NCOA emphasizes standards
May 24, 2013
- "...Our focus may have changed because we've been in combat for the last 10 years, but the standards have always been the standards. We have several policy changes, but the basic Soldiering, the basic leadership, standards, discipline -- they remain the same." - Command Sgt. Maj. Robert L. Moss, NCOA commandant
- "…All we're doing is guiding them in the right direction and [mentoring], but they're in charge of everything all the way. It's all student led so it is truly back to the basics." - 1st Sgt. Michael Espeland, oversees WLC at Fort Campbell
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FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- For the past decade, Fort Campbell Soldiers have performed and exceeded standards throughout multiple deployments and conflicts. Within the next few years, the Army will be required to perform at that same level, only they will have to do it with less.
Over the next five years, the Army will undergo many changes in preparation for a smaller force, reducing the active-duty population from 570,000 to 490,000 while operating on a smaller budget, according to the U.S. Army.
Although a reduction in strength is unavoidable, the need for Soldiers to remain technically and tactically proficient while taking on additional responsibilities has increased. With today's economic uncertainties, initiative is now a trait that must become synonymous with leadership.
In preparation for future changes, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III announced a strong emphasis on maintaining standards and discipline within the Army, with a focus on developing young leaders "to be competent, have character, and be committed to the Army profession," according to his Standards and Discipline public service announcement.
At the John W. Kreckel 101st Airborne Division Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Fort Campbell, this directive means business as usual.
"We are a standards and discipline based institution," said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert L. Moss, NCOA commandant. "Our focus may have changed because we've been in combat for the last 10 years, but the standards have always been the standards. We have several policy changes, but the basic Soldiering, the basic leadership, standards, discipline -- they remain the same."
With military training budgets curtailed, the NCOA teaches future leaders to get back to the fundamentals.
"Financial instability, downsizing -- we're still a nation at war," continued Moss. "SMA has put his emphasis on it. Now this has to be our focus coming back -- to make sure we're still that model Army."
Home to the Fort Campbell Warrior Leader Course, Battle Staff Course and Army Basic Instructors Course, the NCO Academy prepares future non-commissioned officers by providing basic leadership and technical skill training while instilling the confidence and professionalism needed to mentor and motivate Soldiers in their units.
The WLC, the first leadership course Soldiers attend in their career, is a 22-day course that teaches them basic skills that reinforce Army standards and discipline.
"The time is not there [with only 22 training days] to hit every critical point but we understand the significance of standards and discipline," said Moss.
"We understand that for the future of our Army to be successful, we must emphasize and meet those requirements. Attention to detail is everything."
With the Army having spent the last decade at war, Moss acknowledges the difficulties Soldiers may face adjusting once returning stateside.
"If you look at the average young Soldier -- the only thing they really know is the combat scenario," said Moss. "When they return to their home stations -- [it can be tough]. The focus has changed -- we are not focused on that one enduring mission, it's different now -- and leadership becomes tougher, but we can be successful. It's like SMA said, it all starts with the basics."
Physical readiness training, drill and ceremonies, military customs and courtesies, and land navigation -- along with the teach, coach, mentor and counsel portion of being a leader -- are among the core basic standards and area of focus at the NCO Academy.
According to Moss, these standards are critical in the grooming future NCOs.
"If we are not [instilling] standards constantly and at every level, we are lost," said Moss. "We teach those little tangible things that make you a leader."
"Since the Sergeant Major of the Army has taken that position, we have made one change -- we have gone back to the Army Physical Fitness Test as a graduation requirement," said 1st Sgt. Lawrence Flowers, deputy commandant. "Prior to that it was just meeting height and weight."
Soldiers attending the WLC are placed in leadership roles from the very beginning -- day one to be exact. According to 1st Sgt. Michael Espeland, who oversees WLC at Fort Campbell, that is the academy's most effective teaching method.
"From the first day, they're put in leadership positions, from team leader up to student 1st Sgt. They're leading, marching, conducting PT, they're in charge," said Espeland. "All we're doing is guiding them in the right direction and [mentoring], but they're in charge of everything all the way. It's all student led so it is truly back to the basics."
"Discipline starts with basics -- having formation, drill and ceremony. It's really empowering for these Soldiers -- getting thrown into these positions," continued Espeland.
As the SMA continues to place an emphasis on the professional Soldier in the midst of a drawdown, budget cuts and continued deployments to Afghanistan, the cadre of the NCO Academy remain focused on their mission.
But it's not just about meeting basic requirements, "anyone can take a test," said Moss.
"It's being disciplined enough to understand standards so when they leave here, they're making a positive impact down at their units. The professional portion of who we are and what we stand for is nested within standards and discipline."