717th MI Battalion duo grabs top grad honors
July 5, 2012
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Two 717th Military Intelligence Battalion Soldiers stationed at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland garnered top academic honors in the Noncommissioned Officers Academy Warrior Leader Course.
Sgt. James Kirscht, a signals intelligence analyst/reporter, was the Distinguished Honor Graduate and Spc. Scott Bilich, a technical leader/signals intelligence analyst, was the Honor Graduate for WLC Class 09-12, a 26-day course that concluded in June.
"We have never had two Soldiers from the same battalion in the top four before," said Theresa Foster, executive assistant to the Noncommissioned Officers Academy, Fort Hood, Texas. "It was quite an honor."
But that wasn't all. They both scored 99.6 per cent.
"Their scores were exact -- another rarity," Foster continued. "In order to determine the winner, they had to do a face-off using the Best Warrior Exam [from the Best Warrior Competition on Fort Hood]. … Sergeant Kirscht practically aced it."
The WLC's objectives are to graduate students who are technically and tactically proficient, make sound decisions, plan correctly, follow the professional Army ethic, communicate effectively, teach and counsel, and apply Soldier-team development.
The 717th, a subordinate battalion of the 470th MI Brigade, selected Kirscht and Bilich to attend WLC because they had demonstrated potential for leadership as NCOs. Both have served in the Army for about three years.
Kirscht said he thought he did well in the course because other NCOs in the battalion who previously attended the course passed on their knowledge to him to enable him to succeed.
"The NCOs in my company made sure I was properly equipped and trained to be the best Soldier I can be," said Kirscht, who joined the battalion two years ago. "The material from the online Structured Self Development course was a great means of preparing for the WLC," he added.
Bilich said his squad leader sat down with him and outlined what he should expect when he attended the course. In addition, he had completed the Junior Leader Development Course in August 2011.
"This helped me in the basic understanding of team building, leadership and Army writing style," said Bilich, who was assigned to the 717th in September 2010.
What did they take away from the WLC?
"The course gave me more confidence in my ability as a leader," Bilich said. "It gives you a chance to showcase how you feel an NCO should react and lead, from day-to-day in garrison or out in the field in a combat situation."
The biggest value of attending the course to Kirscht was "being able to interact with all the various Military Occupational Specialties in the Army in a structured and educational environment." He explained, "This allowed me to gain insight into the rest of what makes the Army a working unit."
Both the Distinguished Honor Graduate and the Honor Graduate received the Army Achievement Medal, a certificate of achievement from the III Corps command sergeant major, a "Wooden Soldier" plaque with the Soldiers Creed inside, a WLC certificate, and a plaque from Pioneer Services (a finance company that serves the military). In addition, the Distinguished Honor Graduate received an eagle plaque inscribed with his name.
I am humbled … to receive this distinction," said Kirscht. "It gave me the chance both to lead from the front and to lead by example. I want to ensure my Soldiers are as prepared and ready for success [as I was]."