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 Published: Oct 22, 2007

 Updated: Dec 26, 2008
Turning NCOES into a life-long learning strategy

By John Harlow/TRADOC News Service

FORT MONROE, Va. (TRADOC News Service, Oct. 22, 2007) – Enlisted Soldiers in the Army had their careers planned out for them. Make specialist, go to Warrior Leaders Course (WLC); make sergeant and go to the Basic Noncommissioned Officers Course (BNCOC) and make staff sergeant you are of to Advanced Noncommissioned Officers Course (ANCOC). Things are changing on each NCO level in the noncommissioned officer education system (NCOES) to make the education more relevant to the fight that we are in.

In Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), the execution of missions is much different than in past conflicts. The missions are executed predominantly at the squad and platoon levels. That puts more of the decision making process in the hands of junior leaders at the NCO and officer level. They are responsible for planning and executing missions that in the past have been handled at either the company or battalion level.

Company commanders and first sergeants are regularly coordinating plans and activities with other agencies, meeting and coordinating with local national agencies and interacting with local national civil leaders.

The Army is transforming NCOES to meet the needs of the Operational Army and ensure relevance to present and future operations.

“There are many factors  of current operations that impact the way we train our noncommissioned officers,” said Command Sgt. Maj. John Sparks, the command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. “First we see a different population of NCOs attending our courses today. Because of the war on terror, because of the deployment schedules, we see a NCO that is more senior than he used to be.”

That has caused the Army leadership to look deeper into NCOES to find out what that NCO who is more senior needs to learn to develop his or her skills.

“We’ve adjusted all of our courses of instruction to take into account that more senior NCO,” said Sparks.

At the ANCOC and BNCOC levels, NCOs are learning things that haven’t been taught before because of lessons learned from the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Depending on the military occupational specialty (MOS) of the Soldier, the length of the NCOES class will vary. There are core lessons that are taught across the spectrum of the Army and TRADOC is looking at new ways to teach the core instruction through the NCOES.

“There is a core of things that will always be a part of our training of noncommissioned officers,” said Sparks. “We have changed and will continue to change as the current operational perspective changes.”

In transforming NCOES, the Army looked to Soldiers for what can be done to make their experience in NCOES more relevant.

“We talked to thousands of NCOs that have either attended or were preparing to attend NCOES,” said Sparks. “What we found was that NCOs wanted to be trained earlier in their career to face the challenges they could face in the next pay grade.”

Big changes are on the way for NCOES.

“We will change BNCOC to a course that will train at the platoon level,” said Sparks. “I think most people are aware that in BNCOC, we generally train at the squad level. With the attendance of more senior sergeants that are preparing to be sergeants at the platoon level, we have found the need to adjust that course to prepare those sergeants for serving at the platoon level.”

The change isn’t just in the course of instruction. The name will change as well. BNCOC will become the Advanced Leader Course and ANCOC will become the Senior Leader Course.

“We will take all those tasks of platoon sergeant duty and apply to them to the Soldier in the rank of sergeant or staff sergeant to better prepare them for what he may be challenged with in the upcoming months or years.”

The environment on the battlefield changes and the training must stay relevant to the changes they face.

“When we talk about preparing a Soldier to execute tasks he may be unfamiliar with, it takes a whole new look on how he has learned in the past,” said Sparks. “In the future and that future is this coming year, we are preparing for Soldiers for positions they have not yet held. We want a NCO to not just be competent, but the expert.”

The refocusing of BNCOC to Advanced Leader Course and ANCOC to the Senior Leader Course is important to advancing the development of noncommissioned officers.

In Advanced Leader Course, the focus moves from training Soldiers on the squad and section level to the squad and platoon level. It will retain and enhance MOS technical skill development while also preparing the NCO to lead and train up to the platoon level.

In the Senior Leader Course, the focus moves from training at the platoon level to training at the platoon and company level of leadership. It will re-focus MOS technical skills development to reflect not only platoon but also company level actions and embed both levels into each lesson. It will provide some of the lead and train aspects of being a first sergeant.

TRADOC is also working to develop a modular Warrior Leader Course and is converting the BNCOC (Advanced Leader Course) Common Core content to web delivery.

The operational tempo of our Army today and the Army Force Generation model also made changes necessary for NCOES.

“Our role at TRADOC is to provide training for the Soldier and leader,” said Sparks. “It could be either shortened courses at the institution in the brick and mortar class room or by sending Mobile Training Teams (MTT) all over the world to provide instruction or a distance learning tool. In many cases we will be able to interact with units while they are deployed or even before they deploy to coordinate the attendance and delivery of a MTT at their installation when the commander and command sergeant major deem it is appropriate they receive the education.”

MTTs will play a more significant role in the education of NCOs.

“Mobile Training Teams are really a growth industry for us,” said Sparks. “They represent a capability at TRADOC that is required today because of the Global War on Terror. I think it is important to understand that if we truly believe that the education of our noncommissioned officers is important, we have to subscribe that we have to provide that education at all costs. We have been able to take Soldiers out of the training base and send them all over the world to conduct training.”

Advanced Leader Course and Senior Leader course will improve performance by creating a culture of continuous learning, improve the process by creating a flexible system that implements change with a sense of urgency and improves retention by giving Soldiers increased control over their careers.

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