My recent travels have taken me to places like Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, California; and Fort Bliss, Texas.
Since there’s so much to talk about, I’ll start with the first stop, where I attended the first graduation of promotable sergeants first class from the Master Leaders Course at Camp Shelby.
The course is now a requirement for promotion to master sergeant under our Select, Train, Educate, Promote policy. I took advantage of the out-processing time to sit down and ask for feedback from the students about their experiences at MLC.
The students provided generally favorable comments about the course design, delivery and assessments of performance. They commented on how demanding it was, compared to previous professional military education courses they had attended. It really struck me to hear the Soldiers felt they were walking away prepared and with a deeper understanding of what is expected of them at this level of responsibility. Of course, some of the most repeated questions revolved around why the tests weren’t multiple choice or true-false questions, the large amount of reading that is required to prepare to come into the classroom, and that students have to write, write and write.
This is all built upon the outcomes-based education we are incorporating throughout all of PME in our Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System. This effort, and others, are what have led to the sense of accomplishment and knowledge Soldiers left the academy with after graduation. We should look forward to how this will translate into the upcoming changes to the Basic Leaders Course and begin to prepare our Soldiers for this new rigor in our education system.
While there for the graduation, I had the honor of participating with the C Company, 169th Engineer Battalion’s Army Birthday celebration. It was very exciting for me to talk about our Army rich history with this generation of Soldiers and future leaders. I was very impressed by Pvt. Mark Arellano. The remarks he wrote as the youngest member of the unit were fitting for the occasion, so I wanted to share them:
“Today, we are here to celebrate the Army’s 242nd birthday. We are celebrating this momentous event because we all are part of a team that had contributed to Army history and are able to memorialize the accomplishments of those who came before us. The U.S. Army was founded on June 14, 1775, by the Continental Congress, as the Continental Army to fight for independence from British tyranny before the American Revolutionary War.
“Since the Army’s inception, we have fought numerous wars, conflicts and engagements to ensure that all Americans maintain their freedoms provided by the Constitution, but it is the brave individuals that have offered their lives to this cause who deserve recognition. So I challenge you all to look back at our history, to read about battles from wars past, and find the examples of heroic bravery that create the Army narrative. Let these stories inspire you and help you to understand our Army values … To show how they are not just a talking point, nor just our past, but rather our code, our guidance, our future. Strike Hard, Strike Fast, Essayons, Army Strong.”