By By Amber Avalona-Butler/ParaglideAugust 13, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The Army plans to launch a new version of the Warrior Leader Course, formerly labeled the Primary Leadership Development Course, on Oct. 1. Modeled after a 17-day format, the revised WLC removes certain components while placing greater emphasis on leader development tasks which are considered crucial to success in the field.
The program takes active duty, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers of all military occupational specialties and trains them for military-grade leadership positions. Each trainee is selected by his or her unit to participate in the program, which measures skill in land navigation, garrison leadership, field leadership and individual training.
Another section, the physical fitness training evaluation, will phase out in October. Instead of holding the Army physical fitness test during WLC, units will prescreen Soldiers for physical
ability. Attendees must still pass the height/weight requirements upon arrival, which sets a positive example for those they are hoping to lead.
Graduates of WLC receive the noncommissioned officer professional development ribbon and a place in the pipeline for the advanced leader course (formerly the basic noncommissioned officer course).
"We give them the stepping stones to be a successful leader here," said Sgt. 1st Class Jared Matthews, outgoing chief of operations, who emphasized that this is a basic leadership course. "What they get out of it is what they're going to put into it."
The Bragg-based course covers the Southeast region, training Soldiers from as far away as Fort Meade, Md., down to Florida.
Attendees eat and live at the training barracks, beginning the day at 5:30 a.m. with physical fitness exercises and finishing around 9:30 p.m. Training is intense, even with the new 17-day format, and Soldiers are expected to maintain a fast pace, both physically and mentally.
The WLC at Fort Bragg trains 300 to 400 students per class, averaging 15 classes per year with short breaks for the Fourth of July and Christmas. The current course, a 15-day program of instruction, is divided into three modules: leadership, training and warfighting.
"The airborne operation isn't part of the program of instruction, but due to the nature of Fort Bragg they also jump," said Matthews.
Immersing students in classroom instruction for the first eight days, instructors facilitate discussion among students, dividing attendees into 18 classrooms where the smaller format encourages interaction. Each student receives a laptop preloaded with resource material and classroom participants are encouraged to share observations and experiences.
"Currently we have no written exams and they've implemented three written exams (for the new program)," said DeWayne Clayton, Department of Defense training analyst. "If they fail their evaluation and fail their retest evaluation, they'll be dismissed from the course for academic reasons. They can return on the next cycle."
The mixture of performance and written exams helps to balance the evaluation process. As part of the new format, WLC welcomes a drill and ceremony evaluation where Soldiers are evaluated on marching in formation. In addition, the Army reduced the situational training exercise from 96 to 36 hours.
"For every eight students, there's a small group leader assignment," said Sgt. 1st Class David Morrison, chief of training. "They'll break down into platoon areas ... and then into squads. The SGL takes eight people and evaluates them, teaches them whatever they need to do (to effectively train)."
Field leadership is an important part of the program, so attendees are carefully groomed to assume command in critical environments. Soldiers encounter combat exercises like reacting to indirect fire, vehicle inspection, medical care and detaining individuals to prepare them for real-world situations.
"They're put in a leadership position under stress and have to react to different scenarios - whether it be improvised explosive devices, dealing with casualties, planning a mission using the troop lead procedures and basically reacting to situations the instructors put them in. Each Soldier gets graded in a leadership position during the time they're out in the field," said Clayton.
Sergeant 1st Class Sara Robbins, incoming chief of operations of the NCO Academy, said that graduates show two qualities - discipline and attention to detail.
"Some Soldiers don't have that experience of being tactical, so they're learning that here. As long as they're paying attention, they're participating and they're doing what they're supposed to, the result is a successful Soldier," Robbins added.