EASTOVER, S.C. – The South Carolina National Guard hosted a virtual Basic Leadership Course (BLC) at the 218th Regional Training Institute (RTI) at McCrady Training Center in June 2020 to train Army National Guard Soldiers to be noncommissioned officers (NCO).“This is a first in our history of the Basic Leader Course conducted by 3rd Battalion [Non-Commissioned Officer Academy] (NCOA),” said 1st Sgt. Timothy Adams, 218th RTI, 3rd Battalion NCOA deputy commandant. “Future leaders of the United States Army came together on various platforms to learn the skills needed as they make the journey to becoming a noncommissioned officer.”Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff and facilitators of the RTI spent a great deal of time preparing for the virtual BLC to continue the mission of training future leaders.“The Soldiers attending this class were evaluated off of the same standards as if they were in a resident course,” Adams said.The new BLC platform proved successful, even though there were challenges.“Using the virtual platform was a challenge for our facilitators,” said Sgt. 1st Class Herman Logan, 218th RTI, 3rd Battalion NCOA platoon sergeant. “Some of the practical exercises completed in the resident version were hard to do in a virtual environment.” Some facilitators taught from two platforms at one time, Microsoft Teams (CVR) and Defense Collaboration Services (DCS).Logan said students were very engaged. The biggest difference for students was conducting the group work.“It is hard to do group work in a virtual environment,” Logan said. “And it was also a challenge to some facilitators, not in a negative way, but it made them think of creative ways to get the job done.”During the resident course, drill and ceremony and physical readiness training (PRT) are conducted daily, and there is the opportunity for more one-on-one training.“After completing one cycle online, some of the information and feedback is mixed. Although effective, I would not say it is as beneficial as the resident course. Some major aspects are lost during the virtual course that cannot be compensated for,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Brown, 218th RTI, 3rd Battalion NCOA commandant. “A major aspect that is lost is the actual daily conduct of drill and ceremony and PRT with the students. These repetitions are vital for their knowledge, experience, and fitness.”The 218th RTI also used this virtual opportunity to allow Soldiers deployed around the world to attend BLC. Sgt. Wayne Craft, 4-118th Infantry Battalion, Company C team leader, is deployed to Kuwait and was able to attend the virtual course.“The class went pretty well,” said Craft. “The only issue I had experienced was internet connectivity. I worked in one of the buildings at the NCO Academy at Camp Buehring. The facilitators showed a great amount of understanding and patience with this course. I arrived to class about three hours early to get everything set up and to look over the assignments. Classes started around 3 p.m. here and would end around 10 p.m.”While others attending virtual BLC would report to their local readiness center to attend the virtual classes, some were able to attend from their homes. Everyone still had to be in uniform even if at home while performing military duties.“Virtual BLC went very well,” said Sgt. Katie Enos, 351st Aviation Support Battalion health care sergeant. “I was able to engage with my fellow Soldiers and instructors. The quality of instruction wasn’t diminished by the virtual medium at all.”Enos was able to stay home, using her common access card and personal computer.“I was still able to see my instructor demonstrate the moves [for drill and ceremony and PRT], and work with my classmates via live video,” she said.With the uncertainties about the pandemic, virtual courses may continue to be used to train future NCOs in the U.S. Army.For more National Guard newsNational Guard FacebookNational Guard TwitterHow the National Guard is helpingPhotos of the National Guard responseLatest from the CDC