GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - Wearing full battle-rattle under a canopy of pine trees, Soldiers attending the Warrior Leader Course (WLC) at the 7th U.S. Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy (NCOA) in Grafenwoehr, Germany, were evaluated July 16, after three weeks of classroom and hands-on instruction in becoming a non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the U.S. Army.

"It definitely showed me what my weaknesses are," said Sgt. Carlos A. Lopez, a medic assigned to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center attending WLC.

Lopez said he doesn't get much time to practice and become proficient in tactical field operations. For that reason, his small group leader and WLC instructor, Staff Sgt. Jeremy L. Conn selected him as the first squad leader during the evaluation period.

"Soldiers get put in a leadership position at their units without having learned the basic NCO fundamentals," Conn said. "This school takes that Soldier, puts him back at the beginning and brings him up in a crawl, walk - run phase."

During the month-long course, Lopez, along with approximately 139 other Soldiers, received classroom instruction and hands-on training using the modern training facilities available at the Grafenwoehr Training Area.

The Joint Multinational Training Command (JMTC) manages and operates the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training areas, which includes the NCOA.

The knowledge and experiences relayed by the NCOs leading the course, Lopez said, helped him better understand the importance of today's NCOs.

"Before, my leadership style was a little more passive," Lopez said. "Now going through this course, I've become a little more aggressive in certain areas, and also become more knowledgeable about NCO business."

For Conn, instructing the WLC students is just as much of a learning experience for him as it is for his Soldiers.

"Being an instructor is more than just putting out info," Conn said. "You get to put your experiences out there and take in experiences from other Soldiers.

"There are Soldiers out here who are more experienced in some areas than we are, so we take that experience from the Soldier and implement it during training," he said.

Conn said watching Lopez and his other students negotiate the training lanes during their evaluations was instant proof of his effectiveness in the classroom.

"It definitely lets you know if you are a good instructor," he said. "You hope that these guys take from you, what you give them and they present it well in the field."

Conn said the most important take-away is how the Soldiers will present their new leadership skills at their home unit, or downrange in Afghanistan or Iraq.

"At the Joint Multinational Training Command, we train Soldiers to go to war, and it makes all the difference on the battlefield."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16