Year of the NCO: Junior NCOs train, learn at Warrior Leader Course
October 23, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Yellow and green smoke covered the back of the field amid the sound of mortar shells going off behind the wood line. Shortly after the smoke began covering an arch bearing the motto "Lead by Example," Soldiers wearing tan, black and maroon berets marched onto the field Oct. 15, for the graduation of Warrior Leader Course, Class 01-10.
The XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg Noncommissioned Officer Academy goes beyond the typical Army graduation ceremony that usually features a slideshow of photos and a couple of speeches.
The students led the ceremony, marching themselves onto the field and conducted a pass and review, demonstrating the noncommissioned officer's role in preserving military traditions and discipline in drill and ceremony.
The new graduates on the parade field recited the NCO Creed and committed themselves to being professionals who earn the respect and confidence of their Soldiers.
WLC uses the train the trainer concept, teaching battle focused training, leadership and physical fitness training to enlisted Soldiers moving into the ranks of the noncommissioned officer corps. It gives Soldiers the chance to come together to learn how to become effective leaders, both from their instructors and their peers.
The course changed from the Primary Leadership Development Course to the more warrior and combat-focused WLC format in 2005.
"The construct changed to better accommodate the Soldiers who are fighting two wars. The class length changed from 28 days to 15. Even though the course is shorter, I think it is effective. The Soldiers have to work harder, because they still have to learn the same amount of information, but at the end of the day, I think they come away with the tools and skills they need to be effective leaders," said Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Howard, commandant, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg NCO Academy.
Sgt. 1st Class David Morrison, senior small group leader said the WLC format is better geared towards today's Soldiers.
"By the time a Soldier attends WLC, most of them have experience going to combat. The warrior focus and combat focus of WLC deals more with the experiences of the Soldiers," said Morrison. "We still teach them leadership and garrison operations, but we really help them focus on having the leadership tools they'll need during a deployment."
The 15-day course is intense. Students lead fellow students throughout the course as squad leaders, platoon and first sergeants, conducting morning physical training, formations and filling the roles NCOs perform during daily operations. The Soldiers currently do not have to take written tests, but they are graded on their performance as leaders, the land navigation course and the classes they teach.
The students and academy staff seemed to agree that one of the primary benefits of the course is being able to come together with peers from different military occupational specialties.
"WLC is the first time Soldiers get to interact with peers in a non-MOS specific training atmosphere," said Sgt. 1st Class Jared Matthews, chief of operations at the NCO Academy.
"It allows them to share their experiences with each other and mold their leadership skills. An 11B (infantry Soldier) and a 92A (logistical specialist) are used to different missions and have different leadership styles. They come together here and share their technical and tactical knowledge. It helps create a well-rounded leader on the battlefield," he said.
"It is great getting to know other NCOs from different units and different MOSs. We learn from each other based on our experiences and what we do each day. What I've learned here is going to help me in my career," said Sgt. Jonathan Gomez, of 3rd Battalion, 4th Air and Missile Defense, and graduate of WLC Class 01-10.
The mission of the WLC is to train Soldiers to be warrior leaders. According to Morrison, the course teaches doctrine, not standard operating procedures.
"In the end, it is up to the individual to take the information and training we offer them and to do what's right when they get back to their units," he said.
Howard said that it is important for Soldiers to take their knowledge and training with them and take the NCO Creed to heart.
"Every Soldier has the ability and opportunity to become an effective leader," said Howard. "We teach them to be flexible, as war fighting changes, they need to be able to change. As NCOs they need to stay true to the role, customs and traditions of the NCO corps. The duties and responsibilities of NCOs are more important than ever right now."