By Ms. Christie Vanover (IMCOM)February 10, 2009
Mons, Belgium-Noncommissioned Officers at USAG Benelux and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe are getting the recognition of senior leaders for a second year in a row.
"The Year of the NCO all started here at NATO," said Command Sgt. Maj. Antonio Adams, pointing out the 2008 program launched by Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Gen. James Mattis, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Bartelle, Allied Command Operations Senior NCO.
"Our NCOs are an integral link in the chain of command and leadership in NATO," Craddock said when kicking off last year's campaign. "They are ambassadors for their nations. They are helping us transform the Alliance. We cannot succeed without them."
This year, the Army as a whole is recognizing the NCO Corps. "We want to enhance what we are doing for the NCOs, so we have initiatives that we'll bring on line this year that will enhance how we develop our noncommissioned officers and enable them to gain even more skills," Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey, Jr. told members of the Association of the United States Army in January.
Those initiatives were front and center for Soldiers in the U.S. Army NATO SHAPE Battalion last week. "There's no doubt that everybody in the Army knows that NCOs run the Army day-to-day," Adams, the battalion's command sergeant major, announced unequivocally.
"I tell you it's going to be a different Army in the next ten years. It's going to be tech. Everything will be at your fingertips. You can plan your career," he emphasized.
That individual career planning will be possible because of the new Army Career Tracker. The portal, soon to be available on Army Knowledge Online, allows Soldiers to essentially plot out their entire careers. From MOS-specific training to civilian education, the calendar and dashboard put the Soldier in control.
Adams compared the dashboard section of the site to the dashboard of a car. "Just think about driving your car. Anything that goes wrong, it's right there. Your car has a lot of parts, and that's where you manage it," he said.
Staff Sgt. Carlos Gualotuna is encouraged by the focus to further develop NCOs. "I think it's a good idea; a good tool," the SHAPE Battalion platoon sergeant said.
"You can go on the computer and see progress. You can see I should be doing this as time goes by, and for Soldiers who are lackadaisical, they can see they're lagging," he added.
In addition to personal planning, the Army Career Tracker allows leaders to monitor their Soldiers' progress through a "My Notices" section.
According to the program demonstration, "My Notices provides developmental recommendations from mentors and chain of command and delivers system generated alerts based on your status and military history."
Gualotuna said this is a tool that will be very beneficial to him while he's working for NATO because his command sergeant major is on the road a lot, and they often communicate via email. He said now his CSM will still be able to see his progress and offer needed guidance from anywhere in the world.
In addition to the Army Career Tracker, 2009 will bring about a change to the Army's Basic and Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Courses.
"The Army is making BNCOC and ANCOC more relevant to the battlefield and the battles we fight today," said Adams.
According to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, The Advanced Leader Course (formerly BNCOC) will focus on training Soldiers at the squad and platoon level by enhancing MOS skills and teaching platoon level leadership.
The Senior Leader Course (formerly ANCOC) will train at the platoon and company level and will work to develop NCOs into first sergeants.
"Any of us in this room who have been a first sergeant," Adams told his Soldiers, "learned through your position and then from there. Now, they're going to prepare you in advance."
Gualotuna said that new course structure will not only better prepare leaders, but it will also motivate Soldiers. "It motivates them to want to have that responsibility. It makes you feel more important and want to progress," he said.
Other initiatives for the 2009 Year of the NCO campaign focus on civilian education, mental and physical fitness and pride in service.
Adams ignited that pride with his Soldiers at the conclusion of his briefing.
"What are we going to do'" he asked.
"Tell our story," the U.S. Army NATO SHAPE Battalion responded in unison.
"To who'" Adams continued.
"The world," they boldly stated.
To learn more about the Year of the NCO, visit www4.army.mil/yearofthenco/home.php