Functional training vital for cadre career success
February 12, 2014
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Feb. 12, 2014) -- As a TRADOC installation, the Maneuver Center of Excellence offers a wide variety of training opportunities to thousands of Soldier students each year.
However, instructors and cadre members can also take advantage of many opportunities for functional training across Fort Benning.
Functional training opportunities offered include Ranger School, Airborne School, Air Assault Course, Pathfinder School and Master Resiliency Training, just to name a few.
Those opportunities are heavily promoted amongst NCOs and other instructors in an effort to ensure those instructors assigned here continue to develop as leaders, said Maneuver Center of Excellence Command Sgt. Maj. James Carabello.
More than 1,200 Soldiers assigned here as NCOs or instructors attended functional training courses during fiscal 2013, something Carabello said is important not just for the instructors personally, but the Army as a whole.
"While those cadre are here, they have to seize the opportunity for any type of professional development that we can provide them," Carabello said. "We think that it's extremely important that as an instructor, while you're here at Fort Benning, you don't just instruct. To develop your students, we think it's extremely important that you develop yourself, and there's a number of ways of doing that. Most of our cadre have an idea of what kind of track they're on for their next assignment, and whether they're here for two or three years, there are opportunities for them to project what skill set they're going to need that's not only going to better themselves, but will better the Army they go into their next unit of assignment."
Command Sgt. Maj. James Coroy, 199th Leader Development Brigade command sergeant major, said these opportunities for professional development benefit the operational force by ensuring that instructors return to the force as better leaders than they were when they first arrived at Fort Benning.
"I want to send better guys back out to the force," Coroy said. "We don't want people to stagnate here, we don't want them to become complacent and we don't want them to become content. We want people to come here to train junior officers and achieve some personal goals in their education and professional development before they go back out to the force as a better leader."
Promoting these functional training opportunities is part of an effort to combat what Coroy called a negative stigma concerning an assignment at Fort Benning.
"There is a stigma that when you come to Fort Benning, it's detrimental to your career, and that's simply not true," Coroy said. "We're trying to inform the force that a tour at Fort Benning is career-enhancing, as long as it's managed properly and your career is managed properly in accordance with the guidelines laid out in the personnel management system."
Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Metheny, Henry A. Caro Noncommissioned Officer Academy commandant, said that stigma stems from the last 12 years at war, when functional training was not emphasized as heavily.
"I think for a long time our Army has been occupied with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we have continued with promotion systems based off of wartime demands," Metheny said. "That's to be expected, but functional training was kind of pushed off to the side because it was just tough to expect Soldiers to deploy for 12 to 15 months, spend a year on the ground back stateside with their Family and then have another departure date. In a three-year period, you could be deployed two of those three years. So, for a Soldier to volunteer to go to something like Master Gunner course, which is close to four months, or Ranger School, which is a minimum of 62 days, just wasn't a priority. … As combat deployments slow down, the need for functional training and the reinforcement of the skills provided has become important again."
However, Carabello said under the leadership of Commanding General Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster and himself, a decision was made to place a renewed emphasis on these opportunities for instructors.
"We definitely thought that was something that had to change if we wanted our NCOs to be the best of the best," Carabello said. "We had to provide them this opportunity to better themselves and not only improve their technical and tactical expertise, but show them that they can do all of these things that they may not have had the opportunity to do while they were in the operational force. … This is an opportunity that needs to be provided to these NCOs. All of our sergeants major fully understand that the primary mission here is leader development. That doesn't just include the students here. That includes your cadre."
While the opportunities are there to attend functional training, instructors must find ways to fit the courses around their day-to-day duties.
Coroy said an emphasis has been placed on scheduling functional training during regularly scheduled cycle breaks, citing the example of the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course's 17-week cycle with two- to three-week breaks.
"When that 17 weeks is over, there's generally a 2-3 week cycle break before the next class comes in," Coroy said. "We encourage our instructors to sit down with a calendar and plan their functional training attendance inside of those cycle breaks."
In addition to the benefits provided to the operational force once instructors return, having instructors attend these courses also provides a positive example for students training here.
"Once they get in front of their students, they have to be the model for what a student should look at and say, 'I want to be like him,'" Carabello said. "They need to be technical experts, a tactical expert; they need to look and talk like professionals and they know their professions inside and out. That process can't be compromised whatsoever."
Metheny echoed those sentiments, saying that it is vital for NCOs to provide that positive example.
"One of the things we preach is that wherever you're at or whatever you're doing, you should be a subject matter expert in that job," he said. "So, by being certified through functional training courses, you become an NCO that your Soldiers should choose to emulate."
Functional training can also enhance a Soldier's resume, something that could become increasingly important as the Army prepares to drawdown in size.
"As our Army becomes smaller, obviously that's going to affect who moves up and who doesn't move up," Carabello said. "You're truly seeking the best of the best. Those NCOs and officers who are constantly seeking ways to better themselves and ways to make themselves a better asset to our Soldiers and the Army are the ones who are going to improve their chances."
Coroy and Metheny both said that instructors are made aware of Army career models, and how functional training can play a role in preparing for future promotion opportunities during this uncertain time.
In addition, Coroy said the sergeants major are in a unique position to provide perspective on the challenges and uncertainty the Army faces.
"We're really the only ones that have been in the Army long enough to have lived through a previous drawdown," Coroy said. "The sergeants first class and the staff sergeants and many of our first sergeants were not in the Army during the post-Desert Storm drawdown, so they don't understand what's about to happen. The sergeants major, we can't predict the future, but we can look to the 1990s for some examples of how this thing might go. So, we just want to arm our people with the best information so that they can make the best career management decisions as we move to a … smaller Army."
No matter the personal or professional opportunities that functional training can provide, Carabello said the courses can be challenging, and in order to face those challenges, NCOs must have the support of their Families.
"The Family members are being tremendous in supporting these NCOs," Carabello said. "We know that our NCOs work very hard. They work very long hours and they're held to extremely high standards. You can't maintain that without having strong Family members that are supporting them. That's critical."