat Fitness Test. “It is a challenge on its own. I wasn’t expecting it and I wish I could have started conditioning myself earlier.”
Foreman, who took the challenge of competing to see how he compares to his peers, said having to do the essay was another unexpected challenge.
“So, after going through the Master Leader Course and then coming here and the mystery challenge was the five-question, 50-minute essay, I wasn’t prepared for that,” Foreman said. “I didn’t know what the questions were going to be just like some of our students. So, what I did was read the questions as fast as I could and then answered them to the best of mu ability. That’s pretty much what we ask our students to do in class.”
“It was good. It put me in the mindset of what the students are experiencing, having to follow a rubric, having to stay within a certain topic,” he said. “It got me in the feeling of so this is what my students are going through. So I understand what is expected of them.”
Foreman also noted the challenge of having to do the ACFT and while has passed it, he had some advice for others.
“It’s not easy. It is very challenging,” he said. “Going forward I would just recommend everybody readjust your workout habits in order for you to be successful in the ACFT when it debuts.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, commandant of the NCOL CoE, lauded the competitors and presented the winners with Army Commendation Medals and the other competitors with Certificate of Appreciation. All received a commandant’s coins for excellence for a job well done.
As the competitors make their way back to the respective academies to resume their facilitation of their PME courses, Carrillo remarked on the new method of facilitation.
“I like the new system the Army has moved to and I really like the new BLC too,” she said. “I think it is great. It is definitely different from the way it used to be and really tests the knowledge, the critical thinking, of the young Soldiers.”
Since the development of the Primary Leadership Course in the late 1970s, the way to train potential junior leaders has been as regimented as the way Soldiers how to fire their weapons. Teaching consisted of instructors imparting step-by-step procedures of how to’s without the why’s and consequences of failure to achieve mission success. A normal 2-hour block of instruction consisted of “Death by PowerPoint”. With the newly redesigned Basic Leader Course, now being taught using the Experiential Learning Method at every NCO Academy, that paradigm is a thing of the past.
“I think today’s course is more on target and more in line with what adult learning should be and that is backed up by educational theory,” Theresa “Tess” Spagna, BLC course manager, Directorate Curriculum Development, NCO Leadership Center of Excellence, said. “The Experiential Learning Model is not facilitator-centric, it’s student-centric and research shows that if [students] are engaged, if they are responsible for their learning, they retain it.”
Spagna said that is exactly what the redesigned BLC does – education in a collaborative, safe, environment where students are able to open up to one another and discuss things.
“They are learning things and find things on their own. Facilitators are there to guide them in the right direction,” she said. “It’s like the old saying, we are no longer the sage on the stage, we are the guide on the side.”
Focused on the six Leader Core Competencies of Readiness, Leadership, Training Management, Communications, Operations, and Program Management, the redesigned Basic Leader Course is designed to build leader and trainer skills needed to lead a team-size element; while providing the foundation for further development along the Professional Military Education learning continuum. Spagna who has been on the ground floor of the redesigned course and its implementation, said the BLC of today is far better than the old lecture-style of instruction.
“I think we have a much better product for our customer which is the promotable E4. Before you were going to a leadership course with all these PowerPoint slides and you are not going to take it all in. I have seen as many as 80 slides. That’s a lot to just throw at somebody with no collaboration,” she said referring to the former method of instruction. “I believe we are at the pinnacle of what adult learning is and we are providing them with a superior product. We are not just training Soldiers, we are educating them.”
The BLC is a 22-academic day course consisting of 169 academic hours taught in four phases. It begins with Foundations phase where the students receive a course overview, learn about group dynamics, are introduced to Physical Readiness Training (PRT), drill and ceremonies, critical thinking and problem solving, effective listening, written communication, training management and conduct training, and take the Army Physical Fitness Test.
“In Foundations they are given an overview of how the course is going to take place, everyone of the topic areas, what the lesson is,” she said. “They get everything they need to know to make them successful. Foundations sets the tone. Then you have the Leadership phase.”
The Leadership phase teaches the students about the Army’s Leadership Requirements Model, public speaking, counseling, Army Values, Ethics, integration of Soldier 2020, legal responsibilities and limits of NCO authority, followership and servant leader fundamentals, and team building and conflict management.
“The Leadership Phase, thats where we go into the Leadership Requirements Model and learn about the attributes and the competencies of what we want leaders to have and reflect,” Manglona said. “Then they go into the Readiness Phase.”
In this phase students are taught mission orders and troop leading procedures, Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program, Soldier readiness, resiliency, and command supply discipline.
“This phase deals with resiliency, how to take resiliency out to the force,” she said. “We are giving them resources, command supply discipline, stewardship of the profession and steward of the resources that the profession uses.”
In the final phase, the Assessment Phase, the students write their end of course essays which includes two 500-word reflective essays and turn in a SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Program) essay. All assessments, some are executed during the Leadership and Readiness phases, are done through observation of their written essays and communication, public speaking, conducting training, and leadership abilities. There competency-based assessments are no multiple-choice tests.
“Multiple choice is really a 50/50 game. If you have four answers you get rid of the one that is definitely not it. You get rid of the other one you know is not it which leaves you with a 50/50 shot. And when you are done you File 13 it,” she said. “With this course they are actually writing about their different leadership topics; they are doing compare and contrast essays regarding servant leadership and followership; they are teaching individuals PRT. In my opinion, the greatest part of this is that at the very end of the course is the essay about everything they have learned – writing, speaking, coaching, mentoring – all the things they learned. It is not just about the GPA, it is about what was important to them, what did they learn and experience.”
For those who teach BLC at the NCO academies, the change in both instruction and student participation is dramatic.
“I can tell you from previously attending the old course – WLC – and also having been a facilitator for the former BLC, it has changed dramatically,” Sgt. 1st Class Jeffery Delay, chief of training at the Fort Bliss NCO Academy said. “When I say dramatically, it is the way we facilitate and educate our students. Now our students are learners and we are using that learner-centric environment.”
Delay said the students are taught skills to help them think more clearly, more critical, and the students become more agile when it comes to answering questions regarding problem solving.
“Students are allowed to share and collaborate within the classroom. It is no longer the days where I am going to tell you how to learn,” he said. “Now it is you understanding what you are learning and being able to learn from each other, not just the facilitator.”
The facilitation part, Delay said, is only about 20 percent of just that, facilitators asking questions to create discussion among the students.
“The big difference before was we were telling students how they were going to learn, and it was I am going to do this because you are telling me this is what I need to do,” Delay said. “Now I am being able to discover for myself or share that experience I have. So as a facilitator it was hard to change from being what we called an instructor back then, to facilitator today, to know how to actually guide the students in discussion.”
Staff Sgt. Raymond Furr, Quality Assurance NCO for the Fort Bliss NCO Academy, likened the changed in style of instruction and course design to an awakening – going from a do as I say instruction to a collaborative learning environment.
“I would say it is an awakening of the knowledge they have. Because if you look at it from the student viewpoint, from all the feedback we are getting, a lot of the information we are presenting to this current generation of Soldiers, and yes some have college experience and have written essays, but with the old BLC and Warrior Leader Course, you were seen and not heard. Everything was battle drills,” he said. “Now we are asking this generation of Soldiers to reconceptualize everything which is a big deal. In talking with the Soldiers, it was almost like system overload for them with the concepts.”
Furr said the facilitators are doing an excellent job of transforming the students into critical thinkers, trainers.
“The Soldiers you have now are going to take this back to their units. They are going to start implementing what they learned, and they are going to start developing their Soldiers,” he said. “By FY20 we are going to have Soldiers coming to the course with a clear understanding of what to expect.”
Delay said the Soldiers of today are institutionalized in the old way of learning – do it because I told you to do it.
“There is an institutional culture in the way they deliver training. If we can get the units to transform how they deliver their Sergeants Time training, their Warrior Tasks and how they are conducting their classes, then the Soldiers will already be open to the Experiential Learning style,” he said. “At BLC there are no longer Skill Level I tasks being taught. This is Skill Level II course. So, when they leave this institution they already have the knowledge, skills and attributes to go back and be trainers. There is no more learning a task that I should have learned in my unit.”
Furr said with the redesigned BLC, there no longer is students falling asleep at their computers, or I am not interested, and I am not retaining anything. With the new BLC students get involved and mature as future leaders.
“At the beginning of the course we get the ones who don’t talk or have anything to say or maybe isn’t at the highest speaking or articulation level,” he said. “By the end of the course that Soldier is in the middle of the conversation because the [facilitators and their peers] developed them. Now they know how to talk to people. The maturity level in just 22 days – I think we are producing more critical thinkers, but more mature younger leaders to put back out in the force.”
Spagna said students come to the course with knowledge through their experiences in and out of the Army that applies to leadership. The course helps them to bring that knowledge forward.
“It’s neat to watch them have these conversations in class and they come to the knowledge themselves,” she said. “The light bulb just pops.”
The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy celebrated the accomplishments of the 705 students of Sergeants Major Course Class 68, June 22, in ceremonies at the Abundant Living Faith Center, El Paso, Texas. Class 68 had within its ranks 49 international students from 46 different countries as well as members of the United States Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard.
Command Sgt. Jimmy J. Sellers, commandant of the Center of Excellence, welcomed the special guests and thanked all for attending. Sellers also lauded the efforts of the Center’s plans and operations section, the staff and faculty and the facilitators who taught the students throughout the year.
“These types of events just don’t happen on their own. It takes effective communication, collaboration and coordination on multiple fronts to be able to pull this together,” Sellers said before turning his attention to introducing the guest speaker Sgt. Maj. Of the Army Daniel Dailey. “I am proud to report,” he added, “705 fit, disciplined, well-educated professionals will be coming to a post, camp or station near you.”
Taking the stage Dailey joked about how the graduates facial expressions have changed since the last time he spoke to them saying today’s looked much better.
“So as I stand here looking at the next stewards of our profession, I can honestly say, today is a great day to be a Soldier. In fact every day is a great day to be a Soldier,” he said.
Dailey recognized all of the families, friends and loved ones in attendance and thanking them for their sacrifice and support of their Soldier telling them, “If the Army’s greatest assets is its people, then our families are the bedrock of that foundation.”
Dailey also gave special recognized to the international students telling them their presence in the classroom makes a huge impact on the learning experience of all. He then launched into his graduation address.
“So it’s graduation day,” he said noting the students wanted him to hurry up, nobody would remember a thing he said, that he too had been there before. “Well just sit back and begin to forget what I am about to say.”
“This is just the beginning. Your are going to be a sergeant major, the pinnacle of your profession,” he said. “It’s starts at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning. Are you ready to lead our most precious resource – America’s sons and daughters?”
Your are now the stewards of the nation’s most powerful weapon system – the Army Profession. He said.
“Take heed of the power that you have been given; cherish it; it is a gift, not a right; and it will be taken away from you if you don’t wield it properly,” Dailey said. You need to figure it out. There is no magic recipe for success.”
Dailey then said he would not give the students any advice, but would leave them with his “Top Ten” list.
“It has changed some from the last time as my observations have changed as yours will as you move along.”
Dailey then proceeded to give his revised list.
Yelling doesn’t make you skinny, PT does.
It’s okay to be nervous, being nervous means you are humble.
If you only justification for your continued existence in the United States Army is your 27 years of experience; it’s time to turn in your 4187 (retirement papers).
Be more informed and less emotional – nobody likes a dumb loud mouth.
Never forget that you are just a Soldier, no better, no worse than any other.
If you constantly have to remined everyone all the time that you are the sergeant major and you’re in charge, you’re not.
Be positive, if you can’t go home.
Never forget to take the distinct opportunity to keep you mouth shut.
True leaders don’t just tell people what to do, they inspire people. Leadership in its most simplistic form is simply getting people to accomplish the mission.
If you can’t do what you expect your Soldiers to do, then they won’t respect you.
“Now that you are in a position to do, or not do those things, make a difference,” Dailey said. “Make the difference you promised yourself all those years ago that you would make if you ever got there. Be the leader that our Soldiers deserve.”
The US Army Sergeants Major Course is and will always be the premier Professional Military Education (PME) institution in the world. We must remain a renowned academic leader in the study of leadership, the conduct of Unified Land Operations, and the application of Joint, Interagency, and Multi-National organizations to synchronize all elements of power to achieve national objectives. We will continue to provide our Army with agile and adaptive Sergeants Major prepared to be effective at all command levels of our Army. We will maintain a world-class faculty that leads by example with professionalism and high moral character. We will be dedicated to developing competence in communication, critical thinking, creative thinking, and decision-making skills, with a commitment to enhancing each NCO’s lifelong learning. We will be the model of professionalism that will not only be the key to the success of the SMC but influences the success of the entire USASMA and our Army.
The Army’s culminating enlisted Professional Military Education (PME) institution is the Sergeants Major Course. This course provides tools to develop critical reasoning, creative thinking and decision-making skills. Soldiers are provided an education that teaches them to enhance their character, self-expression, and strengthen teamwork abilities. The course assists in the development of logical, practical and original reasoning abilities necessary for problem solving. Students analyze problems based on available information, arrive at logical solutions and decisions with reasonable speed, communicate reasoning and decisions orally and in writing, and supervise to ensure proper execution. Intellectual honesty, integrity, and professional values and standards are highly stressed. The SMC contains a total of 1,484.7 instructional hours, and is also offered as a nonresident course which culminates with two weeks of resident instruction at the academy.
Additional photos of the graduation are available for viewing on our Flickr page at https://www.flickr.com/photos/133821783@N02/albums.
In just eight months, the newly redesigned Basic Leader Course will launch at each of the Army’s 32 NCO Academies. To ensure each academy is prepared to teach the new curriculum, as well as adapt to the new teaching method, the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence and U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy is conducting Train the Trainer sessions for select individuals.
“We are bringing in representatives from all of the NCO academies that teach the Basic Leader Course and giving them training on the new curriculum,” William R. Ogletree Jr., director of Curriculum Development said. “We are doing two weeks – the first is focused on the Experiential Learning Model, problem solving, critical thinking and writing. The second week is focused on the curriculum itself – a deep dive into the lesson plans.”
Ogletree said the individuals will obtain a full immersion into the new course including the assessments and how to deliver the lessons in the classroom.
“The outcome is the representatives who are sitting here for two weeks getting the training, will go back and establish their faculty development program within their respective NCO Academy,” he said. “They can go back and train the folks and their cadre on the new curriculum so that when we do roll out the new course in January, we won’t have as many problems starting out.”
Ogletree said with news of the new curriculum and method of instruction already out on the street there is anxiety with the writing program and the critical thinking piece.
“These are not Army tasks and we are switching from a task-based kind of approach to an educational-based approach,” he said. “Some of the younger NCOs are struggling with this paradigm shift. So if we can get that across to them while they are here they can go back and create their own training program, learn the writing piece and relay some of the critical thinking piece.”
Sgt. 1st Class Stacya Mitchell, a small group leader with the US Army Alaska NCO Academy who is attending the train the trainer course, said the new curriculum for the Basic Leader Course will get Soldiers to think more, to self-assess, and to be independent so that they can gain the confidence the Army needs for them to be leaders.
“I’m actually in awe, because my experience with the Warrior Leader Course was more ‘do this, this is what I want you to do, this is how I want you to do it,’” she said. “There was no thought process to it. I think this allows the soldiers to make more decisions.”
Mitchell said using the Experiential Learning Model is a big plus for the course.
“The Experiential Learning Model is allowing the soldier to generally think on their own,” she said. “With the new curriculum we are going to start bringing them into the thought process and linking it to the Army curriculum, so they will have an understanding on their own versus, ‘Hey you are going to do this, this way and at this time.’”
Mitchell said she would have benefitted greatly from a course like the new BLC.
“I [could] see myself as a first sergeant already. I would have excelled because I know I would have all the tools I needed to be that leader the Army wants,” she said. “I wouldn’t be as reactive; I would have been a lot more proactive earlier in my career.”
The validation of the new Basic Leader Course is already complete, Ogletree said. The NCOL CoE & USASMA conducted four series of validations at seven different location – all with favorable feedback. The launch of the new course is set for January 2019.
“We made some adjustments, but all in all the feedback we got is we are going in the right direction,” he said. “The curriculum is solid; this is what the students want and need to know. We got it right.”
The NCO Leadership Center of Excellence and U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy is responsible for developing, maintaining, teaching, and distributing five levels of Enlisted Professional Military Education – Introductory, Primary, Intermediate, Senior and Executive. Each level best prepares the soldier to fight and win in a complex world as adaptive and agile leaders and trusted professionals of Force 2025.
The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy hosted 29 senior enlisted leaders representing their Career Management Fields for Branch Week, December 4-8. The regimental or Center of Excellence sergeants major, were asked to come to the academy to brief the students of Sergeants Major Course Class 68, as well as USASMA staff and faculty on the advancements and future developments of their career fields, career paths, and broadening opportunities within their CMF.
“Today is a big day for us,” Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy J. Sellers, commandant of USASMA said. “We talk about the importance of knowing our CMFs, know what our right and left are doing. [These sergeants major] are here to brief us on what their CMFs do, what they are for and the way ahead.”
Sellers impressed upon the students the importance to listen to every brief and when they had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with their CMF sergeant major, to ask the tough questions.
Sgt. Maj. Felice Murrell, operations sergeant major for the Sergeants Major Course, said bringing in the regimental or Center of Excellence sergeants major to conduct a capabilities brief for their CMF was a first for USASMA. She said prior to this event the students would obtain materials from their CMF and brief their fellow students in the class. The regimental or COE sergeants major would then come in from time to time to meet with the students after academic hours were complete.
“This is the very first time USASMA has actually conducted a Branch Week and additionally the first time the actual [branches briefed and] had the opportunity to break off into informal briefing sessions,” Murrell said. “This was two-fold. They were able to give the capabilities brief and be able to go right into an informal brief with their Soldiers.”
Murrell said she received rave reviews from both the CMF sergeants major and the students.
“The sergeants major said they were honored to take part in this and it was an opportunity to welcome the students into the sergeant major rank,” she said. “The students were ecstatic. Some of them had never met their regimental or COE sergeant major and it gave them an opportunity for one on one dialogue.”
She added Branch Week provided the students a total overview of each CMF and a deep dive into what was going on within their CMF.
“Branch Week has been an amazing experience I believe for Class 68,” Master Sgt. Natasha Santiago (CMF 68-Medical), Class 68 class president said. “So many of the regimental sergeants major came through this week and actually briefed the statistics and capabilities for their respective branches and I know personally I learned so much about my classmates and what they do and what they bring to the fight.”
Fellow classmate, Master Sgt. James Brown (CMF 68-Medical), said Branch Week really opened up his eyes.
“Since going through the joint (Department of Joint Interagency, Intergovernmental, and Multinational), and force management (Department of Force Management) portion of the Sergeants Major Course, everything at the strategic level the regimental briefers have been talking about I totally understand it,” he said. “My vision stayed at an organization level, at the battalion/brigade level. I struggled at seeing the big picture. The way our line of efforts work you get trapped into this tunnel. … We didn’t get to see the broad picture.”
During Branch Week, each CMF sergeants major was asked to brief the entire Class 68 on their branch history, career management chart and credentialing opportunities, career progression trends for command sergeants major and sergeants major, and future developments for the CMF. At the end of each day’s briefing the students were grouped by their CMF and met separately with their sergeants major to allow for questions and answers and a more direct brief.
“Being at the academy I was definitely eyes open for seeing things in a much bigger perspective,” Santiago said. “With Branch Week I see things through a much larger scale. I think we are being prepared to see things in that multi-domain picture and this helps.”
Brown said Branch Week will help him to inform his Soldiers at his next duty station about the why.
“One thing I will do better of is the explanation piece. I feel that when you are given the mission you are just told here is the mission, task and standard, just get after it,” Brown said. “But with an explanation it helps to understand more and actually helps broaden your horizon as well. So, I will do better with the explanation piece when it is feasible to do so.”
The Sergeants Major Course (SMC) educates senior enlisted leaders from our Army, sister services, and allied militaries to be agile and adaptive senior noncommissioned officers through the study of leadership, the conduct of Unified Land Operations, and the application of Joint, Interagency, and Multi-National organizations in an era of persistent conflict. The SMC is the consummate institution that prepares them to execute at all command levels throughout the Department of Defense. This Professional Military Education (PME) is provided by leveraging both resident and distributive learning (dL) educational methods and technologies.
The USASMA mission is to provide professional military education that develops enlisted leaders to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex world.
There are a lot of changes that are coming which will affect noncommissioned officer education, Sgt. Maj. Brian Lindsey of the Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development said during a briefing December 5 to the Sergeants Major Course Class 68 students at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, Fort Bliss, Texas. It comes in the form of the NCO 2020 Strategy – a document all NCOs should be familiar with.
“You all in this class are going to be the stakeholders [of this change] and you are the ones who are going to get the word out to the force,” Lindsey said. “Some change is good and we need to do some changing. … We haven’t revamped NCO education since 1973.”
Lindsey asked the class to not look at the changes through their perspective, but to see the changes through the lens of a Soldier who is just entering the Army. He provided an overview of INCOPD and its responsibilities in the development of the NCO 2020 Strategy and then asked the students how many have read the document.
“If you are just learning about it here, you and your Soldiers are behind the power curve,” he said. “We have to get this information out to the force and you have to enforce and reinforce it because it is coming no matter how bad you want to hold it up. It’s coming and you need to make sure you are all in.”
The NCO 2020 Strategy, he said, is only 13 pages long and is easy to read. The document outlines three lines of effort for the Army – Development, Talent Management and Stewardship of the Profession. Under Development the main objectives are S.T.E.P. (Select, Train, Educate, Promote), NCO PME (Professional Military Education), Credentialing and Validate. Under Talent Management the main objectives are Broadening, Operational and PDM (Career Map). The main objectives under Stewardship of the Profession are Doctrine, Self-Development, 2020 Year of the NCO and Character Development.
“You need to get on board and read the 13 pages and make sure you are familiar with what you are going to be enforcing real soon,” Lindsey said turning his attention to Leader Core Competencies. LCCs are being placed into all phases of PME particularly in the Advance and Senior Leader courses because the courses are technically heavy. “We are not teaching a Soldier how to be a leader in these courses. We are not teaching them anything about being a leader.”
The Leader Core Competencies focus on six areas – Communications, Leadership, Program Management, Operations, Training Management and Readiness. Along with the LCCs, the Army is introducing Distributive Learning Courses which are replacing the Structured Self Development. The DLC courses will be a part of the progressive and sequential learning model and will include the NCO Writing Program.
“Inside of your DLC there will be a requirement for a reflection paper … then you will have a paper to write when you get to your BLC which will become a part of your GPA,” Lindsey said. “This will become part of the norm as you progress [through NCOPDS] by the time you get to the Sergeants Major Course. We are going to start [Soldiers writing] early and it is going to be progressive and sequential. As you go up, the papers get longer and harder.”
Lindsey explained that being able to develop written communications skills will help support the Soldier and team performance in support of mission readiness.
As part of the NCO 2020 Strategy, USASMA is currently revamping the DLC courses with the updated DLC I expected to hit the streets by June of 2018 with DLC II in August. Levels III through VI will follow sequentially in 3-4 month increments. The Basic Leader Course is also undergoing redesign and is currently in validation with a goal of delivering the course Army-wide by June 2018. The Master leader Course is expected to be a part of S.T.E.P. by October 2018 and a non-resident course expected to come online on or about May 2018.