VILSECK, Germany – Nineteen aspiring leaders of the 2d Cavalry Regiment completed a pilot course in Vilseck, Germany, during the first week of December to prepare them for the critical leadership position of platoon sergeant.
Titled Platoon Sergeant University, the course aimed to develop leaders’ character, passion and emotional intelligence, rather than technical or procedural subjects.
U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Burke, assigned to 2CR, developed this avant-garde program of instruction, taking months of planning with his fellow noncommissioned officers.
“Rather than teach our leaders tactical task and administrative work, instead let’s ignite the fire of being an expert,” said Burke. “The hope is these leaders will spend their time learning from doctrine after while we develop the intangible skill like emotional intelligence.”
The curriculum of the course came as a surprise to leaders.
“I expected it to be a stylized LPD [leadership development program],” said Staff Sgt. Charles Johnson, a student in the course, assigned to the Regimental Engineer Squadron, 2CR.
The course took Soldiers through a leader reaction course, giving them tasks that were impossible to complete and providing them an opportunity to experience failure as a leader and as a team.
Also, leaders from across the regiment, like Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Guerrero III, senior enlisted advisor, assigned to the 4th Squadron, 2CR, served as instructors.
“At the end of the day, it is not about you; it’s about your platoon, your Soldiers,” said Guerrero. “Who do you want them to be? How do you want them to fight?”
This principle of the class resounded within the students, challenging and forcing self-reflection to become better leaders.
“Being able to do NCOERs [noncommissioned officer evaluation reports] and do regular Army stuff is great,” said Johnson. “But, we developed the ability to connect with a person on a human level and empathize with them.”