FORT BENNING, GA - One hundred and fifty-nine Soldiers in the Warrior Leader Course are learning what it means to be an NCO.

The Warrior Leader Course basically certifies them as sergeants, said SFC Murphy Serignet, NCOIC for the field exercise portion of the 15-day course, conducted by the Noncommissioned Officer Academy.

"It's to make them understand ... (they) need to step up to the next level - to go ahead and lead troops, care for the welfare of their Soldiers and be more responsible," Serignet said.

Making the leap from specialist to sergeant is about leadership and responsibility, said SPC Nathan Smith, who graduated from the course Thursday.

"It's a very big step," he said. "It's an important step. It's a good feeling to know that you're leading and taking care of Soldiers."

During the course, students learn field tactics and procedures in a classroom environment before applying the information in a hands-on environment. The culminating event is a four-day mission-based exercise where Soldiers react to IEDs, face ambushes, pull security and handle casualties. Squad leaders rotate after each mission, so every Soldier has the opportunity to lead.

SPC Quyen Bui, who acted as the squad leader for a patrol mission Monday on Wendy Hill, said this was her first time in that type of leadership position.

"I'm not very experienced, but I will do better next time," said the signal support systems specialist. "I learned a lot, (but) I need to learn more about leadership. If you're not squared away, you're not able to be in that position to lead a Soldier."

Soldiers in the Warrior Leader Course come from a variety of MOSs, but they all conduct Infantry-type missions of clearing rooms on urban sites and leading patrols in the woodline.

SGT Sadie Tollberg works in the orderly room and has a background in chemical operations. She started the course Aug. 19, so she could graduate before deploying with the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team in October.

"I could tell you anything about paperwork and desk work and anything in my actual MOS, but I haven't done a lot of this stuff since basic, and some of it I haven't even done there," she said. "It's difficult. A lot of the responsibility falls on you. You have to be confident. The main thing is to maintain accountability and make sure everybody is doing what they're supposed to be doing. It's a lot to watch at the same time. I'm really pushing myself beyond a limit I didn't know was possible."

Tollberg said she is having a rough week, but the course has helped prepare her if she should ever be in a similar situation.

"I think there's a bigger picture here," she said. "It's not necessarily that I'm going to take my Soldiers into a woodline. It's more that you have to do something immediately ... under stress, and you have to know what it's like to have everybody depend on you."

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