By David Crozier, Command Communications
The Fort Bliss Noncommissioned Officer Academy hit a milestone April 3 when it held a graduation ceremony for the 32 individually-selected students of Master Leader Course 01-17 in the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Cooper Lecture Center.
Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Vogl, commandant of the NCOA, welcomed all and congratulated the graduates for their accomplishment. The guest speaker for the event was Command Sgt. Maj. Harold Reynolds, director of the Sergeants Major Course at USASMA.
“This is a long time coming to see this course happen,” Reynolds said. “I will tell you this course has been through hoops and a few loops and the [staff at USASMA] have gone through three rings of fire to get it just right and I think that they have, and you are the proof that it does work.”
Reynolds told the graduates that they have completed the toughest course in the Army and they earned their certificate of completion. He urged them to continue learning and added that the Army sends them to school so that they can take that knowledge back to their units and make them better.
“You need to mentor. Use your experience from this course to help someone else get to this course and be better prepared,” Reynolds said. “That is what it is all about. That’s what we are going to ask you to do – mentor someone, share your experience, what you learned, how you learned it, and how did you prepare for it.”
With graduation certificate in hand, Master Sgt. Scott Arispe, U.S. Army Reserve Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said the Master Leader Couse met the requirements of filling the gap between attending the Senior Leader Course and the Sergeants Major Course.
“It is not to be underestimated that’s for sure,” Arispe said. “A lot of material in a short period of time. The great thing about it is, it really opens up that creative and critical thinking that you must have to execute and apply it to situations that you are going to experience at this level.”
Sgt. 1st Class Cameron Mitchell, a quality assurance advisor with Training and Doctrine Command, said the course really makes you think outside the box.
“Just trying to tap into that college mindset – I am a college graduate, but it has been a while – to tap into that experience and working with my peers is what the challenge was,” he said. “Just thinking that creative thinking and critical thinking – this is definitely something that is needed before you go to USASMA.”
The instructors for the course were selected from the previous pilot classes held at USASMA, the National Guard Regional Training Institute at Camp Williams, Utah, and the Reserve Training Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Master Sgt. Joey Dotson, an MLC instructor and a graduate of the pilot course at Camp Williams, said the course I challenging from both sides of the lectern.
“It is a very informative course, very challenging course, much different from any of the other courses I have taken in the past,” he said adding what is different about MLC from other courses he has taken is the fact that is uses a different leaning approach.
“Instead of using the Pedagogy its more of an Andragogy approach, MLC uses the Experiential Learning Model and that entails more of the student reading and more student participation,” he said. “The [testing] is quite a bit different. Rather than have multiple-choice tests like some of the courses in the past, now they have essay assignments – two essay tests and a certified research paper.”
Dotson said it was fun and challenging to be a part of the first-ever MLC at Fort Bliss. He added that the instructors came together as a team, the students were motivated, they participated, tried very hard and did very well.
“The Master Leader Course was one of the most mentally challenging courses that I have ever had the privilege of attending,” Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Stephens, an operations NCIOC for USASMA, said. “From day one you are learning and this is a continuous process throughout the entire course. I would recommend it to anyone that plans on making the Army a more than 20-year career.”
“One of the great things about this course is it is unlike the Senior Leader and Advanced Leader Courses that focus on the Military Occupational Specialty the Soldier is on. MLC applies to everybody,” Arispe said. “You can use this course to advance in other areas outside of your MOS in an operational capacity. So it develops you to take on other areas of responsibility which is a great thing. We need to be versatile in that aspect.”
The Master Leader Course is the newest course in the NCO Professional Development System. MLC has been specifically designed to prepare sergeants first class and master sergeants for the increased leadership and management responsibilities required of all senior NCOs.
MLC is designed to challenge and educate selected Sergeants First Class in the areas of professional writing, communication skills, public speaking, critical thinking, organizational and command leadership, management skills, joint and operational level of war fighting, discipline, readiness, health and administrative requirements. In addition, students will be exposed to topics like National Security, Joint Intergovernmental and Multinational (JIM) and Strategic Thinking.
The first pilot was conducted at USASMA in 2016. The next two were at the National Guard Regional Training Institute at Camp Williams, Utah, and the Reserve Training Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky.