In the "Year of the NCO," the Warrior Leader Course serves as the ultimate test.

The course is designed to provide a jumpstart to an enlisted Soldier's career as an Army noncommissioned officer. A Soldier usually attends WLC before promoting to sergeant.

"The way it works, WLC is a stepping stone to becoming a sergeant," said Sgt. 1st Class Ricardo Lopez, the Academy's Quality Assurance Officer. "WLC is the first NCOA course. It's one of five. ... I usually call this the basic foundation of all courses."

Offered by the John W. Kreckel Noncommissioned Officer Academy, WLC is just one opportunity available at the facility complete with a parade field, barracks, classrooms and a dining room.
The course involves 15 days, often spanning from dawn until dusk, of intense training and instruction. Soldiers undergo physical fitness training and participate in map reading, land navigation, combat movement and more. Soldiers review all the basic information required for Army leadership in a classroom setting.

"We break it down to the basics of the Army teaching standards," Lopez said. "We don't try to overdo it, but we teach the guidelines and everything is to our guidelines. ... We try to build the basic foundation."

Soldiers are challenged to demonstrate leadership from their first days at the academy. They teach each other, in the same way they are expected to mentor and guide other enlisted Soldiers in the future. WLC participants essentially conduct the day-to-day duties of noncommissioned officers.

"We do training management ... and the students themselves give the classes," Lopez said. "We teach them how to give a class, and they give a class to the rest of the students and the instructor will grade him on giving the class."

The latest WLC training began Nov. 5, with in-processing and the Academy's Commandant's Orientation from Command Sgt. Maj. Robert L. Moss. The course ends with a graduation ceremony Nov. 20 at 10 a.m. on the academy's parade field.

"I have the unique opportunity to train ... and develop noncommissioned officers, which is the cornerstone of what we do," Moss said in his welcome to the Soldiers.
Moss both encouraged the Soldiers and challenged them to achieve their personal best throughout the course.

"Everybody's going to get the opportunity to be a leader," he said. "Make sure everybody is supporting one another. It's a great opportunity to be here. It's not a right; it's a privilege. Somebody looked at you and said, 'Guess what' You've got the qualities to be a noncommissioned officer' and they sent you to this course."

WLC usually processes 240 Soldiers in a session, although the academy is training about 260 during this cycle. The Soldiers not only come from Fort Campbell units, but include temporary duty assignment participants as well.

Even when deployments hit Fort Campbell during the next year, the NCO Academy will continue to buzz with activity. Training NCOs is a vital task in the midst of war, Lopez said.

NCO courses are unique because they bring together Soldiers with many different backgrounds and jobs, whether communication specialists or infantry, to learn the same basic officer skills and techniques. Topics covered in the classroom range from composite risk management to sexual harassment.

"My background is infantry, so I understand a lot of combat [terminology], but a lot of people aren't combat-involved, like electrical technicians. We have to make sure that [the instructors] are involving the students, hitting every student and getting them involved."
Fort Campbell's NCO Academy was accredited in June, Lopez said.

"We are one of only a few academies to hold the 'Commitment to Excellence' sign on our field," he said. "If we keep on scale, we get to keep our sign."
To attend WLC, Soldiers must pass physical fitness tests, meet height and weight standards and be recommended by their chain of command.

Editor's Note: This article is part one of a series dedicated to noncommissioned officers. Part two will focus on the day in the life of an NCO going through WLC.