FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Aug. 28, 2015) -- It's day two of the two-week Horizontal Construction Engineers Senior Leader Course on Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Soldiers from across the country are gathered at a multi-purpose bridge site taking measurements and working on calculating the rapid classification of fixed bridges.
They've been up since 5 a.m., having already taken their required Army Physical Fitness Test, and these students are excited to be out of the classroom, taking advantage of the opportunity for some hands-on training out in the field as they learn how to become more proficient in supervisory roles in their military jobs.
The course moves pretty quickly since all the students are either senior noncommissioned officers, or NCOs, or about to become senior NCOs, and they come to the classroom with the benefit of practical experience. Not just a simple refresher on the basics of horizontal construction engineering, the course focuses on leadership skills including project management, resources training and utilizing the critical path method.
"At this level, we're supervising multiple people, so it's more project management, which applies to more than just construction," said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Williams, project manager and Horizontal Branch chief for 1st Brigade Engineers, 102nd Total Army School System, or TASS, training center, or TTC. "It's troop leading procedures ... it's all mission planning. It helps strengthen their confidence with that ... helping them to interpret stuff and manage their Soldiers effectively."
Williams, along with the other course instructors, relies heavily on the students themselves to set the pace of the course and really steer the class.
"I'm really trying to foster that 'think for yourself' [mentality]," he said. "They have the experience, they have the knowledge, it's a lot easier to teach them ... they're go-getters, they get it and they're helping each other out."
Of course, teamwork is a core concept of the U.S. Army, so it comes as no surprise that experienced NCOs would be able to work well together as a cohesive unit, but when they return to their home units as individuals, they will be able to continue putting their skills to good use in whatever missions they carry out, from short-term annual training missions to longer overseas deployments.
"It's directly in line with my knowledge set, with what I need to lead troops and effectively plan and execute missions for the horizontal missions that we're given in my unit," said Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McCoy, of the 801st Engineer Company, out of Mare Island, California.
His unit will be taking over command and control for disaster response as part of the Defense Support of Civil Authority mission next year, and he believes the skills he has picked up in the classroom will greatly benefit him and his unit in quickly and effectively meeting any challenge.
"It's not the traditional sense," said McCoy, explaining that understanding construction can be more than simply building things. A solid understanding of construction can help leaders quickly asses the durability of structures or ascertain the most viable routes to safety in the event of a disaster. "Using the planning mechanisms and procedures that we'll learn here in this course will help us develop traffic control plans, it will help us mitigate debris, help us move or even bring vital resources in needy areas where the civilians are in dire straits for emergency supplies."
Williams believes that his students will most likely have an opportunity to prove themselves sooner rather than later, and not just when missions pop up.
"We actually have Soldiers that are in here that are part of field engineer teams - so they'll actually be able to go out, go back and apply it right away. A lot of these guys will be able to use it not just on small projects, like AT, or big projects overseas, but hopefully they'll even be able to apply it in their civilian jobs."
By utilizing the new-found skills they've learned in this senior leader course, Soldiers can get a solid handle on the larger picture, execute their missions with confidence and even better protect lives while simply doing their jobs.