Clifford Kyle Jones
FORT BLISS, Texas – When implemented Armywide this month, the Warrior Leader Course will be a little bit longer and a little bit better, said Command Sgt. Maj. Rory L. Malloy, U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy commandant.
After a thorough examination of the 17-day Warrior Leader Course that included surveys from the previous 12 months' course attendees, interviews with noncommissioned officer academy commandants and cadre, feedback from students in the Sergeants Major Course and input from Soldiers who attended the existing WLC and proof-of-concept courses, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command officials believe that a newer, longer course will produce better NCOs, Malloy explained.
"I personally led a team to three of the posts and collected data on what they thought should be in WLC, what might need to be removed, and what was missing," he said. "The question I would ask is, 'What do you think a sergeant should know?' If we can answer that question, that will tell us how to build the course."
Using that feedback, TRADOC in October unveiled a 22-day WLC that incorporates land navigation training, several hours of new instruction and shorter academic days.
The new WLC also reflects new Army directives that require Structured Self-Development 1 as a prerequisite to WLC enrollment and mandates passing an Army Physical Fitness Test and meeting height and weight requirements as conditions of staying enrolled.
Going to a 22-day schedule allows the WLC's academic day to be limited to 8.5 hours.Previously, students would be in the classroom up until 9 p.m. after starting the day at 5 a.m., Malloy noted.
"And I'll tell you, after dinner, they stop learning anything,” he added. “They did not have time to reflect, they didn't have time to digest information, they didn't have time to prepare for the next day, and there certainly wasn't any time left to do any reinforcement training for somebody who might not be up to the same standard as the rest of the class."
In the new course, instruction will go no later than 5 p.m. every day, and the new hours coincide with the Army Learning Model.
"NCO Initiatives" will familiarize Soldiers with new Army programs that affect the NCO Corps, "things like the Army Career Tracker, College of the American Soldier, how to better utilize AKO as an asset, transition – anything that's new and emerging," Malloy said.
The two-hour block of instruction is designed to be updated regularly so that the most relevant information is taught to students who in turn can take it back to their units, he said.
The new WLC will require students to pass the APFT and meet height and weight requirements to graduate.
The APFT "will be done up front, within the first 72 hours," Malloy said. "If they don't pass the APFT or height and weight, they can retest. If they fail the second time, then they're dismissed from the course."
Counseling and NCOERs
Additional hours have been added to help new NCOs learn skills related to counseling and NCO Evaluation Reports, known as NCOERs, by giving Soldiers some hands-on experience.
"The feedback we received from the students was that we do a pretty good job of teaching the purpose of counseling, the counseling form and how to fill it out," Malloy said. "What was missing was the opportunity to actually deliver some counseling."
Two extra hours of counseling training now allows students counsel their peers in a role-playing exercise.
"We give them different scenarios and they write it out,” Malloy said. “Then they actually deliver the counseling, and we talk about the technique in which they delivered it and some challenges they may face when presenting counseling."
An additional hour for NCOER training gives students a chance to learn the importance of counseling before writing an NCOER and how to write proper bulleted items.
One of the most visible changes to WLC will be reintroducing land navigation.
"There's a big desire in the Army to do land navigation," Malloy said. "It's something that should be taught at units, but it's not. So now, we're including it into the course."
Six proof-of-concept cycles at Fort Hood, Texas, and at Fort Bliss, Texas, included land navigation exercises.
At one post, the entire course was extended by a few days, while at the other the situational exercise was dropped to accommodate land navigation instruction. The Army later decided that the STX lanes were too valuable to drop, so the longer course was adopted.
In addition to the land navigation exercises, instruction will include four hours of map-reading basics in SSD-1 and eight hours in WLC itself to prepare students.
"Traditionally, (map-reading) was a 10-hour class," Malloy said. "But the feedback from the students was, 'We're getting the information too late.'"