Tag Archives: NCOES

Sergeants Major Academy holds graduation for Master Leader Course pilot class

The students Master Leader Course pilot class number 1 pose for a graduation picture on the academy grounds before attending their graduation ceremony. The 32 students were individually selected from across the regular Army, National Guard and Reserve component and represent professional NCOs from a wide range of career management fields, completed the 108-hour course of instruction over 15-days starting on October 19 and culminating with the graduation ceremony on November 2.
The students Master Leader Course pilot class number 1 pose for a graduation picture on the academy grounds before attending their graduation ceremony. The 32 students were individually selected from across the regular Army, National Guard and Reserve component and represent professional NCOs from a wide range of career management fields, completed the 108-hour course of instruction over 15-days starting on October 19 and culminating with the graduation ceremony on November 2.

For every educational or training course the Army teaches there has to be a first class. On November 2, the 32 students of the first Master Leader Course 15-day pilot class completed the 108 hours of rigorous coursework and received their diplomas during ceremonies held at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy’s Cooper Lecture Center.

Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of USASMA, addressed the graduating students and asked them if the course was challenging, to which he received a rousing “Hooah”. He followed that with, “Was it too challenging?” to which he got only a couple of Hooahs.

“We wanted this to be challenging, right to that line,” Defreese said. “We never want anyone to fail. That is not the goal. The goal is to learn something. … The goal is to help you learn how to critically think and solve problems.”

Defreese explained that literally one year ago sergeant major of the Army Dan Dailey called the academy and said the chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, wanted an E-8 level course; he wanted it quickly; how long will it take?

 Master Sgt. Shawn A. Blanke of the Utah Army National Guard, receives his certificate of graduation from Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, during ceremonies November 2 in the Cooper Lecture Center. Blanke, after going through instructor training course at USASMA, will facilitate the second Master Leader Course pilot class which will be held at Camp Williams, Utah in January.
Master Sgt. Shawn A. Blanke of the Utah Army National Guard, receives his certificate of graduation from Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, during ceremonies November 2 in the Cooper Lecture Center. Blanke, after going through instructor training course at USASMA, will facilitate the second Master Leader Course pilot class which will be held at Camp Williams, Utah in January.

“So the answer is, about one year, that’s how long it takes and the nonresident version of this may take until next summer to get it done because that takes even longer to do,” he said. Defreese lauded the students for being the first, putting up with the long academic days and for providing their comments and feedback.

“The feedback we get from you is absolutely vital to the second pilot we are going to run in Utah,” Defreese said. “From there we will do a little bit more refinement and do the final pilot at the reserve center at Fort Knox and then sometime in Fiscal Year 17 it will be a totally vetted (intermediate operating capability). So you are an integral part of that and it should be something that you are proud of.”

Charles Guyette, the director of the Directorate of Training, lauded the efforts of the training developers and staff who put the course together.

“When the chief of staff and the Army leaders say, “Hey go out and make this thing happen”, and I turn to you guys and you put all this effort to it and it comes to fruition today after these 15 grueling days of academia that we had to put these Soldiers through, the outcome is fully credited to you,” he said.

Asked what he thought about the creation of the Master Leaders Course, graduate 1st Sgt. Thomas Hughes of the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, said that he thought it was the right move.

“I personally haven’t been to an NCO professional development course since 2007. That’s eight years,” he said. “So I think there is tremendous value-added to have a Master Leader Course that kind of bridges the gap between the Senior Leader Course and the Sergeants Major Course.”

Sgt. Maj. Brian O’Leary, a Sergeants Major Course Class 65 graduate and an instructor for the Master Leader Course, facilitates a class on Special Conditioning Programs under the Personnel Readiness block of instruction. O’Leary was one of six individuals selected to teach the initial pilot class that will be the basis for the next two pilot class and ultimately the Army’s Master Leader Course.
Sgt. Maj. Brian O’Leary, a Sergeants Major Course Class 65 graduate and an instructor for the Master Leader Course, facilitates a class on Special Conditioning Programs under the Personnel Readiness block of instruction. O’Leary was one of six individuals selected to teach the initial pilot class that will be the basis for the next two pilot class and ultimately the Army’s Master Leader Course.

Hughes noted the course’s rigor and tight schedule, but also believed that if he had attended the course earlier in his career he would have been a more successful senior NCO.

“I believe this course really sets up a senior sergeant first class promotable, or master sergeant who is going to go onto a staff, to assist more than anything,” Hughes said. “We briefly covered a lot of the stuff a first sergeant would do, but as a first sergeant you still need to understand what (occurs) on a staff so you know how your company will be required to support whatever decisive action that you will be engaging in.”

Fellow graduate Master Sgt. John Itzin, the senior operations NCO at the Army Reserve Readiness Training Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and who will be one of the instructors for the third pilot class, said the course is a little more oriented towards staff functions than first sergeant duties and he believes it is on target.

“Being able to integrate ourselves onto a staff and be more valuable to the commander and other staff officers is something NCOs really need to be cognizant of. The ability to be able to be brought back in and have a more meaningful role I believe is very important,” he said. “As a promotable sergeant first class being able to back off from that tactical outlook of task management and to step back (from) and get the big picture is something that is brought into this course. I think that is very valuable because that is one area that I struggled with when I was that promotable sergeant first class going into my first staff position.”

The 108 hours of instruction is broken down into three modules – Foundation, Leadership and Army Profession, and Army and Joint Operation, Sgt. Maj. William Gentry, the Curriculum Development and Education Division sergeant major said.

“It provides the Army with senior noncommissioned officers who are self-aware and NCOs of character, confidence, and presence with the skills necessary to shape the joint operational environment, overcome the friction created by uncertainty and operate in an ambiguous environment,” he said. “So I believe this course is geared for the sergeants first class and the newly promoted master sergeants to enable them to perform the duties of a senior staff NCO or operations master sergeant in the S3. The course will give them the confidence to go into that staff role, with the education and institutional knowledge to be a productive member of a senior staff.”

The first pilot class was taught using two different instructional strategies – one using essays assessments, the other using a research project that enhances the collaboration between the students. Gentry said based on the educational outcomes from those two strategies will determine the way ahead for the next two pilot classes.

Master Sgt. Forte L. Cunningham, facilitates a practical exercise during the 15-day Master leader Course pilot class. The Master leaders Course consists of topics such as Army and Joint Doctrine; Interagency Capabilities and Considerations; Plans, Orders and Annexes; Decisive Action; Military Justice Rules and Procedures; Command Inspection program; Servant leadership; Personnel Readiness; Military Decision Making Process; Public Speaking; Military Briefings and Writing.
Master Sgt. Forte L. Cunningham, facilitates a practical exercise during the 15-day Master leader Course pilot class. The Master leaders Course consists of topics such as Army and Joint Doctrine; Interagency Capabilities and Considerations; Plans, Orders and Annexes; Decisive Action; Military Justice Rules and Procedures; Command Inspection program; Servant leadership; Personnel Readiness; Military Decision Making Process; Public Speaking; Military Briefings and Writing.

“The desired outcome is an operational leader that has the talent, ability and confidence in himself or herself to be a creative and critical thinker, to not just worry about beans and bullets, but to actually be able to think on line with that company commander or that field grade officer on the staff,” Gentry said. “Right now I give this course two thumbs up. Because it is only going to get better from here. When the students tell me they wish they had known this stuff three or four years ago and they are excited about what they know now, we are hitting the mark.”

The Master Leader Course consists of topics such as Army and Joint Doctrine; Interagency Capabilities and Considerations; Plans, Orders and Annexes; Decisive Action; Military Justice Rules and Procedures; Command Inspection program; Servant leadership; Personnel Readiness; Military Decision Making Process; Public Speaking; Military Briefings and Writing.

The MLC has been specifically designed to prepare sergeants first class for the increased leadership and management responsibilities required of all senior NCOs. The course is the fourth of five NCO Professional Development Courses beginning with the Basic Leader Course and culminating with the Sergeants Major Course. The makeup of the first pilot class consisted of 32 individually selected regular Army, National Guard and Reserve component professional NCOs from a wide range of career management fields.

Perkins provides Class 66 clarity on future Army

Gen. David G. Perkins, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, spent the morning Sept. 30 at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, Fort Bliss, Texas, talking to the 454 students of Sergeants Major Course Class 66. The general discussed the NCO’s role in Mission Command and the Army Operating Concept of Win in a Complex World and lauded them for being the stewards of the profession.
Gen. David G. Perkins, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, spent the morning Sept. 30 at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, Fort Bliss, Texas, talking to the 454 students of Sergeants Major Course Class 66. The general discussed the NCO’s role in Mission Command and the Army Operating Concept of Win in a Complex World and lauded them for being the stewards of the profession.

In an age of uncertainty, faced with the realities of sequestration and a downsizing Army, Gen. David G. Perkins, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, spent the morning of Sept. 30 providing clarity on the Army’s operating concept and the role of the senior NCO in mission command, to the 454 students of Sergeants Major Course Class 66.
TRADOC does a lot of things, Perkins explained, but what it is for is to be the architect of the Army, the designers of the future Army, who are currently looking at 2025 to 2040 and what capabilities the Army needs to have. TRADOC is the “design-build firm” for the Army.
As the designer of the Army Operating Concept, Perkins said the institution took a look at past concepts and found the 1981 Airland Battle Operating Concept to a powerful example of what the operating concept does – ask the big question.
“The first question it asked was what echelon of war are we going to design the United States Army to operate in? That is a big question. It didn’t get wrapped around small questions,” he said. “So remember that when you are in charge of an organization, your job is to ask big questions and not get wrapped around the axle with small answers.”
The second thing an operating concept does, he said, is describe the operating environment. Airland Battle was designed to go to battle with Russia in the central plains of Europe with NATO, a well-known coalition. Everything was known in Airland Battle Concept.
“Before you march off on small answers, the most important thing you have to do is define the problem. Define the problem you are trying to solve before you spend all night trying to solve it,” Perkins said. “Beware of people who define the problem by taking the answer they want and rewording it in the form of a problem.”
The problem the Airland Battle Concept identified was “Fight outnumbered and win.”

Using that template, Perkins said, TRADOC came up with “Win in a complex world,” complex being defined as unknown, unknowable and constantly changing.
“As an NCO you have to understand the logic of how we get to where we are,” he said. “Words have meaning and the good thing about doctrine is you get to define what the meaning is. All I need to know is do you want me to build an Army for a known world or an unknown world. Because those are two different armies. If it is unknown you design, build and buy things differently.”
In order to win in a complex world, Perkins said the Army must conduct unified land operations and then asked the question, “But what are we for?” It is very powerful once you decide what you are for because you can start grading what you do, he added.
To come up with that answer, TRADOC looked at Google’s mission – to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful – and found clarity in purpose. From there TRADOC defined what the Army is for – “To seize, retain and exploit the initiative to get to a position of relative advantage.”
“That could be to get the advantage against the Taliban, Hurricane Sandy, some humanitarian disaster, whatever you are dealing with,” he said. “(It is) relative advantage because the world is constantly changing; what is an advantage today may be a disadvantage tomorrow. The world you are in today is constantly changing.”
Turning his focus to mission command, Perkins said in order to conduct unified land operations we must institute mission command. Mission command, he said, is a multi-warfighting function and a command philosophy.
“In mission command we balance command and control, not to ensure compliance, but to empower initiative. Because you don’t know what your subordinates need to do piece-by-piece, so you just give them mission-oriented orders,” he said. “(You need to) understand, visualize and describe the mission. Once you do all of that, then you direct. Mission command is all about leadership because if you don’t have leadership you cannot execute mission command. If you can’t conduct mission command, you can’t do unified land operations, and if you can’t do unified land operations you probably are not going to win in a complex world.”
Perkins urged the class to “never lose clarity in the search for accuracy;” that their job was to conceptualize and not get caught up on the small things and he ended by telling the students that they owned the profession.
“So what are you for? The stewardship of the profession. You own the profession,” he said. “Because you own the profession we lean on you. We are addicted to you and all of the Soldiers because we trust that you know what you are doing and you will give your life to do that and that is the only reason we are ever going to be able to win in a complex world.”

Thorpe assumes responsibility for Resident SMC

Sgt. Maj. Maurice Thorpe accepts the unit colors from Command Sgt. Maj. Harold Reynolds, dean of the Sergeants Major Course, signifying his acceptance of the responsibility for the Resident Sergeants Major Course, during ceremonies held Oct. 8. At the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.
Sgt. Maj. Maurice Thorpe accepts the unit colors from Command Sgt. Maj. Harold Reynolds, dean of the Sergeants Major Course, signifying his acceptance of the responsibility for the Resident Sergeants Major Course, during ceremonies held Oct. 8. At the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.

Story and photos by David Crozier, Command Communications

The Sergeants Major Course of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, held a change of responsibility ceremony October 8, where Sgt. Maj. Robert R. Deblois handed over the duties and responsibilities of deputy director to Sgt. Maj. Maurice A. Thorpe. Command Sgt. Maj. Harold Reynolds, director of the Sergeants Major Course, officiated the change of responsibility and spoke a few words about both of the sergeants major during the event. “When I thought about what I wanted to talk about today, all of these ceremonies it is really bittersweet, we’ve got the new coming in with new ideas and revamping the organization but you also have that have that historical knowledge – that operational knowledge that is also leaving, that’s why it is a bittersweet thing,” Reynolds said. “If I could pick one word to describe SGM Deblois, it would be dedicated. He has been dedicated to the Army every unit that he has been in, he has dedicated to them and what they are doing. But first and foremost he has been dedicated to his family. … He has also been dedicated to the mission at USASMA of providing professional military education to senior leaders. He has been an astute asset in accomplishing that mission. And he has accomplished that mission.
Turning his attention to Thorpe, Reynolds said the one word that described him is “Commitment.”

“He is committed to his family, to the Army, to every unit that he has served. It is a hard balancing act to do, but he has done it. He is committed to the mission, to this mission, and he is committed to education, the pursuit of it, the teaching of it, and the importance of it,” Reynolds said. “Now that he takes these reins he will also ensure that you know and will give you the best curriculum that he can possibly give, as well as supporting all of the staff and students and instructors. You can’t do that without commitment.” Following Reynold’s remarks both Deblois and Thorpe were given the opportunity to address the gathered crowd. Deblois thanked the Academy and the staff for their support singling out several individuals, and specifically highlighted the work of the Sergeants Major Course Instructors and department chiefs and deputy chiefs.

 

Sgt. Maj. Maurice Thorpe addresses the crowd after his acceptance of the responsibility for the Resident Sergeants Major Course, during ceremonies held Oct. 8. At the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.
Sgt. Maj. Maurice Thorpe addresses the crowd after his acceptance of the responsibility for the Resident Sergeants Major Course, during ceremonies held Oct. 8. At the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.

“To my SMC instructors – you are world class, the best jobs in this academy. Your daily contact with the students, you are leading by example, your professionalism is phenomenal. Thanks for doing the heavy lifting,” Deblois said. “SGM and Mrs. Thorpe, I wish you good luck and congratulations. You are the right team to lead the resident course down the field.”

Deblois saved his closing remarks to the students of Class 66.

“Class 66 – you were selected to come here based off your past demonstrated abilities and potential. The goal is graduation,” he said. “Help each other out, don’t fret or worry about your assignments, first sergeant and the cadre will help you through that process. Remember the goal is graduation. Come June everything is going is work itself out.”

Thorpe likewise thanked everyone for attending the ceremony and also thanked Deblois for his dedication and leadership. “On today, the 8th of October, 2015, I have been given the privilege of accepting responsibility of the Sergeants Major Course. SGM Rob Deblois has done a great job as the leader of the corps and has performed with honor and distinction, not only here for the last two years, but for the 32 years of his career since 1984,” Thorpe said.Using a quote from famed baseball player Jackie Robinson who said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,” Thorpe said that in assuming the position as deputy director of the resident Sergeants Major Course provides him a platform to impact and the educators, students, their families and our Army. He added that the ceremony was not about him, but “about preserving the tradition the history and legacy that has existed here in this institution since 1972.

DSC_6204I am humbled by such a responsibility and I am thankful to work with such a great team. I recognize that our educators, staff and faculty play a huge role in not only your success, but the success of the team.” Thorpe ended his remarks by asking everyone to remember the “Flag.”

“Family, always take care of your family. For some of us that is your battle buddy to your left or right. Leadership, always set the example and be that leader that you always wanted. Leadership is more than being a servant leader, it is about followership as well. Ambassadorship, find ways around the Army, find ways around the academy, your community, to always lend a helping hand. Because to some you are the only Army they know. As far as Growth, I want you to do more than be lifelong learners. I want you to encourage others to grow and remain open-minded to all things new so we all grow too,” he said. “So simply put, remember the FLAG – family, leadership, ambassadorship and family.” Additional photos can be found on the USASMA flickr site at https://www.flickr.com/photos/133821783@N02/albums.

Huggins assumes duties as USASMA’s deputy commandant

The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy held a Change of Responsibility ceremony Oct. 4 which saw Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Huggins assume the responsibility of deputy commandant from Command Sgt. Maj. Tedd J. Pritchard. Above, Huggins accepts the Academy colors from Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, USASMA commandant, as a symbol of his assumption of responsibility as the deputy commandant of the Academy.
The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy held a Change of Responsibility ceremony Oct. 6 which saw Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Huggins assume the responsibility of deputy commandant from Command Sgt. Maj. Tedd J. Pritchard. Above, Huggins accepts the Academy colors from Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, USASMA commandant, as a symbol of his assumption of responsibility as the deputy commandant of the Academy.

The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy held a change of responsibility ceremony October 6, when Command Sgt. Maj. Tedd J. Pritchard relinquished his duties as deputy commandant to Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Huggins in the academy Cooper Lecture Center.

Command Sgt. Major Dennis Defreese, USASMA commandant, presided over the ceremony and gave remarks after the passing of the Academy colors.

“These two outstanding command sergeants major and Soldiers have dedicated their entire adult lives to our country and to the sons and daughters of our Nation. They have both taken on the most difficult jobs the Army has for NCOs and have never shied away from leading Soldiers,” Defreese said. “The deputy commandant job at USASMA is unlike any other command sergeant major job in the Army. He is not just an advisor, but a part of the chain of command and absolutely vital to the operations of this academy.”

Defreese lauded Pritchard’s career and thanked his family for their support of their soldier in the Army and then turned his attention to the incoming deputy commandant.

Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Higgins addresses the crowd during the Change of Responsibility ceremony Oct. 4 which saw Huggins accept the responsibility as deputy commandant from Command Sgt. Maj. Tedd J. Pritchard.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Higgins addresses the crowd during the Change of Responsibility ceremony Oct. 4 which saw Huggins accept the responsibility as deputy commandant from Command Sgt. Maj. Tedd J. Pritchard.

“I have known Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Huggins for a while and have seen him at conferences and venues around the Army. He is well-known as a professional Soldier and a great leader,” Defreese said. ”He has a sterling reputation. … I am absolutely confident that he will do an outstanding job and help lead this academy into the future.”

Defreese then turned the podium over to Pritchard for his outgoing remarks who thanked all those in attendance and lauded the support of the staff, cadre and faculty.

“I have had the privilege to serve this great organization and tried hard to make it better. I’ve served with the best of the best; the top one percent; the top dogs of their profession; the A-type personalities; the OCD department; the perfectionists and theorists. What a great combination of experience to serve by, with and for and I would not trade (it) for anything in the world,” Pritchard said. “Command Sgt. Maj. Huggins, this institution is in the best position it has ever been and the professionals within USASMA are totally and completely dedicated to keeping USASMA on top. The team anxiously awaits for you to get on board.”

Thanking the commandant for the confidence in selecting him,

The Pritchard family unveils Command Sgt. Maj. Tedd J. Pritchard’s official wall plaque depicting him as the Deputy Commandant of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy from 7 November 2013 through 6 October 2015. This plaque sits among the other former Command Sergeants Major and Deputy Commandants throughout the Academy’s history.
The Pritchard family unveils Command Sgt. Maj. Tedd J. Pritchard’s official wall plaque depicting him as the Deputy Commandant of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy from 7 November 2013 through 6 October 2015. This plaque sits among the other former Command Sergeants Major and Deputy Commandants throughout the Academy’s history.

Huggins also thanked the crowd for their attendance and promised everyone that he would not let them down as he takes over as the new deputy commandant.

“I look forward to being a part of Team Bliss and the team of teams that is here,” Huggins said. “Let’s do some good things. … Commandant thank you for the opportunity and I take this challenge on. Ultima, Army Strong.”

Additional photos can be found on the USASMA flickr site at https://www.flickr.com/photos/133821783@N02/albums.

USASMA ACEs common core evaluation: Receives additional college credits for Soldiers

Photo by Sgt. Maj. Patrick J. McDonald, USAR Graduates of the Sergeants Major Course will receive an extra upper division credit to be used towards their aspirations of attaining a bachelor's degree. Overall graduating from the course equates to 9 lower division and 16 upper division college credits.
Photo by Sgt. Maj. Patrick J. McDonald, USAR
Graduates of the Sergeants Major Course will receive an extra upper division credit to be used towards their aspirations of attaining a bachelor’s degree. Overall graduating from the course equates to 9 lower division and 16 upper division college credits.

The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy – the proponent for all NCOES common core courses, the Battle Staff NCO Course and Structured Self Development (SSD) – recently scored an “A+” on its evaluation from the American Council on Education or ACE.

“This is a good news story,” Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of USASMA said. “We went through the ACE evaluation and got the most credits that we have ever received for SSD I and Warrior Leader Course, all the way up through the Sergeants Major Course and SSD V. It is pretty significant for all of the credit they gave us.

Sgt. Maj. Robert Hixson, deputy director for the Department of Training, explained the process ACE used to evaluate USASMA’s courses.

“ACE evaluation looks at our teaching method, the level of rigor we put into the course, the examinations and the rigor put in them as well,” he said. “They look at what we teach and they compare that to college curriculum to ensure it matches the level of credit awarded. A lower division credit equates to an associate degree; upper division credit would be for a bachelor degree; and graduate division, which we didn’t get any credit, would be for masters.”

The evaluation of each course takes time with USASMA supplying all products to be evaluated in advance.

“Over a six month period we had to give ACE a period of instruction which is basically every class; everything the instructor has; and everything the student sees for evaluation to include every examination,” he said. “We had to provide them all of that and then we had several conference calls with them where we talked about the curriculum.”

Hixson said the dialogue between USASMA and ACE went back and forth for some time with ACE asking questions like, ‘Which program of instruction, or POI, is the valid one for the Warrior Leader Course – the 15-day POI, the 17-day or the 22-day?’ Once all of the questions were answered, ACE proceeded with their evaluation of the courses.

“What they do is they take three professors from various academic institutions and each one independently will review a POI and determine what credit they think should be awarded for that POI based on the level of work and level of education in the lesson,” Hixson said. “Then they bring the recommendations together and there is a month grace period where they come in and visit for two days, and go through the entire curriculum block while they are here. Then they went back for a month and reviewed what they got from the professors and made their credit recommendation.”

Illustration by David Crozier, USASMA This charts shows the before and after college credits the American Council on Education recommends colleges and universities consider when dealing with military students seeking degrees. While not every university accepts the recommendation by ACE in its entirety, most accept military education as a college credit towards a degree.
Illustration by David Crozier, USASMA
This charts shows the before and after college credits the American Council on Education recommends colleges and universities consider when dealing with military students seeking degrees. While not every university accepts the recommendation by ACE in its entirety, most accept military education as a college credit towards a degree.

Then end result of the evaluation – an additional 23 college credits for the various courses. (See the chart)

With most colleges requiring 60-80 credit hours, depending on your major to obtain an associate degree and 120 hours to obtain a bachelor degree, Structured Self Development and NCOES will get you the needed credits to obtaining your degree that much easier.

“Most colleges require you to get four classes for residency, so what you get in NCOES and four basic classes you could have an associate’s degree potentially,” he said. “That is what I did, a long time ago at Fort Riley, I went to the community college and I had to take a math course, an English course, a science course, and a fine arts course. And with those four classes I was awarded an associate’s degree.”

Some colleges may require you to take up to eight classes in residency depending on your major for a bachelor degree,’ said Roxanna Taylor, USASMA’s education program advisor.

Hixson cautioned that not all colleges accept what ACE recommends, but regardless the education you receive through the Army does go towards your degree aspirations. He added that even though ALC-Common Core is no longer being taught, the recommended credit it received will sit in place for those who completed the course to allow them that college credit.

ACE is the nation’s most visible and influential higher education association and represents the presidents of U.S. accredited, degree-granting institutions, which include two- and four-year colleges, private and public universities, and nonprofit and for-profit entities. ACE’s strength lies in their loyal and diverse base of more than 1,700 member institutions, 75 percent of which have been with ACE for more than 10 years. ACE convenes representatives from all sectors to collectively tackle higher education challenges, with a focus on improving access and preparing every student to succeed.

Class 65 prepares for academic year

Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese addresses the students of Sergeants Major Course Class 65 during briefings held Aug. 8 in the Cooper Lecture Center of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy. Class 65 will begin the 10-month long program of instruction on Friday during opening ceremonies.
Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese addresses the students of Sergeants Major Course Class 65 during briefings held Aug. 8 in the Cooper Lecture Center of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy. Class 65 will begin the 10-month long program of instruction on Friday during opening ceremonies.

With in-processing complete, the 466 students of Sergeants Major Course Class 65 received their final briefings Aug. 11 before starting the 10-month long program of instruction.

Sitting in the East auditorium of the Cooper Lecture Center, better known by the students as the master bedroom, the students were greeted by Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.

“This won’t take very long and I will take whatever questions you want to ask, but really it’s about welcoming you and giving you a little bit of course expectations from my foxhole,” Defreese said. “I know you have already heard this, but this course is more challenging than (what) your battalion or brigade CSMs (told) you before you came here. That being said, it is not that hard that you shouldn’t be taking college courses (while you are here).”

He encourage all of the students that if they didn’t have a degree, or where close to completing one, to do it while they were at the academy, but balance that with taking time for the family and exploring El Paso and the surrounding area. He also cautioned the class to maintain the profession.

“The three key parts of the profession, our profession, are character, commitment and competence. You cannot mask character flaws with competence. I don’t care how good of a student you are if you have a character issue while you are here it is going to be a problem,” he said. “Look out for each other. … (Keep) each other out of trouble. … My goal here is to graduate 466 students from this academy.”

Defreese also touched on the height and weight, and Army Physical Fitness standards, stressing that as per Army directive it is a graduation requirement to meet those standards. He also talked briefly about current issues facing the force like sequestrations, force reductions and the Command Select List before turning his attention to the many guest speakers the students will hear from.

“There is no other venue in the world where you will get the level of speakers that comes in here to this course,” he said. “You are going to be hearing from some of the senior leaders in the Army. Pay attention to them, they are going to tell you what the latest is in the Army. They know what is going on.”

With his comments complete, Defreese took time to answer some questions from the students.
Later in the day the students received their in-brief from the Sergeants Major Course director, Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Coleman who introduced himself as a Class 56 graduate.

The students of Sergeants Major Course Class 65 were introduced to their instructors Aug. 8 during briefings which outlined the 10-months of instructions to include an overview of the course itself, the five departments of instruction and student conduct and requirements. Class 65 will begin the 10-month long program of instruction on Friday during opening ceremonies.
The students of Sergeants Major Course Class 65 were introduced to their instructors Aug. 8 during briefings which outlined the 10-months of instructions to include an overview of the course itself, the five departments of instruction and student conduct and requirements. Class 65 will begin the 10-month long program of instruction on Friday during opening ceremonies.

“Why do I say that? Because it is important that when you graduate from here that you are proud of this alumni,” he said. “Once you get out of here, the one thing you will do is when you see other sergeants major, what is common amongst you, is you come from here (and what class you are). So be proud of this.”

Coleman gave the students a complete overview of the mission of the Sergeants Major Course as well as introduced all of the cadre from the different departments – Force Management; Command Leadership; Army Operations; Joint Intergovernmental, Interagency and Multinational; and Training and Doctrine. Each department introduced their staff and gave an overview of the curriculum of that department.

Coleman also made note of the level of experience and education of the instructors, many with advanced degrees or higher as well as command sergeant major, combat and joint experience.

“We have a lot of experience here,” Coleman said. “So when we talk to you about being selected as being the best of the best to come here, you are going to have the best of the best teach you on all of these different aspects of the different roles of the sergeant major.”

Coleman and his staff also briefed the students on every aspect of the course concerning assessments, standards and expectations. He too cautioned the students about maintaining the standards, watching each other’s back and maintaining the profession with character, competence and commitment. He also dispelled a misconception of what the Sergeants Major Course was not.

“One of the perceptions about the Sergeants Major Course is that we are going to teach you how to be that sergeant major out there chewing butt, and all of those other things. That is not what this course is designed to do,” he said. “This course is designed to make you an adaptive and agile senior leader. To be able to go out there and be effective, be efficient, be part of the team, understand the same language that your officers are talking, and it brings credibility (to the rank).”

He said the goal was to have 466 students graduate from the course and told the students that the staff and cadre where there to help them in any way they can to make that happen.

The Army’s culminating enlisted Professional Military Education (PME) institution is the Sergeants Major Course. This course provides tools to develop critical reasoning, creative thinking and decision-making skills. Soldiers are provided an education that teaches them to enhance their character, self-expression, and strengthen teamwork abilities. The course assists in the development of logical, practical and original reasoning abilities necessary for problem solving. Students analyze problems based on available information, arrive at logical solutions and decisions with reasonable speed, communicate reasoning and decisions orally and in writing, and supervise to ensure proper execution. Intellectual honesty, integrity, and professional values and standards are highly stressed. The SMC contains a total of 1,484.7 instructional hours, and is also offered as a nonresident course which culminates with two weeks of resident instruction at the academy.

Hunting the Good Stuff – Class 64 students earn Master Resilience Trainer identifier

Class 64 students gather in the Academy’s Cooper Lecture Center on Day 1 of the Master Resilience Trainer Course taught by members of the Fort Bliss Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Training Center. Class 64 is the first class that will graduate from the Academy with the MRT additional skill identifier of 8R.
Class 64 students gather in the Academy’s Cooper Lecture Center on Day 1 of the Master Resilience Trainer Course taught by members of the Fort Bliss Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Training Center. Class 64 is the first class that will graduate from the Academy with the MRT additional skill identifier of 8R.

Noted American novelist Richard Bach said, “The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly.” In other words, there is good and bad in every situation or event, it just depends upon your point of view.

Understanding those differing points of view and how individuals face and cope with “adversity, adapt to change, recover, and learn to grow from setbacks” has been an Army focus since the establishment of the Ready and Resilient Campaign and the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program in 2008. Through CSF2 the Army seeks to “increase the resilience and enhance the performance of Soldiers, their families and Army civilians.” Included in CSF2 is Master Resilience Training where individuals are trained to teach proven resilience skills to Soldiers in order to enhance their performance and increase resiliency, both individually and collectively – “being Army Strong is about much more than being physically fit; it is about mental and emotional strength, as well.”

At the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, resiliency training began about three years ago when one of the cadre attended the MRT Course taught at the University of Pennsylvania and came back to USASMA and developed a program of instruction for students attending the Sergeants Major Course.

“Ramzy Noel (one of the senior instructors of the Sergeants Major Course) had heard of this and got involved in and he piloted a program here to teach [MRT] at the academy,” said Mike Hayes, senior instructor in the Department of Command Leadership. “He got it blessed off on by [the] director of the Sergeants Major Course, and he taught an abbreviated version of the class in the auditorium to the [sergeants major course students].

Hayes soon followed Noel’s footsteps and attended the University of Pennsylvania training and joined Noel in teaching the class. Last year the Sergeants Major Course reorganized into new departments and the responsibility for the course fell strictly on Hayes to manage. That is about the time, Hayes explained, when the leadership of the Army’s CFS2 program came to USASMA and gave a brief to sergeants major course students about the program. From there, an agreement was reached where individuals from the Fort Bliss Comprehensive Soldiers and Family Fitness Training Center would take on the duties of teaching the course and the students would graduate from it with the additional skill qualifier of 8R – they could now teach the course themselves instead of just knowing about the course.

“It enhanced the quality of training and all the sergeants major will be level ones (Level I) upon graduation, Hayes said. “The intent behind it was to get a lot more senior level, senior NCO, involvement in the program. Some units had programs in place but they weren’t really going after things. So leadership felt that if they had more believers at the senior level, more would get involved and then the programs would get better.”

With the agreement in place between USASMA and CSF2, instructors from the Fort Bliss center began teaching the 10-day course to the students of Sergeants Major Course Class 64. As the SMC is broken down into five departments and five semesters, the MRT course is taught at the beginning of each semester as each group rotates into the Command Leadership phase of the course. The course itself consists of lectures in the auditorium and small group instruction and interaction in the classroom.

In the group rooms students use the skills they have learn to walk through scenarios that get progressively more complicated. Above, a student leads a discussion on an activating event, the thoughts that accompanied the event which eventually led to consequences - actions based on those thoughts.
In the group rooms students use the skills they have learn to walk through scenarios that get progressively more complicated. Above, a student leads a discussion on an activating event, the thoughts that accompanied the event which eventually led to consequences – actions based on those thoughts.

“The overall mechanics of the program is typically they get information in the large group setting where they learn a skill or a component of a skill, a theory behind something that works, and then the real work is when they go to the small group room with an assistant primary instructor and some facilitators and we ask them to actually use the skill or theory they just learned,” said Dr. Erin Towner, Psy D, Master Resilience Trainer/Performance Expert and primary instructor for the course. “Here is this skill, now walk through it; this is how your MRT is trained to do it; try it for yourself. After they get their feet wet with the skill, all the skills are worked through with a partner, and then we work in the small group rooms debriefing the skill, talking about what we learned in doing the exercise and a lot about application – how do you use this or see this being used.”

Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, a Level IV MRT instructor and assistant primary instructor with the 5th Armored Brigade, 1st Armored Division, said the intent is to educate senior leaders as to what it is an MRT does so it can be better utilized in the field.

“The overarching goal of teaching sergeants major students the program and actually walking them through the entire program is designed to give them a deeper understanding of what an MRT is,” he said. “[It’s] also to show them how they can use their MRT as a force multiplier; how they can use their MRT more effectively in their units; and what their MRT’s left and right limits actually are.”

Parish said the latter part is significant because MRTs in the field have been asked to do things that actually aren’t in an MRT’s realm or scope. He added leadership has heard reports back from Soldiers who have been asked to be like a triage for their unit – to decide whether or not somebody needs to go to mental health.

“We are not training in a two-week period to be clinical psychologists. We are not giving anyone a PhD in clinical psychology,” he said. “So leaders need to understand things like you still have those outside resources that you need to reach for [that are outside an MRT’s scope].”

Parish said that MRT is based on science and is intended to give Soldiers skills to cope with things before they happen as well as give them life skills for everyday living.

“Resilience is a skill. Resilience skills are really designed for before an event occurs in your life. So before a traumatic event happens, before life just slaps you in the face,” Parish said. “These are the skills we want you to know beforehand.”

He added, MRT is not trying to teach anybody a set of skills for after an event has already occurred.

MRTcompetencies“Say you are suffering from a disorder like PTSD,” he said.  “We are not teaching you these skills to treat your PTSD, we are teaching you these skills to treat your life and how you would use these skills for long term and hopefully reduce or eliminate the PTSD before it happens.”

MRT training is broken down into four modules of instruction, Dr. Towner said.

“The first module is foundations. It contains foundational components about resilience, performance enhancement and the six competencies that build resilience and performance,” she said. “We also teach them the skills of energy management and goal setting”

Module two she said is the longest module and is focused on building mental toughness.

“That is a lot of cognitive behavioral skills, the basic skills like the Army saying, ‘Suck it up and drive on,’” she said. “Knowing these skills; this is how you do that; telling somebody to get over something, or how do they get over something? This is the way, and there are very specific set of skills to use in certain types of situations to develop those competencies we talk about.”

In Module three the students learn about strength of character.

“The students take an assessment and they get a rank order of their strengths,” Dr. Towner said. “Then we have a lot of conversations about how have you used these strengths, where has this gotten you, how do you find this in your Soldiers, and how are you going to leverage this in your Soldiers? That module is an entire day.”

Module four is all about communication, she said. From there they move on to looking at scenarios.

“They have learned all these skills and then we give them a scenario and then ask them what skills make sense to work this scenario,” she said. “We ask them how should they be working with this Soldier and the scenario gets progressively more complicated and [it forces them] to see what other assets and resources you can use on post to help this Soldier – what other assets are available.”

Towner said it is all aimed at setting them up for success before the “stuff” happens.

The students of Class 64 who took the course in the first semester agree.

“Up until I came here and I took the MRT course, I knew very little of it,” said Master Sgt. Juan Pena who was a brigade operations sergeant major with the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y. before attending the Sergeants Major Course. “When you are talking resiliency it’s about people’s feelings and emotions and how they are able to handle and cope with different situations. It has just been through my experience that I have been able to help soldiers out with their situations, shortcomings and shortfalls. However, the MRT course gave me a whole different insight on how to problem solve, look at better ways of doing things and also how to be more positive each and every day. This is probably one of the most beneficial training exercises or training event that I have ever been involved in.”

Master Sgt. Clay Usie who was a senior military instructor at Louisiana State University and a 1st Sgt. with the 75th Ranger Regiment, before coming to USASMA, said that he had used and taught resiliency as soon as the Army stood up the CSF2 program on Fort Benning, Ga.

“My battalion commander became a big fan of it and we started sending all of our senior instructors for the ranger assessment and selection program and we started teaching resiliency training within the program,” he said. “I think it complemented what we were doing. I don’t have the statistics right off hand but we have shown an increased accession rate since we implemented MRT.”

Throughout the course students are taught about MRT competencies of self awareness, self regulation, optimism, mental agility, strengths of character and connection. They learn about thinking traps, activating events, icebergs (personal beliefs and values), problem solving, and putting things in perspective, mental games, real time resilience, communication tools, and how to hunt for the good stuff.  The course also shows the students how to conduct pre-deployment training, post-deployment training, teach energy management and goal setting.

The expectation from the Sergeants Major Course students going forward, Hayes explained, is not to go out and teach the course, but to use the knowledge they have gained to ensure the program is working out in the field.

“Now you know what right looks like, you know what the program consists of. You know what the skills are and you know what the requirements are. So when you get to your unit as an S3 sergeant major and your commander says ‘what is the status of my MRT program?’ You can go down and see how they are doing it [with the knowledge of how it is supposed to be done],” Hayes said. “We tell the students to make sure that it is alive and vibrant in your organizations, that you are meeting Army requirements for pre-deployment and post-deployment and that the quarterly training requirements are being met. The second thing is make sure it is good quality. Make sure your programs are teaching quality. If you have good quality and you get involved in the training it is going to stick more.”

Although the Academy is the only place where students are taught the entire Level I course and receive certification, Parish said that parts of MRT is taught at all levels of Army training from basic training to the Advanced Leaders Course.

 

 

Army Career Tracker helps leaders monitor SSD, mentor Soldiers

ACT_LogoEarlier this year the Army made it mandatory for Soldiers to complete their respective Structured Self Development Courses before attending their corresponding level of Noncommissioned Officer Education System courses – SSD I before attending the Warrior Leader Course, SSD III before attending the Senior Leader Course, and SSD IV before attending the Sergeants Major Course.

Because of this mandate leaders across the Army are becoming more involved in the supervision of their Soldiers’ progress, or lack thereof, in SSD course completion. Many still are asking the question, “How do I track a Soldier’s progress within SSD?”

The answer is the Army Career Tracker – a web-based leadership tool developed by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development, or INCOPD.

“The capabilities of the Army Career Tracker allow both first line supervisors and the command the ability to track SSD,” said Jeffery Colimon, chief of the Learning Integration Division, INCOPD at Fort Eustis, Va., and a retired sergeant major. “In more than one way the first line supervisor can track the progress of the individual Soldiers who are enrolled in SSD and the command, using the staff function, can aggregate the data and find out exactly how many people are enrolled in SSD and how many have graduated  –all the way down to the individual Soldier level.”

While not mandatory for enrollment as of yet, the Army Career Tracker has more than 650,000 users, about 50 percent of the target population, which includes Army civilians, officers, enlisted and Reserve Component Soldiers. Colimon said that with the revision of Army Regulation 350-1, Army Training and Leader Development, due out early next year, all personnel will be required to have an Army Career Tracker account in order to access their individual development plan.

“One of the most dynamic things about the Army Career Tracker is that we have the capability to allow the proponent to place the career map in a section on the ACT called My Planner. In that section users are able to see the career maps of their current MOS (military occupational specialty) and grade, and also look across the [entire] career field to see what the recommendations are for key areas such as SSD, assignments, training, civilian education, and credentialing,” said Khadijah Sellers, a senior operations analyst with Enspyr, a contractor working with INCOPD to develop and maintain ACT. “All that can be selected by the users and can be added to the individual development plan within the ACT and is the only place where the IDP is contained. It also has been mandated to be used and will in an upcoming revision to AR 350-1 as a requirement.”

That requirement, Sellers said, mandates that within 30 days of an individual going to their first duty station and with the assistance of their leader they will start their IDP and it will be reviewed annually for the duration of their service.

“That is one of the forcing functions that we have,” Colimon said. “In addition to that, there are emerging regulations on sponsorship which also has some mandatory functions that are inside the Army Career Tracker for Soldiers, the sponsors and the key stakeholders. They will be required to go into ACT in support of the sponsorship of an individual.”

 Cognos reporting system

With the Staff Function reports, G3s can see all the way down to the individual soldier as to how many are enrolled and completed.
With the Staff Function reports, G3s can see all the way down to the individual soldier as to how many are enrolled and completed.

While the ACT is a single point of entry for career and leadership development, it is also a powerful management tool which allows leaders at all levels to see what their Soldiers are doing as it relates to education and training and career management.

“One of the great things about Cognos and the staff role function is the command can [see] all the way down to the lowest UIC, company, detachment level and also is able to provide a by-name list out of that showing where the individual’s status is,” said Brian Lijana a training analyst with TMG Government a contractor supporting ACT. “We have a few different reports that track SSD. There’s an SSD report that gives straight forward facts of who is enrolled and who’s completed in each level regardless of rank, regardless of what schooling or NCOES courses they have taken. Then we also have our PME report. This report has been built in with logic to take into account the MEL/MES codes (the military education level and status codes) and match that with their SSD to show exactly what that Soldier needs – if they are required to enroll or complete WLC, or they need to complete SSD I, and that is based on their rank and their MLS code and SSD completion.”

Lijana added that with the Cognos reporting system, supervisors or first line leaders can look at a Soldier’s record and instantly see what that Soldier has done.

“When a supervisor, first line leader, looks at a Soldier’s record they see a thermometer. This thermometer is listed with the same PME structure SSD I, WLC, ALC, SSD III and so on all the way up to SSD V, and it can show what a Soldier has completed, if they are enrolled in a level and what their next level would be,” he said.

The reporting systems of the Army Career Tracker provides supervisors and first-line leaders all types of reports on individual Soldiers like this report above which shows a Soldier’s level of military education completion, goals attained and a comparison charts to others in the same occupational specialty.
The reporting systems of the Army Career Tracker provides supervisors and first-line leaders all types of reports on individual Soldiers like this report above which shows a Soldier’s level of military education completion, goals attained and a comparison charts to others in the same occupational specialty.

That kind of reporting ability allows for ACT to be a great tool for career counseling, Colimon added.

“This thing about tracking SSD and the first line supervisor to see this and that are collateral benefits that we have built into the system. None of them will be successful if in fact the individual doesn’t go in there, with the assistance of the first line supervisor, and manage their career,” Colimon said. “[Through ACT] the first line supervisor can actually coach, mentor and counsel an individual with a specific framework. They have a [map] to do that right in front of them. [The supervisor] can make recommendations on training and education opportunities as well as assignment opportunities, and the individual can see what is required of them to reach the next level.”

ACT levels the playing field

The ACT can manage a Soldier’s entire career, however short or long that may be, by allowing them to see what training, education, assignments, or certifications they might need in order to meet their goals. Because this is available to everyone, it establishes a level playing field, something that was not the case in the past when it came to career management.

“In the past, we had a lot of Soldiers that were equipped with good information from their leaders, their first line supervisor, and then we had Soldiers that were not equipped with that information,” said Master Sgt. Chadwick W. Wormer, ACT senior military analyst at INCOPD. “The ACT is leveling the playing field by giving every Soldier the same information and the same opportunities at their fingertips so they don’t have to base their career on good, or not so good, leadership.”

ACT has the ability to pull information from multiple systems in order to alleviate the need for an individual to go to different websites and portals to see their information, Colimon said.

“One of the things that is unique about the ACT is that all data is personalized within this cradle to grave, hire to retire, system,” he said. “What can I do within the current window of opportunity within my career to enhance my military education, civilian education, credentialing, and certifications, and also to become a better professional Soldier?”

Because of limited user licenses available for the Cognos reporting system, Wormer said that they are limiting the Staff Function report to the G3s at each post.

“We try to ensure access is given to the highest level G3 on the installation,” Wormer said.  Once the access is given, it is asked that the user share with everyone on the installation.  The report is in Excel, so it is easily sorted, filtered and further broken down by UIC.”

Installation G3s needing access to the Staff Function reporting must fill out INCOPD Form 1-R-E. To request a form email ACT.now@us.army.mil.

USASMA continues SSD update

The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy announced recently that the entire suite of Structured Self-Development levels, or SSD, is going through a maintenance phase in order to bring a better NCO professional development product to the field.

Similar to the new interface that was developed for the Advanced Leaders Course Common Core, the new Graphics User Interface for the suite of Structured Self-Development Courses will now bring a more user-friendly experience.
Similar to the new interface that was developed for the Advanced Leaders Course Common Core, the new Graphics User Interface for the suite of Structured Self-Development Courses will now bring a more user-friendly experience.

“We never stop when it comes to ensuring we provide the force with the best possible NCOES experience and that includes all of our distance learning courses as well,” Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, USASMA commandant said. “Earlier this year we improved the user experience of those enrolled in the Advanced Leaders Course-Common Core, and now we have set our focus on doing the same for structured self-development.”
Currently the entire SSD suite is going through an update.
“All SSD I and SSD V lessons are in a maintenance phase in order to update course materials with current references and a new user-friendly graphics user interface,” Sgt. Maj. Andy Tafua, director of Structured Self-Development said. “It will have a new look and feel, something we believe those enrolled will appreciate.”
Tafua said that SSD III and SSD IV have already incorporated the new GUI and will be introduced to the force after the first of the year.
“SSD III will have seven new lessons added to the course and SSD IV will have 25 new lessons,” he said adding that SSD V went through a limited user test in September and that they are currently addressing all identified deficiencies and hope to have the course ready for release by the end of 2014.
The new GUI updates replaces the older Flash-based interface which was slow and buggy, said Jason Henderson of the Academy’s Interactive Multimedia Instruction section which developed the new interface.
“The new interface is fast, stable and only uses Flash when absolutely required,” he said. “New navigation reduces mouse travel and allows for a more user-friendly experience.”
Some of the improvements with the new interface include: Student progress is displayed using a progress bar and page numbers; references are linked and take Soldiers to the exact page where content is located; and lessons now have a full-featured audio control which allows Soldiers to pause, play, or scrub to the exact point in the audio clip they desire.
“The new GUI has been tested on Mac OS 10.7, and Windows 8, 7, Vista, and XP; Internet Explorer 11, 10, 9, 8; Firefox 25-17; Safari 6, 5; Chrome 29-23; Opera 12,” Henderson said noting that the Army Learning Management System may limit the browsers and operating systems accessing their system. “There are many other new features that enhance the learning experience and Soldiers will reap the benefits by having a much better learning experience.”

 

Note: MILPER MESSAGE 13-343, STRUCTURED SELF DEVELOPMENT (SSD) SEMI-CENTRALIZED PROMOTIONS, ISSUED: [25 NOV 13]. This message applies to Active Army and the USAR and AGR. Effective 1 Jan 14 completion of SSD-1 is a promotion eligibility requirement for consideration to the rank of SGT. On or about 2 Dec 13, SSD-1 will no longer qualify Soldiers for earning 16 promotion points for course completion and will be removed from the eMILPO correspondence course table. Commanders must ensure SPCs and CPLs complete SSD-1 before recommending them for promotion board appearance or command list integration (CLI) to SGT effective with the promotion board cycle for 1 Jan 14. On or about 1 Jan 14, all promotable SPC and CPL who have not completed SSD-1 will be automatically removed from the SGT  recommended list (as ineligible). https://www.milsuite.mil/book/docs/DOC-125732 The number to the SSD Help Desk is 1-800-275-2872 opt. 5

New USASMA Course sets stage for successful commandant accession

USASMA commandant, Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, addresses the students of the first Pre-Command Commandants Course held at the Academy Sept. 16-20. The course was deemed a success and will undergo some modifications before being rolled out officially sometime next year.
USASMA commandant, Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, addresses the students of the first Pre-Command Commandants Course held at the Academy Sept. 16-20. The course was deemed a success and will undergo some modifications before being rolled out officially sometime next year.

As NCOs make their way through the ranks, taking on increased duties and responsibilities, they are provided with the fundamental tools they need through the Army’s Noncommissioned Officer Education System. Beginning with the Warrior Leaders Course and ending with the Sergeants Major Course, those duties and responsibilities, as well as the authorities, of the NCO are brought to light and imparted on those who are placed in charge of leading, training, counseling and mentoring Soldiers placed under their care. While their responsibilities are many, one thing is for certain, they have no real command authority.

The same cannot be said though for those who are placed into the position of being the commandant of an NCO Academy. These individuals not only have all of the responsibilities of being an NCO, they also carry the implied authorities of a commander, something they were not schooled in—that is until now.

On September 16 the USASMA kicked off a proof of principle Pre-Command Commandants Course designed to test the skills and knowledge of eight command sergeants major who currently hold the position of commandant in one of the Army’s 33 noncommissioned officer academies.

“As NCOs grow up in the Army they are given a lot of leadership opportunities and the opportunity to serve in a lot of different capacities – first sergeant, platoon sergeant, drill sergeant, and so on. But in every one of those roles with the exception of the squad leader, they are really not in the chain of command where they are the ones making all of the command-level decisions,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, USASMA commandant. “However, as a commandant it is the first position, and probably the only duty position, in the Army where we ask a command sergeant major that has not been developed to do that kind of job to exercise their duties much like a commander. They have to manage a budget, they have to look at infractions of misconduct and what action they’re going to take with their recommendations; it carries a lot more power. So what we are trying to do is equip them with the tools and help them understand a lot of the limitations and expectations the position has.”

The course came about from issues that were happening within the Army in respects to NCO Academies, Malloy said. There had been some instances of misconduct that many believed were due to a lack of knowledge as to the duties, responsibilities and command authority of a commandant. Malloy himself noted his own lack of knowledge in assuming the duties as commandant of the Sergeants Major Academy and the issues he faced.

“I realized how tough the job was and there was really nothing out there that prepares us to take this job. We used to do commandants conferences where I would bring all the commandants in, but at the end of the day those were okay but we really didn’t get a lot out of them,” he said. “So last year we made the decision that commandants were not properly prepared to go into that leadership role and we needed to fix that.”

Command Sgt. Maj. William Bruns, commandant of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord NCO Academy and one of three mentors selected to help develop the course, leads a discussion on Command Authority.
Command Sgt. Maj. William Bruns, commandant of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord NCO Academy and one of three mentors selected to help develop the course, leads a discussion on Command Authority.

USASMA did an analysis of the training needs for commandants and realized there was a large gap in what command sergeants major were being taught at the pre-command course and what their duties and responsibilities would entail as a commandant, Malloy said. From there the staff in the Directorate of Training began the process of filling in that gap with a new course that would augment the pre-command course and give new commandants the tools they need to make sound command decisions.

“One of our main objectives here is to arm the [command sergeants major] with the tools that are necessary to be a successful enlisted commandant,” said Sgt. Maj. Jerry Bailey, USASMA’s Training, Development and Education sergeant major. “We took a list of tasks based on information provided by three mentors (sergeants major currently in commandant positions) we brought in and Command Sgt. Maj. Malloy. We took those tasks and we built lessons to get after what things an enlisted commandant can and cannot do.  We want to educate them on their duties, responsibilities and command authority so as they go back out and do their commandant duties they have the tools that are necessary to be successful.”

Bailey said the course is designed on a learner-centric model using practical exercises that require group work and research to obtain the answers they need. Each group also shares their findings with the entire class in order to facilitate discussion.

The 40-hour, 5-day course covers 15 different topic areas: The Authorities of an Enlisted Commandant, Joint Ethics, Lines of Command/Support, Training Management, Inventory Management/Property Accountability, Budget Management, Academy Manning, Course Administrative Requirements, Instructor Development program, Civilian Personnel Management System, Student records, Learning Theories and Styles, Law for Leaders, Registrar, and Accreditation.

Command Sgt. Maj. Cornelius Mack, commandant of the Alaska NCO Academy participates in a discussion during a presentation. Mack was one of eight commandants who took part in the proof of principle for the new Pre-Command Commandants Course.
Command Sgt. Maj. Cornelius Mack, commandant of the Alaska NCO Academy participates in a discussion during a presentation. Mack was one of eight commandants who took part in the proof of principle for the new Pre-Command Commandants Course.

“It would normally take us about a year to get this course going,” Bailey said. “We did this in about two months with a lot of folks who spent a lot of dedicated time to actually get it done.  We stayed in contact with the three mentors throughout the two-month process talking to them once a week and we provided them with what we thought the product should look like, and they provided us the feedback. So the mentors played a big part in making sure this was ready to go.”

To further enhance the course curricula, USASMA enlisted the help of its legal assistant, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Burke, who helped to mold and shape the instruction on the authorities of an enlisted commandant and joint ethics.

“One of the big things that the commandant touched on in his introduction to the class is the authorities of a commandant. After a year and a half here Command Sgt. Maj. Malloy and I have come through a lot of instances where regulations don’t clearly define and don’t mention a commandant. It only defines a commander or nothing,” Burke said. “So we introduce them to what delegations of authority, what memorandums of agreement, those types of things are going to be required of a commandant to be able to function at their installation. So we want the students to have a take away of this is what I am going to need to get established so that when these things come up they are not behind the curve.”

In the joint ethics piece, Burke was able to bring realism to the course through the assistance of Fort Bliss military lawyers who were on standby to answer any questions the students might have when working through various scenarios.

“Joint ethics violations are the primary cause for release of command and release of commandants. So during the course we conduct about an hour overview of joint ethics and then each day [the students] have an ethics-based, real-world scenario that is based off of actual cases which they will decipher what is the problem, how can they fix it, and how can they prevent it in the future,” Burke said. “We also have a paralegal in each working group to work them through that discussion and they also have an attorney available to them by phone to get actual advice.  So this mirrors as close as possible a real-world situation of how they should go through those ethical issues.”

Taking part in the proof of principle, Command Sgt. Maj. Cornelius Mack, commandant of the Alaska NCO Academy who has only been on the job for nine months, said the course was far more than he expected and wished he could have taken it prior to being selected to serve as a commandant.

“Understanding the authorities is the biggest thing that I am taking away from here. What the authority of a commandant really is. Understanding how to establish [memorandums of agreement and understanding] to ensure that you are covered,” he said. “You have a commander’s role in an O-6 (Colonel’s) billet, but you don’t have command authority. So understanding what that authority is and how to establish memorandums of agreement and understanding to give you the authority you need to function, not for power sake, but just for the natural ability to run the academy is huge.”

Mack also noted the joint ethics portion of the course as extremely valuable.

“Sharing the knowledge with commandants so they can understand what it is they can and cannot do, and things that can and cannot get them in trouble. As sergeants major we have experienced some of these things over the years but once you are put in this position of commandant or commander, it is your FRG, it’s your fundraiser, it’s your this team or that team. Having that understanding and privy to that knowledge is the second thing that was overwhelming,” Mack said. “This course is more than beneficial. If a new commandant only got the book they put together for pre-reading it would have been so much better, it would have put me so much farther ahead of the game. So yes, this course is extremely beneficial to a new commandant.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Porrett, commandant of the NCO Academy in Hawaii and an 18-month veteran of the position, had similar sentiments about the new course.

“This is definitely a shared experience between new and some seasoned commandants looking at some of the trip wires and pitfalls out there that nothing has really prepared us for.  We may have been in the Army 25 plus years, but this is the first time that we are the sole person responsible for an organization. So the shared experience within the room is important, something that you cannot get online through video tele-conferencing,” Porrett said. “We have got to have the shared experience and within this group we have commandants with less than a month’s experience to some of us with 18 months and even though I have been in the seat for a while, there are still things that I am taking back to better my academy.”

Porrett was particularly thankful for the opportunity to hear from Gen. Robert Cone, commanding general of Training and Doctrine Command and who addressed the class via VTC on Day 3 of the course.

Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, USASMA commandant, poses for a group photo with the first class of the Pre-Command Commandants Course on Day 1 of the new course. The 40-hour, 5-day course was designed to help new commandants better understand the unique duties and responsibilities inherent in their jobs.
Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, USASMA commandant, poses for a group photo with the first class of the Pre-Command Commandants Course on Day 1 of the new course. The 40-hour, 5-day course was designed to help new commandants better understand the unique duties and responsibilities inherent in their jobs.

“The thing that we got was a one-on-one with a senior leader who understands our position, understands what our pitfalls are, and he was able to relay his expectations and the down to earth of this is what you need to be doing,” Porrett said. “He talked about things we should not be doing and rarely does that ever happen. It was good for us [to have the opportunity].”

With the proof or principle complete, Malloy and his staff will now go back to the table and look at the course surveys, conduct an after action review and make needed adjustments to ensure the course is ready for launch.

“We gained a lot from this. The proof of principle and proof of concept, it proved we are definitely in the right ballpark and it will work. We are just missing a few subjects and some of the scenarios and exercises they did were a little too challenging, so we are going to add a little more education before they do the scenario and the final exam proved to be very challenging, so we are taking a look at whether or not we met all the objectives,” Malloy said. “With a little more refinement and a little more time we will be ready to execute the course probably in February. We are also going to bring in all the advance leader course and senior leader course new commandants as well. “

Malloy said that USASMA hopes to be able to conduct three to four iterations of the course per year, depending on demand and class load and estimates the class size will be between 20-30 students. Some of the course can be given in a large group seminar setting while exercises and scenarios need to be done more in a small group setting.

“The course met my expectations and in some ways it exceeded it for what we are trying to achieve with the commandants. It really challenged them and caused them to have to think critically and then we really got after some of the intellectual-level of thinking and discussion on a lot of critical topics that they are going to be challenged with as a commandant as they take over these new duties,” Malloy said. “The course itself by design, we knew it would be challenging and the feedback we received it was a great deal more challenging then we had anticipated. Not only the examination, the scenarios that we gave proved to be very challenging as well. I think the course definitely better prepares them. Most of these commandants have been in position between a year and two months and every one of them said that if they would have had this course prior to the first day they had to sit in the seat as commandant, they would have been far better prepared to execute their duties.”