by Command Sergeant Major Randolph Hollingsworth
It is our belief that the Army inculcates in its soldiers
a sense of purpose, loyalty, discipline, dedication, and work
ethic for these are our values.
General Maxwell Reid Thurman
In this issue, I am addressing professional
development and mentoring in the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO)
Corps. Command Sergeant Major Francis C. Manley of the 704th
Military Intelligence (MI) Brigade, Fort Meade, Maryland,
contributed the second portion of this article. He emphasizes the
NCO's role as the Army's trainer and advocates using the NCO
Education System (NCOES) to train the trainer.
Professional Development and Mentoring
When do we stop mentoring our soldiers? When do we stop developing
our junior and senior NCOs? Is there a time when a sergeant first
class or master sergeant no longer needs training? Should we, as
senior NCOs, think only of our own futures and not the future of
the NCO Corps, the Army, our families, and the United States of
America? When can we as leaders say, I have done my fair share?
The answer to all these questions is Never!
We must always remember that regardless of the rank of ourselves or
our subordinates, we still are and always will be soldiers. That is
why it is important to remember that mentoring is not only for the
sergeant, but for the sergeant major and command sergeant major as
well. Mentoring and training our soldiers go hand in hand.
The hands-on training our specialists must perform to standard is
the same training that all senior NCOs need to perform. All
soldiers need to do common task training, perform flawless drill
and ceremony, lead physical training, ensure preventive maintenance
checks and services on equipment is performed, and execute our
individual mission, whatever that may be. We, as leaders, devote
much time preparing our soldiers for Soldier of the Month, and NCO
of the Quarter boards; we need to spend just as much time with NCOs
whose records are going before a Department of the Army promotion
By now someone is asking, What is Hollings-worth trying to say?
The answer to that question is that we need to take a more active
role in giving our soldiers guidance when they are preparing
themselves to rise to the next level in their career. Sometimes I
hear senior NCOs say things like, All sergeants first class should
know how to check their records.
I know if First Sergeant Jimmy Sheppard or Command Sergeant Major
John Castro had felt the same way, I would not have made master
sergeant or sergeant major. A portion of their mentorship to me was
taking the time to inspect my official photo and go over my DA Form
2A, Personnel Qualification Record Part I, and DA Form 2-1,
Personnel Qualification Record Part II, with me. They did not do
this just for me; they did it for every soldier in their unit.
Their personal goals, as senior NCOs, was to have every qualified
soldier in their respective units selected for promotion.
While serving as a member of the 1994 Master Sergeant Selection
Board, I was amazed that some NCOs had not even signed their
personnel qualification records! There was no way to tell if some
NCOs had even looked at their records. The following areas could
make the difference between being considered and being selected for
promotion and need to be emphasized to our NCOs
Photographs. All soldiers must have a current DA photo, yet I
still find soldiers with old photos in their personnel file. A
photograph should reflect the NCO's present status, including rank,
current assignment, awards, and decorations. The photograph and the
height-weight data on NCO Evaluation Reports (NCOERs) go hand in
hand; one should support the other.
Records Maintenance. It is the responsibility of all individual
NCOs to update and maintain their records. Senior NCOs must teach
their subordinates to maintain their records. Some NCOs think that
if their DA Form 2-1 looks "pretty" that is all that counts. They
fail to realize that the DA Form 2-1 provides promotion boards with
vital information on the NCO's assignments, education, military
schools, and other accomplishments. In fact, while the DA Form 2A
might show that the NCO has no post-high school civilian education
(based on the one-, two-, three-, and four-year degree
requirements), the DA Form 2-1 can more accurately show that the
NCO has anywhere from three baccalaureate hours to a masters degree
Official Military Personnel File (OMPF). NCOs should use the
Interactive Voice Response System to obtain their OMPF early enough
to ensure its accuracy before a board meets. Also check that the
OMPF contains the other soldier documents and NCOERs that it
should. After individual soldiers review their OMPFs, their first
sergeants, sergeants major, and command sergeants major should
review the OMPF with the NCOs. Take advantage of anyone who has
been a member of a DA promotion board; ask that person to review
Correspondence to the President of the Board. NCOs should
carefully consider their reasons before sending correspondence to
the president of a board. Letters to the President of the Board
must deal only with present information that is not in the OMPF,
for example: awards, recently completed NCOERs, and induction into
the Audie Murphy Club. Last, but not least, have someone check for
errors. Too often I noticed letters submitted in improper format,
with poor spelling and grammar, inappropriately boasting of the
NCO's value, contribution, and future potential. A poorly written,
boastful letter does more harm than good.
Former Board Member. Officers, command sergeants major,
sergeants major, and panel NCOs must tell their officers and NCOs
how promotion boards work. We must stop our NCOs from thinking that
promotion boards are "hit and miss." Through NCO development
programs, former board members can give NCOs the correct
information they need to keep themselves competitive for
promotions. The experience that one gains from sitting on a DA
promotion board is worth a million dollars when it comes to
training and mentoring. Please remember that mentoring and training
does not stop at a certain rank; it is an ongoing process like
intelligence preparation of the battlefield.
ALWAYS OUT FRONT!
Train-the-Trainer: A Lost Art, A New Opportunity
Some years ago, a decision was made at Army level to share the load
of soldier training. The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command
(TRADOC) received the job of training initial or entry-level
military occupational specialty (MOS) skills to a novice level of
competency. Other skill enhancement and additional MOS enrichment
training was also left in TRADOC. User units were left to train
soldiers to proficiency, using in-unit, on-site assets.
Today's reality is that every NCO in the unit bears a tremendous
training load. Sergeants at every level must conduct training in
Army-directed subjects, basic survivability skills, and
site-specific skills driven by local equipment and taskings. In
addition, the same NCOs must ensure soldierization. They must also
pre-train their soldiers for those often tough classes at the
Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC) and other NCOES
courses. Every one of these training responsibilities competes
with, and is often conducted at, the expense of soldier proficiency
in the skills needed to accomplish the intelligence mission.
In a bygone era, a soldier's first learning experience in how to be
an NCO occurred in the Basic Leadership Course, usually taught at
the soldier's installation. The major core element of that course
was Methods of Instruction (MOI). This was every potential NCO's
introduction to proficiency requirements for trainers. This is
where Train-the-Trainers began. The second step was taken in the
NCO Academy. The primary goal at this level was achieving initial
proficiency as a trainer. Introduction of all the topics taught in
the academy was in the context of
Then it all stopped.
- What are the facts involved?
- What are the complexities of understanding and using
- Introduction, practical use of, and proficiency with
effective methods of overcoming learning obstacles, with the end
result that the trainees reached initial proficiency.
Not until the advent of the Basic NCO Course (BNCOC) and the rest
of what we now know as NCOES, did NCOs begin to go the rest of the
way to effectively reaching proficiency as trainers, capable of
independently conducting training. They had finally reached the
stage of proficiency; success in the Train-the-Trainer process.
In the years since its inception, NCOES for MI soldiers has been
drawn away from its earliest success. The MOI is no longer called
"MOI." The how to train soldiers aspect of NCOES now competes for
the NCO's attention with a directed list of topics (common leader
skills), MOS primary and intermediate technical skills and, in some
cases, former additional-skill-indicator courseware. NCOs sometimes
leave BNCOC and the Advanced NCO Course (ANCOC) having lost sight
of their basic NCO responsibility to pass on their knowledge to be,
know, do as a trainer. Many NCOs never achieve the expertise to
effectively train and sustain Proficiency in the soldiers that
attend their in-unit training. The locally focused, or prioritized
training efforts conducted by these less-than-proficient NCOs can
wind up institutionalized. With all the inherent conflicting
demands in every unit, the common result is soldiers with less than
proficient skills in those tasks necessary to effectively,
optimally achieve the intelligence mission.
There are many effective trainer programs in use in the Army today.
The cryptologic community has the Adjunct Faculty program. The
Defense Language Institute has military language instructors who
actually conduct foreign language training in the initial early
training environment. These programs have similar qualities of
remarkable expertise in specific subject areas. Each of them
require the trainer to personally attain, sustain, and then
transfer to their students a requisite level of proficiency.
TRADOC has its own courses designed to bring an NCO to the level of
expertise necessary for platform training. This course culminates
in the award of skill qualification identifier H. The processes,
training skills and results of these programs can serve as examples
for NCOs conducting in-unit training.
The primary role of the NCO as the Army's trainer needs reemphasis
at every level of NCOES. The concept of using NCOES as the place to
Train the Trainers and expand technical MI MOS skills needs
dusting off. We cannot lose sight of our training roles. When the
NCOES sequence begins in the PLDC (grade E-4 promotable), we want
the result to be an initially proficient trainer. Reemphasize MOI.
Teach the facts and skills by teaching the PLDC student how to
teach others to the basic competency level.
Move forward in the NCOES process during BNCOC (grades E-5/E-5
promotable) by broadening the MOI perspective. Teach these students
to the sustained trainer proficiency level. Give them the tools to
plan, prepare, execute, evaluate, and conduct remedial in-unit
training. In some technically heavy courses we may want to give
these NCOs Adjunct Faculty status in specific MOS core course
topics. Introduce these NCOs to all the best training tools
currently available, then make them the in-unit points of contact
for their respective MOS's adjunct expertise. Address new school
materials, solutions and updates to these specific NCOs as the best
entry point for quickly improving that decentralized in-unit
At the last stage, use ANCOC (grades E-6/E-6 promotable), to teach
students how to deal with local conditions and demands by adapting
current tools, courseware, electronic connectivity to experts,
coaching techniques, and so forth. Broaden adjunct qualifications
within the MOS and career management field and give parallel skills
(such as IPB for MOS 98C). Broaden mentoring skills. Achieve
proficiency as a trainer to the level of being able to teach
soldiers how to think.
There is no new formula for success in this article, rather a
renewed perspective, and emphasis of the NCO role as the trainer.
It is an art that cannot be lost within the MI Corps if we are to
be successful in the future.
CSM Manley has served in every enlisted leadership
position and has worked as a translator/interpreter in Chinese
Mandarin, voice interceptor, cryptanalyst, signals intelligence
analyst, and interrogator. He has a bachelor of arts degree in
Asian Studies from the University of Maryland. Readers can contact
him at (301) 677-0246, DSN 923-0246, and E-mail at
[email protected] army.mil, [email protected], or via
[email protected] army mil.