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Rules updated for mandatory NCO courses

May. 18, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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Privates first class no longer will be scheduled to attend the Warrior Leader Course in a move to synchronize NCO Education System courses with promotions and soldier assignments with increased levels of responsibilities.

In a related change slated for Oct. 1, sergeants E-5 will not be enrolled in the resident phase of the Advanced Leaders Course until they have completed the online common core phase of ALC, the second-tier placeholder in the Army’s menu of Structured Self-Development courses.

Sources expect the Army will soon retool and transition the common core phase of ALC to a new online course to be called Structured Self-Development 2.

Like other Structured Self-Development courses, SSD-2 will be delivered online. Soldiers will have about two years to complete the course, at their own pace, before attending a follow-on resident NCOES course.

In advance of the Oct. 1 change, sergeants who are scheduled for the resident phase of ALC, but who are not yet in attendance, will be rescheduled for a later class so they can complete the common core phase of the course.

These changes come at a time when the Army is transitioning the active and reserve components to a new NCO leader development strategy that tightens the linkage between promotions and military education, and introduces new methods for selecting and preparing soldiers for promotion and positions of increased responsibility.

The new strategy supports a 32-year timeline that will see soldiers, on average, advance to sergeant at 4˝ years of service, staff sergeant at eight years, sergeant first class at 14 years, master sergeant at 20 years and sergeant major at 25 to 26 years.

This career template, which is expected to be in place for most soldiers by the end of 2015, stretches out the average times between promotions to the senior NCO ranks from 12˝ to 14 years for sergeant first class, 17.7 to 20 years for master sergeant and 22.6 to 25 or 26 for sergeant major.

The increases are designed to provide additional time for military education, in-unit training, operational experiences and other professional development activities needed to prepare soldiers for duty at the next higher grade.

Under a directive issued by Army Secretary John McHugh last summer, a key feature of the evolving system requires soldiers to complete the appropriate level of Structured Self-Development before being recommended for promotion and before attending the appropriate level of resident NCOES.

Waiting lists

Because of the high operating tempo of recent years, the Army has waiting lists for some military training, particularly the 90-day common core phase of ALC that replaced the common core Basic NCO Course in 2009 and is delivered to soldiers in classes at installations via the Blackboard Management System.

Policies that tighten attendance eligibility are designed to support “the deliberate, continuous, sequential and progressive” precepts of the Army Leader Development Strategy, according to Lt. Col. Don Peters, an Army spokesman based at the Pentagon.

Under previous policy, soldiers in the ranks of private first class through staff sergeant were eligible to attend the Warrior Leader Course, a requirement for promotion to staff sergeant, provided they had completed the first tier of Structured Self-Development.

Last year 833 privates first class graduated from the WLC, with 628 of those soldiers being in the Regular Army, 70 in the Army National Guard and 135 in the Army Reserve, according to data provided by Peters.

The revised policy that took effect April 17 does not allow commanders to schedule privates first class for WLC attendance.

The Advanced Leader Course has been a problem for the Army because it has two phases, the common core for leadership, and a resident phase for technical and specialty-specific training, Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler earlier told Army Times.

While several career fields and specialties have waiting lists for the resident phase of the Advanced Leader Course, Chandler said there is a big backlog of people who have not completed the common core phase of the course. Soldiers must complete both phases to be considered an ALC graduate, which along with completion of Structured Self-Development 3, is a firm requirement for sergeant first class promotion consideration.

Army data indicates that as of early April, 37,230 staff sergeants in the active and reserve components needed to complete the common core phase of ALC.

The National Guard has the biggest requirement, with 22,200 soldiers, followed by the Regular Army with 8,102 and the Army Reserve with 6,928.

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