GRAFENWOEHR, Germany (Army News Service, June 11, 2009) Aca,!" As the sun came up over the hills, Soldiers attending the Warrior Leaders Course at the 7th U.S. Army's Noncommissioned Officers Academy in Grafenwoehr, Germany, mentally prepared themselves for the first event on their trek to becoming U.S. Army NCOs: the Army Physical Fitness Test.

The APFT is one of the major tenants of the WLC, a 30-day course designed to prepare Soldiers to become the future leaders of the Army.

"The PT test is just the start," said Sgt. Maj. Antonio Reyes, NCOA deputy commandant. "The WLC helps NCOs develop leadership savvy, self discipline and professional ethics, while also demonstrating the skills and knowledge for leading disciplining and developing Soldiers."

In addition to training Soldiers from the U.S. Army, the NCOA regularly trains the NCOs of coalition partners from countries such as Poland, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Serbia and Liberia and the Republic of Botswana, among others. In fact, there have been about 65 international students since October 2009, according to Reyes.

Helping the Soldiers achieve their goal of becoming NCOs, are more than 40 instructors, also known as Small Group Leaders, who mold the young Soldiers into becoming the Army's backbone.

"I'm really pleased with the way things are going so far. I don't want a friend out of the SGL's. I want them to be a mentor to me," Sgt. Antwone Sneed, a student attending WLC.

The SGL's are there to facilitate and help guide the classroom, but the students are given the conditions and standards for each event, and are have the opportunity to teach each objective.

"I prefer hands-on leadership. I like to get down and dirty with the students," said Staff Sgt. Yolanda Felton, a small group leader for Alpha Company. "I want them to see what we have to offer here at the academy."

While in training, Soldiers conduct physical training six days a week with Saturday as a morale-focused session. Rather than conducting the typical Army PT formation, Soldiers in each platoon conduct morale building competition-driven exercises for their physical activity for the day.

Felton said cadre set up obstacle courses and other fun activities to give Soldiers a break from the standard 'one - two - three' cadence-style exercises.

Soldiers are also evaluated on classes offered by the NCOA, leading a PT formation, garrison and tactical leadership, conducting an individual training session and land navigation. These are the skills they will one day take back to their unit to train their own Soldiers.

In addition, the students gain access to some of the most modern and advanced training techniques and facilities in the Army at the Joint Multinational Simulations Center's Virtual Battlefield Simulator.

The students discover their leadership potential on the largest live-fire training area outside the continental United States, training using simulations, which replicate realistic scenarios junior Soldiers are likely to encounter as NCOs in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"Leading by example is the best way to lead Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Massey, NCOA SGL. "When you set the example for them, and show them what's right, there is no question in their minds as to what it is they need to do. You can counsel someone, but actions speak louder than words."

Massey said he enjoys the opportunity to work with the junior-enlisted Soldiers and teach them what they need to know to become leaders.

Once the Soldiers have successfully met the training standards, the NCOA hosts a culminating event - graduation.

(Spc. Michelle Waters serves with the 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)