By Kirstin Grace-Simons (Madigan Army Medical Center)June 12, 2019
MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. -- All Soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership. This is part of the noncommissioned officer's code of conduct -- the NCO Creed.
Leadership requires deliberate development. That was the purpose of Madigan's inaugural NCO Offsite that filled the Club at McChord Field's main conference room with enlisted leaders on June 6 and 7.
One speaker who grew up under the watchful eye of an NCO was Madigan's commander, Col. Thomas Bundt. He welcomed the gathered attendees, who were all enlisted Soldiers of the rank of sergeant to command sergeant major.
"I'm the product of a noncommissioned officer; my dad retired as a sergeant major," said Bundt. "What I learned before joining the Army, I learned from a noncommissioned officer. What I learned when I entered the Army, I learned from a noncommissioned officer."
The driving force behind the event, Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Laragione, followed Bundt with a presentation he entitled, "What is an NCO?," in which he took the attendees back to square one of enlisted leadership through a discussion of the source of their authority and their role within the Army's structure.
"NCOs run the daily operations of the Army," he stated.
Laragione concluded this presentation with a suggested reading list that ranged from Army Regulation 600-20, Army Command Policy to Field Manual 7-0, Train to Win in a Complex World to the U.S. Constitution, all selected to illustrate the importance of the NCO and the basis of their creed as Americans, as well as Soldiers.
Bundt offered the first iteration of the watchword of the day -- standard.
"Establish yourself with your officers. You are a professional; you are a standard bearer; you are an executer," Bundt advised.
The NCOs were encouraged by multiple presenters to step out in front of issues before they become real, career-threatening problems.
"NCOs are guiderails," said Laragione. "They keep people from falling over the edge."
They are also trainers, mentors, advisors and leaders, he added.
"NCOs are where the rubber meets the road for training and preparing our Soldiers to fight," said Sgt. 1st Class Sy Smith of the 56th Medical Brigade who presented a threat brief to give the NCOs a realistic picture of the challenges they face.
Smith echoed the common refrain that NCOs, "have the ability to influence change."
The Madigan Organization and Leader Development team offered leadership and teambuilding exercises over the course of the event. The agenda also featured presentations on subjects to include timekeeping, working with unions, preparing awards, deliberate leadership development, mindfulness and counseling. The event concluded with a panel discussion complete with a question-and-answer session.
Some of the attendees are brand new to the NCO ranks and some have decades of experience. The two-day event served as an introductory/refresher course in the basics of leading the enlisted Soldier as well as an opportunity for experienced NCOs to share the insight they've garnered from their years of service.
One new NCO, Sgt. Ryan DiChristopher, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the mother/baby unit, was interested in coming together with colleagues to learn the ins and outs of Soldier leadership from them.
Of all the topics covered, one was mentioned repeatedly by attendees.
"I appreciate really re-emphasizing one -- the counselings so that we can reiterate and realize the importance of them," said Staff Sgt. Christian Burke, an instructor/writer with the Practical Nurse Course Phase II.
Sgt. 1st Class Danny Bruce, the NCOIC of the Medical/Surgical Nursing Service, affirmed the need for the offsite event by acknowledging that the counseling class would have been really helpful for him to have received when he was a junior NCO.
Leading an interactive discussion on the subject to include the types and purposes of counseling as well as the reasons behind them, Master Sgt. Dennis Meyer, the NCOIC for the deputy commander for Health Readiness, circulated throughout the room as attendees at each table shared their challenges and successes.
The camaraderie and support displayed by the group from the morning physical training sessions to the concluding panel discussion with senior NCOs provided an environment for information exchange and leader development. As Bruce noted, "All of the classes were excellent developmental tools for junior leaders."
The command sergeant major closed the event with words of satisfaction.
"I'm proud of our noncommissioned officers; our noncommissioned officers in this organization are doing a lot of great things," said Laragione.