WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 15, 2013) -- The Army will soon require noncommissioned officers to complete online training prior to promotion eligibility. Additionally, NCO schools will no longer be waived.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, the Army will formally link completion of Structured Self Development, or SSD training, with professional military education courses for promotion eligibility.
The changes are outlined in Army Directive 2013-15, dated July 1.
Gerald Purcell, Army personnel policy integrator for NCO Professional Development, G-1, said the goal is to shape a new career timeline for NCOs that includes all the tenets of leader development, including education, training and experiences.
"Over the last 10 years, we were really an Army out of balance in terms of those three tenets of developing leaders," Purcell said. "The accumulation of experiences alone does not equate to a fully-developed leader."
The change is part of an initiative to select, train and promote Soldiers who are best qualified in their current grade, and who show the greatest potential to serve in positions of increased responsibility, Purcell said.
"Our NCOs are charged with the training and care of our Soldiers while enforcing standards, so it is imperative we equip them with the best tools we can to help them do their job," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III. "Connecting the NCO Education System and promotions in a deliberate, continuous, sequential and progressive manner produces the best NCO Corps possible. It gives us the competent and committed leaders of character our Army needs and deserves."
The effort, according to Purcell, will foster a balance of training, education and experience, while encouraging life-long learning and development of broadly-skilled NCOs. Another important aspect is to sustain an all-volunteer force by providing viable career paths.
He said that while the Army is an efficient organization that is effective operationally, the other aspects of leader development must not be overlooked.
"We've really paid the price because while operational experience is great, it in and of itself doesn't make great leaders because you still need the education and the training to round it all out," said Purcell.
NCOs had been allowed to serve 30 years, and then would have to retire. Purcell said the NCO timeline was extended to 32 years to allow for the completion of those three tenets and to foster the development of the world's most professional NCO Corps. This timeline facilitates an environment where Army Professionals can meet the Army's certification criteria of competence, character, and commitment.
The Army is an "up or out" organization, Purcell said. The policies support a fundamental baseline by which professionals remain technically and tactically proficient with continued opportunities for development and advancement.
The directive says Soldiers should be considered for promotion when they achieve competency in their current rank and exhibit the potential to serve successfully at the next higher rank, which entails an increased level of responsibility.
The areas Soldiers must excel in to advance include professional competence, team building, adaptability, lifelong learning, and comprehensive fitness.
Some of the requirements for advancement include:
• Specialists and corporals must complete SSD-1 before they can be recommended (boarded) to sergeant.
• Sergeants must complete the Warrior Leader Course before they can be recommended (boarded) to staff sergeant.
• Staff sergeants must complete SSD-3 before they are eligible for consideration for sergeant first class.
• Sergeants first class must complete SSD-4 before they are eligible for consideration for master sergeant.
The directive states waivers for the Warrior Leader Course, known as WLC, will no longer allow sergeants to be considered for promotion.
Soldiers who had been previously granted WLC waivers must graduate from the course no later than Sept. 30, 2014. Soldiers who are deployed when the changes go into effect, Jan. 1, will have up to 270 days after redeployment to complete the course. Reserve-component Soldiers will have up to 270 days after release from active duty to complete the WLC.
The directive says Soldiers who do not complete the required WLC training will be removed from the promotion list for staff sergeant or reduced to sergeant.