BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- The timing wasn't the greatest, but the knowledge and its impact was well worth it.Sixteen Soldiers from the Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade graduated Feb. 13 from the Army's Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course in the midst of the unit preparing to redeploy back to its home station at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as part of the 101st Airborne Division. The Sustainment Brigade functions to provide logistical support to the division.Since mid-December, the brigade has provided support to the 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado, as it replaced the 101st AB Div.But it just wasn't temporarily billeting and going to school at BAF facilities normally used for the Army's Warrior Leadership Course on the other section of base known as the "Warrior" side that made things different, but the fact that students had to turn their whole day around. Instruction started at 7:30 p.m. and went to 5:30 a.m."It was a little hard the first couple of days, we were definitely tired but [we] got used to it pretty quickly," said student Sgt. 1st Class Joanne Glanville.By trade, Glanville is a 17-year Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear specialist."I need this class. I've been trying to go to Battle Staff for a long time," she said. During her nine-month deployment, Glanville has worked in the S-3 (Operations) section."I really needed to take this to get a better understanding of what goes on other than the CBRN mission that I do."The change in hours was needed because the course was taught out of Fort Bliss, Texas, and was video teleconferenced to BAF. Likewise, the course was simultaneously taught at other Army locations around the globe in Korea, Alaska, Hawaii, and several in the U.S.According to unit personnel, this is only the second time this course has been taught at BAF. As far as they know, the only other time was in 2017.Normally these deployed Soldiers would be reporting to work in the morning hours after going to the gym for physical training, and in many cases, working until late at night.One of those working long hours was Sgt. 1st Class Neal Robinson, a 14-year Human Resources specialist. While deployed, he served as a battalion S-3 noncommissioned officer in charge."I was excited to get this course because I've been trying to get this course for four years," he said, explaining things like mission requirements, class dates getting changed, and moving to his next Army assignment resulted in not being able to go."It (the course) really helped me understand my job better," he said. "It's like I now understand why they were doing things that way" in previous staff positions.The 159-hour course functions to educate sergeants through sergeants major to serve as battle staff noncommissioned officers at battalion and higher level staff positions, stated the Army's NCO Leadership Center of Excellence website."Battle Staff NCO Course provides selected noncommissioned officers with the tools necessary to learn specific staff duties and become familiar with the duties of other staff sections. BSNCOC provides technical and tactical curriculum relevant to the missions, duties, and responsibilities assigned to battle staff members in battalion and brigade-level units," the website stated.
The curriculum includes how to track unit elements, draw and design graphics for maps, mission analysis, military decision making process, and other battle staff-related elements."It's challenging and it's attention to detail," said former graduate Sgt. 1st Class Brian Palazzolo, who served as one of four assistant instructors."[If] you miss one minor thing on something, it could mess the whole grid up," he said, referring to map work.Palazzolo added that taking this course at BAF was unique because students were in a real combat zone, citing there were three indirect fire attacks on BAF during the course resulting in students and instructors going into a bunker until the "all clear" was announced on the outdoor base wide public address system.Securing approval and plans to make this course possible here was the work of Staff Sgt. James Cherry, a student in the course.Cherry, a nine-year veteran who is an Automated Logistical specialist, also worked in the RSSB's S-3 shop as the operations sergeant while deployed."I had to put a lot of stuff together to get it actually facilitated," Cherry said, explaining he went through a lot of red tape to make it happen. Cherry himself didn't know he was going through the course until five days before it began as a couple slots came open from Soldiers redeploying early.Hence, Cherry said leadership told him they wanted to reward him for all his work in bringing the course to fruition and that it would be really good for his career.Initial planning for the course began last August, he said, with hopes of being part of the class that was slated for Nov. 13. However, that fell through and approval was finally given for the Jan. 13 class.Despite the sustainment brigade prepping for its replacement unit and readying to go back to Fort Campbell, the command leadership was 100 percent in support of this course happening, Cherry said."This is a hard, hard, hard course to get," said Col. Stephanie Barton, commander, RSSB, at the graduation ceremony in BAF's Morale, Welfare, and Recreation's theater. "This is a phenomenal program."A course like this enables her to believe in what she's told by her staff, Barton said."I take what you tell me and take it to the bank," she said.Likewise, Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony McAdoo, RSSB command sergeant major, said this course is "career altering."McAdoo told the graduates to apply the information they learned and affect others with it. And, he also encouraged them to develop themselves on a daily basis and explained it's about taking "pride in our organization."He also thanked Cherry for his work in getting the course to BAF."From the bottom of my heart, I truly thank you for your commitment."Graduates receive the additional skill identifier 2S, which is always a positive distinction in a Soldier's personnel file and can help toward future promotions and upcoming assignments.There are two phases to the course. Phase 1 involves correspondence at one's home station and must be completed in 60 days with an exam being administered via the internet. Phase II is a resident phase that lasts normally weeks. This course ran from Jan. 13 -- Feb. 13.The night prior to graduation, students gave an oral briefing on an operation involving the two fictitious countries -- Atropia and Ariana. The Army's mission was to protect Atropria's borders from a possible incursion from Ariana.Assistant instructors for the course from the RSSB included Palazzolo, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hayden, Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth McDonald, and Sgt. 1st Class Michael Calub. All are previous graduates of the course.For Robinson, the assistant instructors were the "greatest thing" about the course."They made sure to help drill in whatever it was that we didn't understand."Additionally, Cherry, on behalf of the NCOs attending the course, thanked the officers for their support by covering down on the students' normal duties."We as a team … appreciate them picking up the slack and taking that burden because I know it was a burden. We appreciate that sacrifice and letting us be successful."(Editor's note: Sgt. 1st Class Joanne Glanville and Sgt. 1st Class Neal Robinson were one of five students in the entire 05-19 class of 77 worldwide that finished with a 100 percent grade point average.)