CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait -- Approximately 125 Soldiers from across the U.S Army Central area of responsibility graduated from the first Basic Leader Course held at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, March 9.BLC is the first course of study in the U.S. Army Noncommissioned Officer Education System for specialists and sergeants. It teaches them the fundamentals of leadership."This course helps Soldiers develop their baseline leadership style," said Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Cluff, a senior small group leader from 640th Regional Training Institute, a unit attached to the USARCENT Noncommissioned Officer Academy. "As they progress through Advanced Leader Course, Senior Leader Course and ultimately Master Leaders Course they will add more layers to their leadership style."Cluff added that the training gives Soldiers an introduction to leadership and some ideas and tools for their leadership toolbox to use throughout their careers.In effect since January 2016, Army directive 2015-31 requires that Soldiers first graduate the appropriate level Noncommissioned Officer Education System course before pinning on the rank.In the past, Soldiers who were promotable and met the promotion-point cutoff scores could be promoted without the corresponding leadership course for their rank. Even while in a deployed environment, Soldiers can attend BLC and still progress in their career."Our preparation for this course came straight from the Training and Doctrine Command and Sergeants Major Academy course material," said 1st Sgt. Tammy Harkleroad, the deputy commandant at USARCENT NCOA. "We have to follow the same course program that every NCO academy does back in the continental U.S."Harkleroad added that they prepare ranges and land navigation courses because they are still a key component of this course, along with physical fitness training and the situational training exercise at the end of the course.According to the Army's Human Resources Command, with the "Select, Train, Educate, Promote" framework, the next generation of competent and committed NCOs and their stripes represents more than rank or pay, but a sign they have been appropriately trained as a leader.The course was re-vamped from WLC to BLC in part due to research showing the term "warrior" does not translate well with potential civilian employers while Soldiers are transitioning from the Army.Harkleroad said the instructors of USARCENT's BLC are made up of active duty, National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers. The students come from different Army components and some have traveled from other countries within the area of responsibility, including Jordan, Qatar, Iraq and Afghanistan.The culminating event of the 22-day course was a situational training exercise, a test of each Soldier's tactical leadership in planning and executing a simulated mission in urban terrain."They are going through the tactical leadership evaluation," said Cluff, a St. George, Utah native. "They are going to be in one of three positions, either squad leader, alpha team leader or bravo team leader. During that time, we are looking at their decision making skills and, ultimately, giving them some more guidance in their careers."Sgt. Michael Calderon, a nodal network systems operator-maintainer with 640th Aviation Support Battalion, said going through the realistic training with smoke and gunfire really put his role as a leader in perspective."When you're in the heat of the moment with gun fire going on and people getting injured, it's not as easy as it says on paper," said Calderon, of Tulare, California. "You really have to stay focused and this course has taught me how to step up. I am an NCO, I am a leader and I am in that leadership position. I have to make the best decision for my guys. The exercise made it real at that moment."