As I prepare for the upcoming town hall, I wanted to update you on concerns about the relevance and rigor of our noncommissioned officer professional military education, or PME. We have the results of several Army-wide surveys and studies that have provided valuable insight into the effectiveness of NCO PME, and we are taking action. As part of a larger effort to improve PME, we are developing a common core curriculum to be standard in all of our Advanced and Senior Leader Courses.
Loud and Clear
Since 2005, the Center for Army Leadership has conducted an Annual Survey of Army Leadership, also known as the CASAL. Active-duty, Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers, in the rank of sergeant through colonel, are asked to answer a series of questions on leadership, some of which are the same each year. By asking the same questions over time, we are able to garner valuable analytical data that helps identify where we need to improve.
For the past seven years, the CASAL results have indicated that 47 to 56 percent of you do not perceive NCO PME to be effective at improving your leadership capabilities, and the courses did not adequately prepare you for assuming increased responsibilities. Some of your comments include:
Not enough emphasis on leadership skills, too much technical training.
Content is outdated, not challenging.
Course was not relevant, did not prepare me for my next job.
Was just a check-the-box requirement so I could get promoted.
These sentiments were validated in one of the largest Army surveys ever conducted, the NCO 2020 Survey. With a 21 percent response rate from the 390,000 sergeants to master sergeants surveyed in 2013, you overwhelmingly expressed your dissatisfaction with our education system, while clearly stating that leadership education is important to you.
When asked what should be given the highest emphasis in PME, 76 percent replied “leadership skills.” Considering that there is no standard leadership curriculum for ALC and SLC, there is certainly a gap in what our courses are providing and what your expectations are.
Additionally, in 2014 the Department of the Army Inspector General conducted an Army-wide inspection of leader development. Over the course of six months, the IG visited active-duty and Reserve component units at eight continental U.S. locations and two locations outside the U.S., finding much the same results.
The report indicated that 97 percent of NCOs interviewed claimed that the Noncommissioned Officer Education System was heavily focused on technical skills with very little focus on leadership development. The IG report recommended that TRADOC develop an education strategy and revise Programs of Instruction, or POIs, to emphasize the importance of professional education as a key component of leader development.
An essential element of the NCO 2020 Strategy is focused on leader development. In fact, several of the key tasks within the Development line of effort are directed at improving and rebalancing NCO PME. Based on the strategy, a Department of the Army Execution Order directed TRADOC to develop a standard common core curriculum for ALC and SLC, and we are moving out on it.
For the past several months, the great training developers at the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy have been diligently writing lesson plans to support the common core initiative. Aimed at providing a balance of knowledge and abilities, needed at the right rank, which builds upon each level of PME, the common core will be progressive and sequential providing our NCOs the leadership skills they need. For example, at the Basic Leader Course, our future sergeants will learn how to conduct training and will be taught the skills needed to give a class focused on individual training tasks. Later at ALC, the NCO will be taught training management focused on planning and executing small unit collective training events. At SLC, future platoon sergeants will receive a deeper education on training management and resourcing collective training requirements. This progressive and sequential approach will be applied throughout the common core curriculum.
While a lot of good work has gone into determining gaps in our education and developing the right curriculum to close those gaps, there is still a lot of work to do before you will see our courses change. With 169 different POIs for ALC and SLC and the challenges that come with delivering PME to our Army National Guard and Army Reserve partners, we are taking a deliberate and methodical approach to implementing common core. It will be a few years before we are complete, but as the old adage goes, “anything worth doing is worth doing well.”
In the meantime, I want to keep hearing from you. Join us for the upcoming State of NCO Development Town Hall 4 March 30 at 11 a.m. EDT. I value your feedback and look forward to seeing you there.
Our NCOES has been what sets our Army above all others. It is because we invest in the development of our NCOs that we are the envy of our allies and enemies alike. In 1973, Army senior leaders committed to the development of our NCOs. Coming out of a long, protracted fight in Vietnam and transforming to an all-volunteer force, there was a need for a professional NCO Corps. That year, TRADOC was established; the NCO Creed was written; doctrine was published on preparing for a known threat; and the NCOES was established with four levels of PME.
Today, we are winding down from another long, protracted war while facing an ever-increasing operational tempo. Army doctrine has been overhauled to reflect an unknowable threat, and our senior leaders are investing in the improved development of our NCOs and evolving NCOES into the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System, with six levels of PME. These are historic times for our NCO Corps, with changes designed to produce the best trained and educated NCOs capable of adapting and winning in a complex world. It is time we put the “Leader” back into our Advanced and Senior Leader Courses.
Victory Starts Here.