The issue facing today’s Army with future leaders is its need to produce great leaders in its Non-commissioned Officer corps, which comes from a framework of building talent through positive influences with mentoring, training, experience, and communication skills.
The Army has been known for creating great fighting forces and great leaders through the education and training provided by its centers of excellence and training institutions. For over 200 years, the Non-commissioned Officer has played a significant role as a leader of soldiers (2017, February 06), which is why they are known today as the “Backbone of the Army.” Before the Non-commissioned Officers were known as the backbone of the Army they were called file-closers; it was during the American Revolution that the first NCOs were known by this name. In 1778 the first Inspector General titled the Non-commissioned Officer the backbone of the Army (2015, December 22).
On June 14, 1775, when the 2nd Continental Congress created the Colonial Army using existing troops and formations from the militia of the 13 colonies the NCO was established (2018, January 17). The Non-commissioned Officer organization emerged over the years and in 1973 the Army became an all-volunteer force. The Army all-volunteer force was built upon the principles of leadership, talent management, purpose, goals, and training. In 1973, the Army developed the Basic Non-commissioned Officers course (BNCOC), the Advanced Non-commissioned Officers Course (ANCOC), and the Sergeants Major Academy Course to grow its Non-commissioned Officers.
What is the role of the Non-commissioned Officer? “A role is defined as your job, your profession, responsibilities, and your position” (2015, December 22). A Non-commissioned Officer is a professional providing leadership to their soldiers through commitment, development, and practice of the Army values. They train each soldier in every step of their career- guiding and helping them to become future professionals who are knowledgeable and caring Non-commissioned Officers. Non-commissioned Officers spend time teaching soldiers how to properly wear the dress uniform and duty uniform. They provide mentorship and direction through counseling and communications, ensuring soldiers understand their responsibility, so they can accomplish their tasks. These are just a few points where NCOs supervise and develop soldiers to become future leaders.
“It goes without saying that we as leaders have many duties and responsibilities within our Army and we must ‘invest’ in our Army, that investment is the development of the next generation of great leaders that will guide the future of our Army”(Mentorship: Understanding a Leader’s Investment). Taking care of soldiers and developing them is what we do as Non-commissioned officers. This is why the mentorship program is one of those keys to building our next generation of great leaders, NCOs.
So the question is what is Mentorship? The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a mentor as someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person; or to teaches or gives advice or guidance to someone, such as a less experienced person or a child (Mentorship: Understanding a Leader’s Investment). Army Regulation 600-100, Army Profession and Leadership Policy defines mentorship as a person who has a vast amount of professional experience and who volunteers his/her time to teach and guide a less experienced person. “The focus of mentorship is voluntary mentoring that extends beyond the scope of a chain of command relationships and occurs when a mentor provides the mentee advice and counsel over a period of time. Effective mentorship will positively impact personal and professional development” (Mentorship: Understanding a Leader’s Investment).
Through personal experience of having a mentor, I didn’t realize early in my career how my senior leader was trying to help me grow. He would always provide advice and recommendations, to guide me through different situations. The relationship and trust that was built from my challenges with the help of my mentor reaffirmed what I knew, that my mentor had the best intentions for me and supported me. He helped me to grow as a leader and to have the ability to provide the same mentorship to young soldiers. “Mentoring is the vital ingredient that strengthens the foundation—and, as an ongoing practice, keeps it strong” (2018, January 18).
In order to grow strong Non-commissioned Officers both personally and professionally, we must provide and maintain their training and open communications. “As the Army’s mission evolves in response to continuing challenges, so too must the methods employed to train and promote the current and future generations of Soldiers. The driving force to meet this essential need is the Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development System” (Marching Forward With NCOPDS). The Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development System is what helps promote advancements in your career field by providing development of NCOs, managing their training & education, and fostering professionalism.
A road map for Non-commissioned officers to promote up the ranks is called Select, Train, Educate, Promote (STEP). In order for a soldier to promote from sergeant to sergeant major, they must complete a series of professional education both online and at a military school. STEP when into effect on January 1, 2016, and is now the requirement for promotions through the ranks. By way of connecting SSD courses and the NCO Education System to advancement, the Army will prepare NCOs for the complexities of today’s operational environment while reinforcing the benefits of a deliberate, continuous, sequential, and progressive professional development strategy” (STAND-TO).
“Though the content and course material has changed considerably over the 45 years since NCOES was conceived, its framework has stayed constant. As a line of effort from the recently approved NCO 2020 Strategy, NCOES established the NCO Professional Development System to absorb and expand NCOES across three focus areas: development, talent management, and stewardship” (2018, March 21).
The Non-commissioned Officer Education System (NCOES) is comprised of three areas to develop the NCO and that is development, talent management, and stewardship. In addition to the NCOES and the development of NCOs, the Army added a career map called the Army career Tracker to show and help NCOs manage and progress through the ranks.
The Army Career Tracker shows the NCOs what they need to promote and advance within their career field/military occupation skill (MOS) and recommendations for key success such as training, assignments, education both military and civilian, and certifications. “The Army Career Tracker is leveling the playing field by giving every Soldier the same information and the same opportunities at their fingertips so they don’t have to base their career on good, or not so good, leadership” (Crozier, D.).
“The goal for the NCO Professional Development System is to prepare the next generation of competent and committed NCOs of character, trusted Army professionals, capable of thriving in chaos, adapting and winning in a complex world”(2018, March 21). Developing a great leader and Non-commissioned Officer takes time, training, education, and experience. These are the essential elements and framework for building our future leaders, NCOs.
Living the NCO creed is important and the first line starts it off by stating who is accountable to set the standards for all others to follow and that is, “No one is more professional than I”. NCOs are charged with the welfare and leading soldiers mentoring them through positive communications and a genuine interest for them and their families. Every soldier is entitled to exceptional leadership and as a leader of soldiers, the NCO will provide that direction and guidance.
In the end, the building blocks for great leaders are not just in what education we receive, the mentorship we are provided, the training we obtain, or the experience that develops through maturity. It’s the inter desire to be better than you are, and the passion to help others succeed. We’re all professionals, non-commissioned officers, and leaders (ARMY.MIL Features).
- ARMY.MIL Features. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.army.mil/values/nco.html
- Crozier, D. (n.d.). Army Career Tracker helps leaders monitor SSD and mentor Soldiers. Retrieved from https://ncolcoe.armylive.dodlive.mil/army-career-tracker-helps-leaders-monitor-ssd-mentor-soldiers/
- Step By Step: NCO Training Has Evolved Since Army’s Creation. (2018, March 21). Retrieved from https://www.ausa.org/articles/step-step-nco-training-has-evolved-army’s-creation
- Elder, D. (2018, January 17). When was the US Army NCO Corps formed? Retrieved from http://ncoguide.net/when-was-the-us-army-nco-corps-formed/
- STAND-TO! (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.army.mil/standto/archive_2015-08-24/
- Marching Forward With NCOPDS. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/NCO-Journal/Archives/2018/January/NCOPDS/
- The Army Doesn’t Effectively Mentor Noncommissioned Officers. It Needs to Start. (2018, January 18). Retrieved from https://mwi.usma.edu/army-doesnt-effectively-mentor-noncommissioned-officers-needs-start/
- Mentorship: Understanding a Leader’s Investment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/NCO-Journal/Archives/2017/December/Mentorship/