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CSM forum.

As of the writing of this article we, as an Army and Nation, have been combat in operations for five years in Iraq, and almost seven years in Afghanistan. These major operations as well as many minor ones have strained noncommissioned officer (NCO) Leader development across the entire Army. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, NCOs will continue answer the call of our nation, over and above what is normally expected of their age and paygrade.

Today promotions occur at an extremely fast pace when compared to ten years ago. When most of the senior Command Sergeants Major (CSMs) and Sergeants Major (SGMs) were selected for promotion to the rank of Sergeant First Class (SFC) they had, on average, between twelve and fifteen years time in service. Today, the average is down to seven to ten years. This faster promotion pace is needed to satisfy the needs of our Army. Several of our NCOs have experienced at least two deployments. Two deployments amounts to almost thirty-six months of time focused on the mission. This time includes train-up, block leave, deployment, redeployment, and reintegration. This cycle repeats itself almost immediately. Now factor in permanent change of station moves and the faster promotions, the timeline to develop NCOs in an academy setting is greatly compressed. Because of this and other factors, several branches have experienced a large backlog. Currently Military Intelligence (MI) is not one of them.

The end result of all of this turbulence is NCOs performing jobs one or two paygrades above their rank. As an example, while deployed my Operations Sergeant (an SFC) filled the position of a brigade-level S3 SGM. He later filled the position as a battalion CSM during the almost six month under-lap between actual CSMs.

The Army recognizes the turmoil and needs, and has therefore, decided to change the way we do business. The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) briefed the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army (VSCA) on 26 July 2006 on a concept to adapt NCOES instruction in the institutional Army to better support units affected by the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) model. The VCSA approved the concept to export Basic NCO Course (BNCOC) instruction via mobile training teams to brigade combat team home stations during the ARFORGEN reset period. This concept was for high density military occupational specialties (MOSs) across the Army. Currently MI does not fall into this category. Additionally, we currently do not have a backlog. This was the first change.

The second TRADOC change deals with a "train ahead" approach where certain skill sets and competencies are taught earlier in an NCO's lifecycle. An example of this is training SFCs to perform the duties of a First Sergeant or Master Sergeant, while setting the stage for his or her development as a CSM/SGM. Starting at the bottom:

* Warrior Leaders Course (WLC) will not change much from the way it is today.

* Advanced Leaders Course (ALC)-Name change for BNCOC. ALC will focus heavily on MOS technical skills at the squad and the platoon levels. ALC will prepare NCOs to serve primarily at the squad level, but also at the platoon level. This is a big change as we now prepare our BNCOC NCOs for the squad level with little focus on the platoon level.

* Senior Leaders Course (SLC)-Name change for the Advanced NCO Course (ANCOC). SLC will focus on MOS technical skills at the platoon and company level. It will also prepare NCOs to assume duties of a First Sergeant by incorporating critical tasks from the current First Sergeant Course.

* Senior Staff NCO Course (SSNCOC) ** Not confirmed as of this writing** The Combined Arms Center (CAC) is exploring the development of this new course. Its purpose will be to prepare NCOs to serve Army and Joint staffs above the Brigade level.

* Battle Staff NCO Course (BSNCOC) will continue to provide skills necessary for the NCO to serve as a staff NCO in a brigade.

* Sergeants Major Course (SMC) will not change from it main purpose and intent as we know it today.

The third change deals with self development. NCOs at every level will be required to complete some form or level of self development prior to progressing to the next level. While there are a few parts to the change, the main part deals with the various levels of what will be called Structured Self-Development or SSD. SSD mainly consists of core requirements such as Joint Learning Areas; Army/NCO history, and other mandated tasks not normally found in NCOES. SSD, when mated up with the resident course, will support the life long learning strategy. As it stands now, most of the tasks taught in SSD are directed by TRADOC, CAC, and the U.S. Army Sergeant Majors Academy. The proponents will have less than 80 hours for each level. The levels of SSD are:

* SSD1 (Prior to WLC). This starts at a Soldier's first unit, and it is up to the unit to get the Soldier enrolled. Just as with WLC, this level of SSD is completely controlled by TRADOC, there are no proponent tasks at this level.

* SSD2 (Between WLC and ALC). Again, most of the tasks are common tasks throughout the Army and this coupled with the downward migration of skills and competencies might result in the elimination of what we now call BNCOC phase 1 or Stand Alone Common Core. The proponents will have up to 80 hours of time at this level.

* SSD3 (Between ALC and SLC). Same as SSD2, just at a higher level. Again each proponent will get up to 80 hours.

* SSD4 (Between SLC and SMC). This level, coupled with SLC will give the NCO the skills sets and competencies currently taught in the First Sergeants Course, while including the proponent skills from what we now call ANCOC.

There isn't a lot that NCOs can do in order to get ahead and prepare themselves for the change other than stay aware. One of my suggestions is to work on some form of distributed learning. Examples are enrollment in an Army Correspondence Course Program, online Smart Force classes, or an online college class. The NCOs will be taught and developed on tasks as they attend the residence phase of NCOES just as they are today. The largest change that might be unique to NCOs is actually sitting at a computer on their own time, without being told as well as keeping up with the course timeline. This is where working on other forms of distributed learning will help develop the discipline needed to make it through the various levels of SSD.

Command Sergeant Major Gerardus Wykoff

Command Sergeant Major

U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca
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Author:Wykoff, Gerardus
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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