NCO Academy sharpens leadership
July 6, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (July 4, 2012) -- The NCO creed states: "All Soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership; I will provide that leadership." But how does an NCO learn leadership?
One could argue that much of it begins at the Noncommissioned Officer Academy's Warrior Leader Course. The 17-day course is geared toward specialists and sergeants. Most have either recently taken a position of responsibility over Soldiers or will upon return to their unit.
"We're their first stage in their NCO progression," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Smith, small group leader with the course. "Our primary objective is (to) give them a solid block of instruction on what they need to know in order to be a successful leader. We teach them roughly 52 subjects. It spans from health and fitness … all the way up to operation orders. We teach them everything they're going to need for the future."
"Everything" includes counseling Soldiers, conducting PT, leading in combat and more.
"We get everything from pharmacy techs to air traffic controllers to Rangers," Smith said. "That's why we cover all aspects."
The culminating event of the course was urban operations on Sand Hill. Held June 25 through Wednesday, the situational training exercise gave each student an opportunity to be either a squad or team leader.
"It's a final leadership evaluation," 1st Sgt. Stephen Maney said of the squad-level mission. "They're having to make the tactical decisions."
The scenario-based exercise included receiving an operations order from higher command, planning the mission with a terrain model and troop leading procedures, rehearsals and execution of the mission.
"Everything is clear," Smith said. "They know exactly what they're doing, so there are no questions that need to be answered once they're on the battlefield -- because at that point it's too late."
Spc. George Wickhorst, a medic who led a team of Soldiers in last week's exercise, said he has changed over the three-and-half-week course.
"(As) as specialist being put in a leadership role, I've developed more confidence and know what to do," he said. "It teaches leadership in a stressful environment."
Wickhorst said leadership is essential "to get things done," especially as Soldiers progress through the rank structure. The training they receive in the Warrior Leader Course gives them something to "fall back on" in moments of crisis.
"A lot of people came here nervous -- didn't know how to march, didn't know how to give commands, didn't know how to give concise, clear directions -- this definitely improves on that," he said. "It's a building block."
Smith, who's been an instructor with the course for a year and half, said the different exercises often take students outside of their comfort zones, but that's part of the training.
"We allow them to make mistakes here, so they don't make mistakes in front of their Soldiers and ruin their credibility," he said.
Nearly 110 Soldiers graduated from the course Friday on Main Post.
NCOs who choose to continue their leadership development will progress to the NCO Academy's Advanced Leader Course, followed by the Senior Leader Course and eventually the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas.