HEIDELBERG, Germany (Army News Service, Nov. 1, 2007) - Junior Soldiers are now taking on more responsibilities, so the Army's Education System is adapting, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston said while on a nine-day visit with troops across Europe.

"Because of how we operate, we are putting more and more responsibilities on younger Soldiers," SMA Preston told 24 military police from the 529th MP Company Oct. 26 in Heidelberg. "So our training models need to change, too."

The Army's top NCO said Soldiers must learn more leadership and warrior skills earlier in their careers in order to successfully continue the fight against global terrorism.

<b>Basic Training Extended</b>

Basic training is now increasing from nine to 10 weeks, SMA Preston said, so new Soldiers can spend more time in simulated operational environments. Soldiers carry their weapons longer -- starting from their third day in basic -- and develop marksmanship skills in a more combat-like setting and during simulated convoy operations.

New troops will get "a lot more time in the field with more warrior tasks and a lot more emphasis on using your weapon as you would in combat," he said.

Advanced individual training has also become more combat-focused, Preston said. Soldiers are undergoing more warrior drills, instead of focusing only on their technical skills, and the Warrior Leader Course is emphasizing more hands-on leadership training he said.

<b>NCO Courses Changing Names</b>

This year, the Army's Basic Noncommissioned Officer course is changing to the Advanced Leader Course and the Advanced NCO course is changing to the Senior Leader Course. The redesigned curriculum will incorporate skills formerly taught in higher-level courses, he said.

Battle-tested Soldiers are attending these courses and those Soldiers are filling positions traditionally held by their seniors, he said. These new and longer courses will give these leaders the skills that they need to complete their missions.

"You have sergeants first class stepping up and filling first sergeant positions; you have staff sergeants serving in platoon sergeant positions; you have sergeants serving as squad leaders," Preston told the MPs. "You have privates first class serving as team leaders."

<b>SMA Fields Questions</b>

Preston fielded several questions on topics ranging from recruiting standards to new small-arms weapons systems to the roles of civilian employees and contractors in the Army.

Preston said the Army is looking at its structure and swapping Soldiers for civilians "where it makes sense." More civilians are working in jobs once filled by Soldiers, freeing more troops to serve in the operational Army, filling more units and saving money in recruiting, health care and retirement costs.

Preston reminded the MPs that the Army is built upon standards and NCO leaders at all levels who enforce and exemplify the Army's standards. It is a matter of safety and discipline, he said.

"We are a standards-based organization," he said. "We empower our leaders -- noncommissioned officers -- to enforce the standards. Any time a Soldier is killed in training or something bad happens, it is usually because of a failure to enforce standards."

<b>Trip Spans Germany, Balkans, Italy</b>

Following a whirlwind nine-day itinerary, Preston has visited with U.S. Army Europe Soldiers and Families in the Benelux; at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, and in Heidelberg, Grafenwoehr, Vilseck, Kaiserslautern and Landstuhl, Germany. He is visiting Vicenza, Italy and Darmstadt, Germany as well.

SMA Preston has shared a variety of activities with Soldiers during his visit, including several meals; physical training sessions, and open forums and town hall meetings. He also took part in the signing of the Army Family Covenant in Heidelberg Oct. 26.

During a visit to the Joint Multinational Training Command Oct. 28, SMA
Preston began his day talking with Warrior Leader Course students at the 7th Army NCO Academy. Then he toured the ranges and had an opportunity to observe members of 1st Armored Division's 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry taking part in a Mission Readiness Exercise.

<b>SMA Explains Modularity</b>

Following the range visit, it was on to Vilseck, where Preston addressed members of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment's rear detachment. Preston spoke about how the Army is striving to be more modular in design.

"What this means is, we want an MP company in Heidelberg, Germany, to look just like an MP Company from the reserves based out of Baltimore, and that company should look just like a unit from the Kentucky National Guard," he said.

"Like units -- whether it be Reserve, Active, or National Guard -- we want them all to be the same."

The concept of the modular redesign began in January of 2004, the sergeant major said. At that time there were 33 brigade combat teams. Since then, the Army has grown, and should be at 44 brigade combat teams by October 2008.

Preston explained that units are being redesigned to make the Army a stronger and larger fighting force, saying brigades are being broken down and rebuilt to create more brigades to help combat the need for back-to-back deployments.

"This is the biggest transformation the Army has seen since World War II," SMA Preston said.

(David Melancon serves with the U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg Public Affairs Office. A dispatch from Spc. Gerald Wilson of the Joint Multinational Training Command Public Affairs Office also contributed to this article.)

Page last updated Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 15:09