Oasis in the Desert Prepares Sergeants Majors to Lead
September 6, 2012
FORT BLISS, TEXAS-- An oasis in a desert best describes the atmosphere as you walk under the archway into center court of the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy here.
It's an island in a sea of grass with a walkway that leads to each educational center where students learn the skills necessary to lead future generations of Soldiers.
"The Academy's mission and purpose is to develop agile and critical thinking leaders," said Charles Guitte, the director of training . "It is all about leader development, they need to understand the skills, knowledge and attributes of what it takes to, first of all be a Soldier, and then start learning the traits of being a leader."
The Sergeants Major Academy was established in 1972, and starting educating sergeants major in January 1973 . The Academy was given the mission of standardizing non-commissioned officer training across the army, which resulted in the creation of the Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC), which is now known as the Warrior Leader Course (WLC).
The Academy also conducts training courses for newly named Command Sergeants Major.
Although the Academy teaches to one standard level of completion, each individual has different attributes to bring to their organization as well as improvements that can be made, Sgt. Maj. William Backscleider, Chief of curriculum development said.
"Be a Steward of yourself, know what your strengths are and know what your weaknesses are." he said. "Capitalize on your strengths but improve on your weaknesses."
Along with self-development, operational force units and the Academy, Soldiers will have what they need to be good leaders, Guitte said.
"Institutional training is only one of the three pillars of life," he said. "We are not the foundation; we are one of the three pillars that provide the tools for soldiers to learn."
Connecting the three pillars is part of what we do at the academy, Guitte said.
And self-development allows Soldiers to continue getting education and developing leadership skills in-between the formal schooling that precedes a new leadership position.
"There are elements that the operating force says is important that Soldiers don't do in the organizational level," he said. "We do it at the institutional level and we bridge that gap with what we call Structured Self-Development through a lifelong continuum."
Soldiers need to choose to be a leader and not told to be one, Sgt. Maj. David Wilkinson, training doctrine education director said.
"We provide a platform for them to learn," Wilkinson said. "The bottom line is we want the Soldier to have two options, they can be willing to learn or they can be told to learn."
Being able to make the right decision based on the situation, instead of being told what decision to make is key, he explained.
"We want them to exit here knowing that there is a set of tools that they can rely on to find the answers," Wilkinson said. "We've shown them what the tools look like to get the right answer instead of just telling them what right is."
As the Soldiers leave the Academy, their goal is for the skills they learned to have an effect on the future leaders as well, Guitte said.
"Hopefully what they took away from their institutional training they are now bleeding that down to their junior leaders and infusing that," he said.
Becoming leaders is not just to further the enlisted side but to also bridge the gap between non-commissioned and commissioned officers so they can better work as a partnership, Guitte said.
"We have to blend the non-commissioned officers so that they are compatible with their commissioned counterpart," Guitte Said. "We are educating today's leaders for tomorrow."