FORT LEE, Va. (Oct. 21, 2009) -- Command Sgt. Maj. C.C. Jenkins is a busy man.

The top noncommissioned officer for the Combined Arms Support Command, Sustainment Center of Excellence and Fort Lee, is rarely entrenched in his office these days amid a myriad of challenges facing the Army, the sustainment community and Fort Lee at large.

But the sergeant major is never too busy to counsel Soldiers.

Jenkins is particularly eager to talk about NCO professional development or the process of attaining the skills and knowledge required for career progression and the means to better support the Army's mission. He said professional development is important because it serves as a foundation for sound leadership, and Soldiers deserve leaders who are competent at what they do.

"When it comes to professional development, you have to start from the top," said Jenkins. "There's no way trainers can train a Soldier if they are not trained."

Soldiers receive formal training through the Noncommissioned Officer Education System. The NCOES is primarily comprised of the Warrior Leader Course, Advanced Leader Course (formerly the basic NCO course), Senior Leader Course (formerly the advanced NCO course) and Sergeant Major Course. All Soldiers are required to complete the courses at various points in their careers.

The NCOES, however, has been modified as of late and now encompasses lessons learned from the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. The change has added numerous mandatory structured self-development courses that are now prerequisites for attendance to any of the courses.

"The new NCOES is the first step in training Soldiers to standard," said Jenkins, noting Soldiers will have to do more to fulfill positional requirements. "It is structured to develop Soldiers not only as leaders but as thinkers, those who can be an asset to their units, not liabilities."

To complement the new changes under the NCOES, Jenkins said the Training and Doctrine Command formed the Institute of NCO Professional Development to consolidate and record Soldiers' career training and education.

One of the INCOPD's features is something called Career Tracker. It's a career management tool that monitors civilian education, military training and determines what Soldiers need to earn a civilian degree from an accredited institution.

Soldiers must also aspire for opportunities outside of the NCOES. Jenkins said Soldiers should take their careers by the horns and endeavor to volunteer for assignments that can add diversity to their resumAfA.

"It's an old myth that says Soldiers shouldn't volunteer," he said. "In my career, if it was a challenging job, I volunteered."

Volunteer opportunities should be those jobs that take Soldiers out of duties on one side of a career field to another.

"Soldiers have to know the admin side of the house and the operational side of the house," said Jenkins. "If you've been working as a first sergeant most of your career and you move to a G-3 shop, do you think you'll know what's going on'"

While taking on challenging tactical and leadership assignments are critical to meeting the leadership needs of the Army, Jenkins said NCOs have to be careful not to linger in those assignments.

"A first sergeant with 56 months (of first sergeant duty) doesn't impress me," said Jenkins, who served on the most recent Department of the Army promotion boards. "What impresses me is balance: first sergeant for maybe 24 months; operations sergeant for 24 months; mobile training team to Iraq or Afghanistan for a year; the senior enlisted advisor for a senior officer for another 24 months. Now I have an NCO who is multi-functional. That's what impresses me."

NCOs shouldn't try to diversify late in their careers, said Jenkins. They should start as soon as possible.

"It's better to learn it when you're coming up through the ranks," he said, "and not all at once when you're a senior NCO. Your ability to learn is quite different at that stage."

The changes in the NCOES have been rapid due to the war and other factors, and Soldiers need to adapt quickly to the changes if they expect to move through the ranks.

Jenkins used an analogy of a reptile and dinosaur to make his point: a dinosaur sees a bright light in the sky inching closer over the years but doesn't take any action. A companion reptile also sees the light, but determines it's a threat and makes a move to secure its safety.

"When the ball of fire hits the earth," said Jenkins, "the dinosaur doesn't get out of the way and becomes extinct. But the reptile is still walking the earth today. My point: either change and adapt to this Army or this Army will take you out."

Soldiers interested in the INCOPD or other educational issues can visit