People First in Action: The Army National Guard’s LNCO Program

By Hunter Rhoades Center for Initial Military Training Public AffairsMarch 16, 2023

Amid the most challenging recruiting crisis since the establishment of the all-volunteer force, retaining every willing volunteer matters. The Army National Guard, through multiple innovative programs, consistently maintains the lowest attrition rate during initial military training across all three components of the U.S. Army.

One innovative program directly helping the Army

National Guard maintain that low attrition rate is the Liaison Noncommissioned Officer program, which last year assisted over 54,000 trainees. The vision of the LNCO program is to ensure the Army National Guard retains quality Soldiers by assisting, advising, and supporting trainees and commanders throughout Initial Entry Training.

“The LNCO Program is important because we are largely responsible for the National Guards attrition rates on our training installations.” said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher York, Fort Leonard Wood LNCO. “Throughout the COVID19 pandemic and now during the recruiting shortage, our efforts have minimized trainee and tax dollar losses and maximized trainee throughput and we have done it to the best of our abilities. Separating a trainee is easy. Rehabilitating them, motivating them, and pushing alternatives to separation is key."

Programs such as the LNCO program and the Recruit Sustainment Program, RSP, have helped the Army National Guard become, as Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, describes it, “the most ready and capable National Guard in history."

“We’re the service after the sale.” said Fort Leonard Wood LNCO Sergeant Major, Daniel Neville. “The Recruiters and RSPs do an outstanding job recruiting, preparing, and shipping the trainees to Basic Combat Training, BCT, but that is only half the battle. Once a trainee ships to training, the LNCO is ready to pick up where the state left off and ensure the Soldiers are cared for.”

Since the inception of the Army National Guard in 1636, brave volunteers have fought to defend the United States, both foreign and domestically. Soldiers in the National Guard come from all walks of life, and from the many challenges individuals face, the LNCO program was built.

National Guard Liaison Noncommissioned Officer, Sgt. 1st Class Lucas Hendricks provides an introductory brief to new Army National Guard Trainees
National Guard Liaison Noncommissioned Officer, Sgt. 1st Class Lucas Hendricks provides an introductory brief to new Army National Guard Trainees (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Under the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, these NCOs work within the Initial Military Training enterprise to build relationships with each trainee and support them during their transition from civilian into Soldier. LNCOs ensure that National Guard trainees are protected from potential training distractors such as pay, Basic Allowance for Housing, family emergencies, and motivational issues. They also advise the Initial Entry Training leaders on issues such as separations, Uniform Code of Military Justice, Line of Duty injuries, medical issues, and recycles to ensure all processes are handled appropriately in concert with the trainee's home State.

"The LNCO program here at Fort Jackson is incredibly valuable and makes a major contribution to trainee success during Basic Combat Training," said Army Training Center Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Jason E. Kelly. "This cadre of caring noncommissioned officers permit the retention of trainees when issues outside of their control, such as a family emergency or pay discrepancies, arise. LNCOs are a great example of our Army's ‘People First’ mantra in action."

Sgt. 1st Class Luke Hendricks, an LNCO stationed at Fort Jackson, recalled he had one trainee who was having issues at basic training and wanted to quit. Hendricks counseled the trainee, reassuring him of his decision to join the Army National Guard and its positive impact on his future. The counseling session helped the trainee overcome his doubts and not only graduate BCT, but the Soldier is now scheduled to attend the Basic Leader Course in preparation for becoming a Sergeant.

“Sometimes it’s not about simply motivating trainees to complete training, it’s about mitigating distractions”, said ARNG LNCO of the Year, Master Sgt. Joel DeJong. Master Sgt. DeJong had a trainee experiencing significant financial hardship at home who wanted to complete training, but it was getting to the point he was considering quitting. “After working with the trainee and the training company, we got the trainee an appointment at the Army Community Services building.” said DeJong. “He and I spent most of the day working with Army Emergency Relief, where he was approved for a loan and grant money. Once this came through, he and his wife were taken care of, and he could complete BCT and Advanced Individual Training.”

Through the grueling process of becoming a Soldier, the U.S. Army heavily invests in training and retaining every willing individual. The LNCO program is critical in retaining these volunteers that the Army needs to maintain the all-volunteer force Sgt. Maj. Neville explained. “To watch a trainee on the verge of quitting walk across the graduation parade field is a feeling you will never forget. This is hands down the most impactful thing an LNCO does.”

For interested Soldiers, LNCO job opportunities are posted on the Tour of Duty website.

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