Fort Irwin’s top noncommissioned officer delivered opening remarks to a class of 16 U.S. Army Junior NCOs, officially kicking off the installation-level Desert Backbone Academy Pilot Program at the National Training Center.The Desert Backbone Academy and the Fort Irwin Counseling Guide was developed by the senior enlisted advisors from across Fort Irwin based on doctrine found in ATP (Army Techniques Publication) 6-22.1, “The Counseling Process.” “We didn’t reinvent doctrine or invent something new, but we use the Fort Irwin Counseling Guide as the framework for how to implement that doctrine,” said Command Sgt. Maj. William A. Justice, Command Sergeant Major of NTC and Fort Irwin.“I want you to forget everything you think about counseling and the SLRRT (Soldier Leader Risk Reduction Tool),” said Justice. “I want you to listen and understand that these are just tools, tools that will help to develop our junior NCO’s and help them grow as counselors. It’s these tools that will help them to build trust in their formations and to help them to become engaged leaders.”The three-day pilot program is focused on building counseling packets, and how to use the documents contained in the packet in preparation for counseling and walks them thru each of the four steps of the counseling process. The course concluded with an overview of the many resources that exist on post that can assist when a Soldier is struggling or when a Soldier wants to better themselves.“This should give junior NCO’s tools to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” said Master Sgt. Paul Moore, leader development NCOIC for 916th Support Brigade. “We have to get back to mentoring and grooming the next generation, it’s about people first.”During the course, experienced senior-level NCOs led challenging breakout sessions with scenarios and vignettes, which gave junior NCOs resources, training and tools to deal with difficult or unforeseen situations.“You got a single 22 y/o sergeant E-5, maybe lives in the barracks, who might be supervising a 36 y/o specialist married with four kids,” said Justice. “That supervisor may not have the life experience to know what to look for, or what questions to ask, this is exactly what this pilot program is about.”Although developed at the installation level, each major subordinate command (MSC) at NTC will take ownership of the program as part of their leader development programs.There are four distinct steps in the counseling process, but it’s continuous said Justice. “It includes the everyday conversations that our junior NCO’s have with their Soldiers all month long – after PT; in the motor-pool; in the back of a vehicle. Using the tools in the ATP and the framework within our counseling guide, our junior NCO’s will truly get to know their Soldiers. Those difficult conversations will become easier and that will serve to build trust in our formations.”According to Justice, the installation should see the program rollout sometime in mid-March to MSCs. “If I’m a sergeant or staff-sergeant, I’m asking to attend because I want to get that training, I want to be better for my Soldiers,” said Justice.