By Staff Sgt. David ChapmanMarch 19, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - "We now ask our NCOs to be managers, leader developers and, at the same time culturally astute. These same demands have been placed on our junior soldiers as well. We must take a hard look at ourselves to truly understand the meaning of these changes and how this affects our role in the Army profession," wrote to Sgt. Major of the Army Raymond Chandler, in a 2011 Army Live blog posting.
One battalion assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord has taken these words to heart; using a lesson learned in Afghanistan on their last deployment, and finding a way train their junior soldiers using the knowledge in their own ranks.
The 14th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade, decided it was time to use their senior NCOs to provide thorough education using their personal experience and knowledge to hold a Junior Leadership Seminar on JBLM-North, March 11-15.
This is only the second time the battalion has done the weeklong seminar allowing the junior soldiers and noncommissioned officers of the unit to learn basic skills they will need when it becomes time for them to lead their own soldiers.
"The battalion has done this once before, while we're deployed to Afghanistan but this is our first while being here at JBLM," said Sgt. 1st Class Xavier Bowie, operations NCO, 14th Eng. Bn. "Each day began with a class on doing PRT (Physical Readiness Training) and then they moved through a series of classes every day like how to do proper maintenance on a vehicle or how to do uniform inspections. It is important because if the new NCOs don't know what right looks like, how can they tell their soldiers what right is."
During the week, soldiers learned skills that ranged from drill and ceremony to writing counselings and working through the medical board procedures. The seminar concluded with an NCO induction ceremony, an NCO corps tradition used to show the transition from junior enlisted soldier to leader.
As a 22-year veteran in the Army, 1st Sgt. Alfred Brinkley, 22nd Engineer Clearance Company, was brought in to teach a block of instruction and share his knowledge and experience on counseling's, leader books and stressed the importance of knowing their soldiers. Just as importantly Brinkley wanted to teach soldiers skills that many other NCOs may not have had the opportunity to learn in between deployments.
"We have a great corps of noncommissioned officers who can fight wars, but as we transition from those two wars we find we have lost a lot of tradition and a lot of skills that could be called garrison skills," said Brinkley. "We are giving them the tools and our experiences to add to what they learn at the formal institutions so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their soldiers."
As a new NCO, Sgt. Matthew Leary, horizontal construction engineer, 610th Engineer Support Company, found the opportunity to learn from senior NCOs in his battalion was much more informative and useful than anything he had experienced before.
"These are vital skills that we need to know so that we are able to lead our soldiers and to make sure we are giving them the right information," said Leary, originally from Omaha, Neb. "I think there were a few things that may have been missed at WLC (Warrior Leader Course) and now we are able to get a clearer definition of something in this smaller group seminar."
Bowie was pleased to see that the new NCOs were readily absorbing much of what they were being taught.
"When I was teaching my class on planning training and how to apply the eight-step model to their plans I could see the light bulbs coming on in their heads," said the West Palm Beach, Fla. native. "I could see things starting to make sense to them and I hope they take away at least a little bit of everything we have taught them and apply it to their everyday missions with their soldiers."
The final portion of the week was the ceremonial transitioning of the 22 Soldiers from a junior enlisted soldier to becoming an NCO, by taking part in the NCO induction ceremony.
Guest speaker, Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Whitehorn, 110th Chemical Battalion, took the opportunity to speak directly to those new NCOs about what their responsibilities will be.
"You have just been inducted into a corps that is respected all over the world. Every military organization in the world would love to have a professional corps such as ours," said Whitehorn. "It is very important for you to understand your role and responsibility. It is you, the sergeant, who has the greatest impact on our junior soldiers. It is you who they look up to as the example to follow."