Last BNCOC cadre prepare for new assignments
October 8, 2009
<b>FORT STEWART, Ga. </b>- With the graduation of Fort Stewart's last Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course-Phase I, Class 13-09 on Oct. 1, three of its four assistant instructors are preparing for new assignments. Staff Sergeant Terence Alford has already been assigned to 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team; Staff Sergeant Duntrail Kelly is pending a November reassignment to Fort Polk, La.; and Staff Sergeant Samuel Scott is preparing for a December reassignment to Fort Campbell, Ky. Despite new assignments, all four NCOs will continue to train junior leaders.
The Army has discontinued all basic and advanced NCO classroom instruction in favor of an online course system, explained Sgt. 1st Class Ramon Manzano, the BNCOC chief, who, along with assistant instructor Staff Sgt. Theodore Montgomery, will remain with the Fort Stewart NCO Academy as part of the Warrior Leaders Course.
"As I understand it, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan had a lot to do with the Army coming to the decision to go with an online course," Sgt. 1st Class Manzano said. "(The Army) didn't want Soldiers returning from a 12-month deployment then having to be separated from their Family again for BNCOC or ANCOC."
He said the online Basic NCO Course consists of 80 hours of instruction with a virtual instructor, and links on the Web site where a Soldier can ask specific questions related to the instruction material. However, the consensus of the former BNCOC cadre is that not everything a leader must learn is academic so it can be contained in an online course module.
"In a BNCOC (Phase I) class, we have Soldiers from different units with different (Military Occupational Specialties)," Staff Sgt. Alford pointed out. "In our open forum classes, Soldiers tell each other about different techniques that can be used to get a specific task accomplished."
"The balance of their experiences benefits each student," Staff Sgt. Montgomery added.
"I also think (BNCOC) students get more information about what's happening in theater right now," Staff Sgt. Scott explained, noting that every member of the BNCOC staff had two or more combat tours, allowing BNCOC students to benefit from their experience.
All agreed this sort of information could be included in the online course, which none of these former instructors have seen and therefore give the new NCO Education System the benefit of the doubt. Their chief concerns are those areas of instruction that cannot be self-taught but must be acquired though mentoring or leader to leader instruction, also called leading by example.
"That's that trust you have to have in unit leaders recommending the Soldiers to take the online course," Sgt. 1st Class Manzano said. "The unit's senior NCOs now have to take more responsibility for training and mentoring their junior NCOs."
Command Sergeant Major Jerry Taylor, commandant for the Fort Stewart NCO Academy, said that as the Army celebrates the Year of the NCO, it's all the more important to remember that NCO training keeps the Army strong.
"When Soldiers graduate from (Warrior Leaders Course), they're not just Soldiers anymore," he said. "They become leaders. They're the backbone of the Army."
Fort Stewart's NCO Academy motto is "Enter to Learn; Leave to Lead." The same can be said of its former cadre, some of whom are now returning to line units to lead young Soldiers and help develop junior leaders to be better leaders.