FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Soft morning light and a cold breeze accompany Soldiers guarding a makeshift hidden patrol base just outside of Fort Bragg, N.C. It's early in the morning, and each Soldier knows the outcome of their training will depend on their ability to defend the base.

Defense of the patrol base is performed one of the final field tests required to graduate from the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Academy Jan. 30, 2017. The purpose of the test, and the school, is to help teach Soldiers the fundamentals of Army leadership.

The school, founded in 1972, is one of the fundamental requirements for a Soldier to become an NCO. During three weeks of instruction, the instructors used a combination of classroom and field training to teach Soldiers, ranking from specialist to staff sergeant, skills ranging from critical thinking to land navigation.

"Our school is incredibly professional," said Staff Sgt. Jon Beck, an instructor at the Fort Bragg NCO Academy. "We're taking new, young leaders for the Army, and we're bringing them up to standard to where they can lead their own Soldiers."

The school is the second largest NCO academy in the Army. The staff boasts the highest amount potential leaders enrolled, with approximately 3,840 Soldiers trained annually. According to the Army's promotion program, every Soldier, regardless of their job within the Army, should have an opportunity to attend a leadership school.

"This is valuable training," said Cpl. Andrew Blake, a student at the academy. "It's good to come here …, because there are a lot of lessons to be learned. You can go back to your unit and apply it supporting your Soldiers or just your day to day tasks."