Noncommissioned Officer Training and an Army of Preparation

The U.S. Army is in a period of transition from an Army at war to an Army of preparation. This requires changes in the way we conduct training and in the way we educate our military professionals. The last Armor School update to the Noncommissioned Officer Education System (NCOES) was in 2008, when it transitioned the 19K and 19D Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course (BNCOC) to the Advanced Leader Course (ALC), and the 19D, 19K, 11B and 11C Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Course (ANCOC) to the Maneuver Senior Leader’s Course (MSLC).

At that time, during the height of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the norm was that a senior staff sergeant attending ALC had three to four years’ time in grade and two or more combat deployments as a section sergeant. This was mirrored by MSLC students, who were typically sergeants first class who had already served two or more years as a platoon sergeant during a deployment. Course content was developed with the current fight in mind, focused on current tactics, techniques and procedures being used during deployments and designed to prepare NCOs for their next level of promotion.

The purpose of today’s ALC and MSLC is to train and develop Armor Branch NCOs to be adaptive leaders, critical and creative thinkers, armed with the technical, tactical, administrative and logistical skills necessary to serve successfully at the section/squad/platoon-sergeant level. NCOs receive training that builds on their knowledge, skills, abilities and attributes (KSAA) garnered from operational assignments and training experiences throughout their careers. NCOs graduate with an understanding of current maneuver doctrine and are grounded in its execution.

Today the Henry Caro Noncommissioned Officer Academy (NCOA) at the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE), Fort Benning, GA, trains armor/cavalry NCOs using a rigorous course program of instruction based on updated doctrine, 21st Century Soldier competencies, the Maneuver Leader Development Strategy and the Army Learning Model. All NCOs who attend training at the Henry Caro NCOA are evaluated and assessed from the “whole Soldier” perspective. A student’s overall grade point average is calculated from his Army Physical Fitness Test score, academic grade-point average, dismounted land-navigation score, garrison-leadership evaluation, tactical-leadership evaluation, personal-monogram experience paper, peer evaluation and instructor evaluation.

All students receive a DA Form 1059 Academic Evaluation Report that will enumerate the individual’s class ranking with a statement such as “SSG Smith graduated the Advanced Leader Course Class 002-14 number 26 of 124 assigned students.” This class ranking will help centralized promotion boards and the students’ chains of command in establishing an order-of-merit list for promotions and further potential for advancement and future service. Also, the scoring matrix for graduation is divided into four tiers that range from the top 20 percent to those who “marginally achieve course standards.”

Using multi-echelon leader development, students will also have the opportunity to conduct situational-training exercises, close-combat tactical training (CCTT) scenarios, field-training exercises (FTX) and physical-readiness training with their appropriate officer counterparts assigned to the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course (MCCC), Armor Basic Officer Leader’s Course (ABOLC) or Officer Candidate School candidates. This training initiative allows student NCOs and officers to better understand each other’s capabilities and responsibilities, and facilitates interaction to develop the officer and NCO relationship. In any given course, it is not uncommon to conduct a CCTT or FTX mission with a MCCC captain as the company commander paired with a sergeant first class from MSLC as the first sergeant, and have an ABOLC lieutenant serving as the platoon leader maneuvering a platoon consisting of ALC staff sergeants. This is an awesome opportunity unique to the MCoE and 199th Infantry Brigade (Leader Development) that allows students from all courses to interact, train and grow in a learning environment and improve each other’s understanding of their counterpart’s capabilities.

Another training focus is implementation of the principles of the Adaptive Soldier-Leader Training and Education methodology, which centers on practical application and adult learning techniques. For example, students are given a block of instruction on training management in the classroom, then are provided with a training packet for their FTX. The students are then required to apply the Eight-Step Training Model by planning, preparing and resourcing the FTX with cadre supervision and minimal assistance. Students will conduct a reconnaissance of the training site, prepare and issue an operations order, design training lanes that support terminal learning objectives, and then assist in the evaluations of other students executing the lane they designed. The endstate is that students leave the NCOA with an understanding of how to apply training management to conduct training at home station and similarly develop their subordinates.

Before attending the challenging suite of NCOES courses at the MCoE, NCOs and their chains of command are responsible to ensure all prerequisites are met. They must prepare themselves physically, mentally and emotionally through a combination of the Structured Self-Development Program, self-study modules available on the NCOA Website, and review of current Army doctrinal publications. By doing so, NCOs can establish the required base of knowledge that will be used as the foundation for their respective NCOES course.

As the Army transitions to an Army of preparation, our NCOES curriculum must also continue to transition to meet the needs of the future force. By meeting these requirements of increased course rigor, the NCOA ensures the continued development of agile and adaptive leaders who possess the KSAAs required to solve the complex problems of the modern battlefield and who are certified to lead the finest Soldiers anywhere in the world in both peacetime and combat operations.