Recently, I mentioned we were going to review and revise our Structured Self Development, or SSD modules, and that process is ongoing. Within the next couple of months, we will have reviewed the recommended changes to be implemented next fiscal year. Not only are we examining content, but we are also examining how we will deliver the training to you.
Throughout this process, I discovered a lack of understanding as to why we need SSDs and the direction we are moving in to improve this requirement.
Structured Self Development
Leader development is a mutually shared responsibility across three domains: the institutional Army (education and training institutions), the operational force (organization and unit) and the individual. Individual development is further divided into three elements: self, directed and structured.
In 2010, TRADOC’s Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development created a strategy to deliver web-based training throughout a Soldier’s career. The strategy of SSD was to bridge the operational and institutional domain and set conditions for continuous growth and lifelong learning.
As part of the current redesign, the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy incorporated analysis throughout the entire learning continuum for the enlisted cohort. Now, each course is relevant, progressive and sequential and supports the resident professional military education, or PME, learning experiences. Our current analysis shows a reduction in hours for each level of SSD from 80 to about 40-45 hours.
The evolution of SSD
When originally developed, SSD was delivered at four levels (I, III, IV and V) and supported by feedback processes, which included self-assessment tools, but it was basically a dumping ground for information. It was not linked to information provided or needed in the next level of PME.
Currently the course content provides an introduction of certain competencies relevant to the current operational environment, time management, customs and courtesies, physical readiness training, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, resilience, counseling, retention, command supply, Unified Land Operations, cyber security, conflict management and more. And level V was designed to address joint and Army leadership contemporary issues as well as strategic management.
As SSD matures, it will evolve from a page-turning curriculum to more interactive learning, which focuses on how students use their senses (visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile) in the learning process. This evolution will not only enhance the learning experience, but also improve outcomes.
SSD is designed to be completed within specified career points, prior to attending resident NCO PME courses: Basic Leader Course (BLC), Advanced Leaders Course-Common Core (ALC-CC), Senior Leaders Course-Common Core (SLC-CC), and the Sergeant Major Course (SMC).
Soldiers who completed a resident Noncommissioned Officer Education System course were “grandfathered” from prior levels of SSD. Soldiers complete subsequent levels of SSD corresponding with their rank and NCO PME course. Effective two years from the implementation date for each level of SSD, it became a prerequisite for attendance at the next NCO Professional Development System course, with a requirement to complete the requisite level within three years of enrollment (two years for SSD II). The implementation dates are as follows:
- Automatic enrollment in SSD I was implemented Oct. 1, 2010, for Soldiers graduating advanced individual training (AIT) or one-station unit training (OSUT).
- The implementation date for SSD III for NCOs who have graduated Advanced Leaders Course (ALC), was Jan. 1, 2011.
- The implementation date for SSD IV for NCOs who graduated the Senior Leaders Course (SLC), was Jan. 1, 2011.
- The implementation date for SSD V for NCOs who graduated the Sergeants Major Course (SMC), was May 1, 2011.
The next steps for SSD?
With the inception of NCO 2020 and in accordance with Army executive order 236-15, SSD is undergoing significant revisions that address leader competencies and attributes and human dimension characteristics through a more aggressive experiential learning model under adult learning principles.
With the transition of ALC-CC to SSD II and the addition of the Master Leaders Course (MLC), SSD is expanding to six levels with the following changes:
- Revising SSD I to be completed prior to attending BLC;
- Revising SSD II to be completed prior to attending ALC;
- Revising SSD III to be completed prior to attending SLC;
- Revising SSD IV (prior prerequisite to attending SMC) to be completed prior to attending MLC;
- Designing and developing a new SSD V to be completed prior to attending SMC;
- Redesigning the old SSD V to SSD VI to be completed post-graduation of SMC and a prerequisite to attending the Nominative leader Course (NLC).
The newly designed SSDs will be renamed and will be sequential and progressive in their format. During the redesign, the new curriculum at each level will have two parts. Phase 1 addresses the human dimension side of Soldier development. Phase 2 addresses the preparatory skills and tasks to ready the Soldier for their next level of resident PME. These phases will be invisible to the student and included in the 40-45 hour timeframe. The SSDs will reinforce prior learning at the resident institution, while preparing Soldiers for their duties and responsibilities for the grade promoted.
Why is SSD important to NCOs?
Over the course of 15 years of war, the Army has experienced a severe degradation in noncommissioned officers exercising the art and science of leading. Other social and cultural impacts have affected the development of NCO leaders in the six areas of communications, operations (Army and Joint), program management, training management, leadership, and readiness. Emphasis is now being placed on these six leader competencies and delivering a more relevant, rigorous, outcome and problem based educational experience. This will help produce NCOs who are problem solvers and critical thinkers and are capable of meeting the challenges of a more complex and uncertain environment. SSD links self-development needs to NCO professional development efforts by ensuring that the self-development domain is well defined, meaningful and integrated into the leader development process.