FORT BRAGG, N.C. – Noncommissioned officers play a vital role in leading and mentoring Soldiers, as well as implementing policies and procedures. Their expertise, acquired through years of service, is invaluable in training and educating the next generation of NCOs and Soldiers. Retaining the knowledge and experience of noncommissioned officers is crucial for the overall effectiveness and readiness of the Army.
NCOs with extensive experience in various missions and operating environments provide valuable guidance and insight to their subordinates – helping them to better understand the complexities of their roles and the importance of their duties. This is essential in preparing Soldiers for future missions and deployments.
With NCOs playing such an important role in the U.S. Army, NCO Professional Development is vital for equipping NCOs with the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to effectively lead and manage their subordinates. This includes training in areas such as leadership, communication, and technical skills specific to their military occupational specialty. This training is done at schools across the Army and at the local unit level.
By promoting NCO professional development locally, units can ensure NCOs are better able to adapt to changing circumstances, make sound decisions, and lead their teams more effectively. These professional development sessions can also foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement within an organization – leading to increased unit cohesion, higher levels of readiness, and improved overall performance.
According to Master Sgt. Eric McDuffie, who coordinates NCOPD for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th Military Police Brigade, "NCOPD is about teaching how to be a Soldier, how to be a leader, how to be a supervisor, and how to be a subordinate. It’s the full circle of professional development." He stresses that NCOPD is not a monthly event, but should be a daily routine of learning and growth. He believes that it is crucial for NCOs to constantly develop their skills and knowledge to be effective Army leaders.
McDuffie emphasizes that it is also important to engage in an open conversation during NCOPD sessions regarding the role of NCOs, as it is a multifaceted and nuanced topic that can vary based on individual experiences and perspectives. These discussions can foster a deeper understanding among all members of the NCO Corps. He believes it is essential to consider the range of perspectives of leadership that may arise due to factors such as upbringing, duty station, and cultural background. He also suggests that NCOs should not limit themselves to Army-related topics, but also discuss life skills that have an impact on the well-being of Soldiers. NCOs play a crucial role in shaping Soldiers and should always strive to find a balance among the different facets of their life when mentoring.
This not only aids NCOs in becoming better leaders, but also better individuals, according to McDuffie. It is important to ensure that junior NCOs are being effectively trained and educated, and that all skill levels are being developed.
"NCOs are responsible for the development and well-being of the Soldiers under their charge,” McDuffie said. “It's about finding a balance between providing in tactical environments for Soldiers to train in, and ensuring their education, development and well-being are being addressed.”
These are some of the many challenges new NCOs face as they develop their leadership skills and understanding their own leadership style, McDuffie said. But this is crucial in effective leading and mentoring of Soldiers. As NCOs progress in rank, they will become subject matter experts in their field and must think how they will impart that knowledge to the next generation of leaders.
“As NCOs, we must take an active role in seeking new information, digesting it and implementing it in our roles as leaders who hold the unit together,” McDuffie said. “We are the backbone, and our responsibility is to ensure that both NCOs and officers are on the same page, which is why the emphasis on professional development is crucial.”