A new class of leaders
August 22, 2014
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- "No one is more professional than I; I am a noncommissioned officer, a leader of Soldiers."
When spoken, Soldiers stand proud and tall, confident. Most Soldiers can recite the first line of the noncommissioned officer creed without hesitation. What about the rest of the creed? How many young Soldiers can recite the second paragraph, or even the third? More importantly, what does it mean?
One group of Soldiers makes it their daily mission to instill professionalism into young leaders. It's up to the cadre of noncommissioned officers at the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Grafenwoehr Training Area to ensure that when the students of the Warrior Leader Course graduate, they not only answer that question, but act as living examples.
"The Warrior Leader Course is a 22-day program of instruction that trains junior leaders on becoming noncommissioned officers," said Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson, commandant of the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy and Sharon, Pennsylvania, native.
As the only noncommissioned officer academy in Europe as well as the largest noncommissioned officer academy in the U.S. Army, just over 300 American and 10 international students attend per class.
"This is the first level of their noncommissioned officer education system and we give them a basic foundation on becoming leaders in garrison as well as in a tactical environment."
That basic foundation is key for young Soldiers.
Most Soldiers have mentors through their careers that guide and train them in daily activities; however it takes a deeper understanding and attention to detail to teach young Soldiers what it is to be truly professional.
As an noncommissioned officer, these leaders are "the backbone of the Army," which means that Soldier readiness and mission accomplishment are paramount.
By instructing future leaders to react and plan when given warning and operations orders, as well as infantry tactics and movements, the Soldiers are getting a view of a larger picture, which many don't see as junior Soldiers.
During the course students learn the different levels of responsibilities for team, squad and platoon leaders by being placed in those roles during exercises.
When Soldiers first come into the military, they typically only react to orders given, without fully understanding why the task is important and the role it plays in the overall mission.
When most Soldiers arrive at the course, they are either newly promoted or are looking forward to their promotion into the noncommissioned officer ranks.
It is at this school where Soldiers can make mistakes, learn without harmful consequences and gain insight from a wealth of experiences from their instructors as well as peers.
The transition from following to leading is visible, said Boston, Massachusetts, native Staff Sgt. Robert Gross, a small group leader with the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy.
Even for the international students, Warrior Leader Course is a place to practice real-world scenarios in a joint environment, said Netherlands army Sgt. Ronny Terwijn.
He said learning how the American Soldier operates helps him not only learn movements, but also helps break down the language barrier.
The final phrase of the noncommissioned officer creed is another that Soldiers usually belt out proudly: "I will not forget, nor will I allow my comrades to forget that we are professionals, noncommissioned officers, leaders!"
When they leave the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy, they not only know the entire noncommissioned officer creed, but understand how to live by the words and meaning to continue the legacy of the U.S. Army noncommissioned officer as the "backbone of the Army."