FORT BENNING, Ga. - Training upgrades and NCO development were key topics in this year's Senior NCO Program, held annually in conjunction with the Infantry Warfighting Conference.
Nearly 60 sergeants major from across the Army shared feedback on personnel needs and Soldier training.

Coming out of this program, senior NCOs "should have a better understanding of what Fort Benning is doing for the current fight and the future fight," said CSM Chris Hardy, senior NCO for the Maneuver Center and Fort Benning. "It's not just about training basic combat trainees, Infantry OSUT and Soldiers of the Armored Cavalry, it's also about developing the maneuver force for the future."

The command sergeant major opened the discussion Monday, touching on the Maneuver Center transformation, training available at Fort Benning, and the development of combined arms maneuver and wide area security.

Once the MCoE transformation is complete, 52 percent of the Army will be training at Fort Benning.

Sergeants major from across Fort Benning gave presentations on NCO courses the post has to offer such as Ranger School, master gunner training and classes at the Noncommissioned Officer Academy.

CSM Ricky Young, the Armor School's senior enlisted Soldier, encouraged the enlisted leaders to find "stud platoon sergeants" in their formations and send them to school so they can eventually train future leaders.

The Armor command sergeant major said there is a push to get Armor lieutenants into Ranger School.

"We are fighting a perception ... Soldiers in the operational environment don't want to move to the institutional side," said CSM Young, speaking on the importance of getting qualified, combat-proven NCOs trained as instructors.

One audience member commented on the difficulty of getting qualified NCOs to the schoolhouse, saying "the challenge is sergeants major don't want to let them go. A lot of them don't want to lose the good guys."

CSM Dennis Smith, senior NCO of the Ranger Training Brigade, underscored the importance of getting specialists and sergeants into the U.S. Army Ranger School. Current trends show a large deficit in Ranger-qualified NCOs, he said.

The deficit means the pool of candidates to become Ranger School instructors is also shrinking.

CSM Smith said the focus must be on getting junior enlisted into the school in the next three to five years to reverse the trend. The school is currently at 68 percent of its instructor strength but hopes to gain another 11 percent by the end of December, he said.

Other events during the daylong program included presentations by the Soldier Requirements Division on product improvements, a walk-through of Sand Hill to see combatives training, urban operations and basic tactical training, and a visit to Pierce Range to view advanced rifle marksmanship initiatives.

What enlisted leaders bring out of this program is direct lines of contact, CSM Hardy said.