FORT BRAGG, N.C.—The new Master Leader Course will bridge the gap between attending the Senior Leader Course and the Sergeant Major Academy.
According to the Noncommissioned Officer Leadership Center of Excellence, the Master Leader Course mission is designed to challenge and educate selected Sergeants First Class in the areas of professional writing, communication skills, critical thinking, organizational and command leadership, management skills, and joint and operational level warfighting.
The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy launched a pilot MLC last fiscal year. Several master sergeants participated in this pilot. Once fiscal year 2019 starts, only non-promotable sergeant first class soldiers will be eligible to attend the Master Leader Course. These soldiers are selected to attend through the Army’s Select Train Educate Promote system.
”Train ahead,” said Master Sgt. Angelia Philips, Operations Non-commissioned officer, U.S. Army Reserve Command. “My recommendation is for sergeants first class to get enrolled in MLC before it becomes a requirement in fiscal year 2019. After the fiscal year 2019 begins soldiers are sent based on priority.”
This two-week course is offered at four locations: Fort Dix, Fort Knox, Fort Douglas, and Fort Shelby. This schoolhouse environment requires 112 training hours that involves a lot of reading and writing.
“College students will do well at this course because they’re not shifting gears,” said Sgt. Maj. Harry Bennett, U.S. Army Reserve Command operations G3/5/7. “You have soldiers that will try to enroll in this course too quickly. Soldiers need to know what they’re getting into because if they go and fail, they will not go right back.”
Soldiers that are planning to attend this course should prepare. Failing this course can lead to a negative 1059 and a place at the back of the line for returning says Bennett.
Soldiers that have already completed this course had the opportunity to experience first-hand the workload.
“I had a couple of college classes in writing,” says Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Harron, Best Warrior Competition Non-commissioned Officer, U.S. Army Reserve Command. “This course brings senior level NCOs together teaching them to write on the same Army level. I haven’t seen this method in previous NCO courses.”
The tools and knowledge gained will assist in preparing soldiers and develop other leaders. Soldiers will have the opportunity to transition from a tactical leader to an operational leader.
“MLC is definitely a good introduction to joint operations training,” says Harron. “Me personally, I have not had any joint operations training until this course.”
MLC covers topics like national security, joint intergovernmental and Multinational and strategic thinking. These topics promote professional skills and competencies that educate selected sergeants first class.
“MLC was an eye-opener to me,” said Sgt. 1st Class Casey Martin, Best Warrior Competition Non-commissioned Officer, U.S. Army Reserve Command. “This course wasn’t military occupational specialty specific; it was more operational based.”
Martin, who attended MLC at Camp Williams, a National Guard location, says his class was self-lead. Classes were facilitated rather than taught, creating queued questions through cross dialogue between classmates said Martin.
“This class is bridging the gap,” said Martin. “I believe the intent is to transition senior NCOs from their last professional military education before reaching the sergeant major academy.”
MLC along with other NCO courses are all a part of a linking system called the Distributed Leader Courses. According to the Non-commissioned Officer examine changes, interoperability, self-development article by retired Army Sgt. Maj. Kenneth O. Preston, DLC will replace the structured self-development program ensuring the entire learning continuum is sequentially and progressively linked. The DLC will go up to level six, and this structure mimics the same structure of the officer career progression path. Senior NCOs that reach DLC level six will have earned a bachelor’s degree.
Many master sergeants had concerns about not being able to attend MLC says Philips. Soldiers thought there would be disadvantages against them when going before the sergeant major board without this course.
“In theory, this new course is not supposed to limit prior master sergeants in competition with MLC graduates toward the rank of sergeant major,” Philips said. “All master sergeants are to have the same opportunity in earning the rank of sergeant major.”
There are many factors that affect a board decision says Philips. Master sergeants have the opportunity to attend the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer course and the Company Commander First Sergeant course.
“Unfortunately I don’t have to go to MLC,” said Master Sgt. Rodney Lindsay, sustainable range program, with U.S. Army Reserve Command. “I took the Advanced Non-commissioned Officer course in 2001 and First Sergeant Academy in 2003.”
Courses are shaping the force, so as NCOs we need to be developed, mentored, and trained. A classroom environment like MLC is the foundation for developing leaders. When you take that away, soldiers are losing a lot of experience and continuity that’s not being passed on said Lindsay.
“Master sergeants should be provided an opportunity for MLC,” Lindsay said. “I want to compare us to our officer counterparts. It’s mandatory for officers to attend their professional development course to get promoted. That opportunity is not selected it’s mandatory, and it should be the same for NCOs.”
The design for MLC is to build upon a new education training that will evolve into career progression. This course is intended to bridge a knowledge gap in leader development. Attendees in this course should be open and ready for unfamiliar situations that will encourage them to think critically said Harron.
“Prepare to be uncomfortable,” Harron said. “A lot of soldiers in the class weren’t used to briefing on the fly. This is not a class where you can sit and exist; soldiers will be very involved. For the ones that think they know everything, they learn quickly— they don’t. Be humble and prepare to be uncomfortable.”
Pictured above: Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command addresses the graduates of the first required Master Leader Course following their selection for promotion in April. These NCOs, which include active duty, U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers graduate today at Camp Shelby, Mississippi which demonstrates the capabilities of the One Army School System.