One of Maj. Gen. Chris Hughes, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, focuses during his command is to ensure that Cadets have "world-class cadre."
Cadet Command has recently taken one more step toward that goal by awarding one of its instructors the first Army Basic Instructor Badge in the command.
Sgt. 1st Class Shannon Clark, a senior military instructor at the University of North Georgia, was recently awarded the badge for completing the requirement process. That process includes completing the Cadet Command instructor certification, completing 80 hours of classroom instruction time after becoming a certified instructor and completing two evaluations of actual teaching in the classroom.
She said while she's excited to have earned the badge, the process has also helped her refine her teaching skills.
"I think it's good to always have assessment. I think throughout your career you should always put yourself in positions to be assessed--it's the only way you can get better," she said. "For me, it wasn't so much about getting the badge as it was to make sure I was doing what I am supposed to be doing as an instructor to provide quality teaching. It was about perfecting myself and making better second lieutenants."
Clark, who's been teaching for 1 1/2 years, said she's been enjoying the challenge of teaching cadets.
"Prior to this assignment I was a Warrior Leader Course instructor," she said. "It's much different than training NCOs. Being in a civilian higher education environment--you have to ensure your instruction isn't any different than the instruction the cadets are getting from any of their other professors. I have to use my expertise to deliver it in an appropriate way in which they will understand the information and be able to develop themselves from that."
Being relatable is one of characteristics Clark says helps her connect with students.
"I think what draws students to me is my transparency--I don't hide behind my weaknesses, I present them and I show how working on them every day and being honest with yourself is beneficial," Clark explained. "In the Army you are never in one position for too long and each pillar of leadership comes with different challenges so you are constantly evolving. You have to be comfortable with not being comfortable. I think that aspect of me lays a good foundation for other people to latch on to because they know when they come to me I will give them the honest truth--it may not be good or pretty, but now that you have it, you know where you are and where to go from there."
Tom Burgess, course manager for Cadet Command's Foundation Instructor/Facilitator Course, said recognizing and identifying instructors like Clark is important for the Soldier and the command.
"The instructor badge was specifically established for (Training and Doctrine Command) to recognize instructors because being an instructor hasn't necessarily historically been a career enhancing job. So what they wanted to was encourage people to specialize in effective instruction," he said. "It's important because we were not part of TRADOC until 2012, and it's a program that other TRADOC NCOs have been able to enjoy but we have not until recently. We are not a Center for Excellence but we certainly do our best to be like one.
"This is helping to ensure our instructor NCOs are every bit as trained as any other TRADOC instructor. It's not about the badge, it's about the program because you're telling the Army, "I like teaching, I'm good at it, and I want to do more of it." That's what the badge means."
Currently the instructor badge is only available for enlisted ranks. Those who earn the badge are also assigned a personal development skill identifier, which will be taken into consideration for future assignments as instructors. The badge can also provide benefits in the civilian sector after military service.
"This program is certifying people as instructors for the Army, and they get that recognition from TRADOC, but another important thing is that it's part of the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction, an organization in the civilian world that certifies instructors," explained Burgess. "That provides post-Army employment value if they want to transition in to an instructor role in the civilian world."
Burgess added, there are currently three more SMIs going through the instructor badge process and he hopes to see that number grow each year.