News: Structured self-development: A path to promotion
Story by Sgt. Edward Eagerton
CAMP DENALI, Alaska – “No one is more professional than I. I am a noncommissioned officer, a leader of soldiers.” These first two sentences are the opening lines of the Army NCO Creed, which spells out the core principles and Army values with which all noncommissioned officers are expected to live.
To become an noncommissioned officer, junior enlisted soldiers must attend various schools to learn the skillsets required to promote within the ranks and take on new leadership responsibilities. Recently, the Army has implemented a series of online structured self-development courses designed to help better prepare soldiers for the schools in which they must attend.
“It’s a prerequisite for Warrior Leader Course,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Alan Feaster, the commandant of the 207th Multi-Functioning Training Regiment, Alaska Army National Guard.
“If you haven’t completed SSD1, you cannot register for WLC.”
Warrior Leader Course is the first of many schools enlisted soldiers must pass through in growing through the ranks as a noncommissioned officer.
“The importance of SSD is it’s really setting the soldier up for success,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Bell, an instructor with the 207th Multi-Functioning Training Regiment, Alaska Army National Guard. “It’s meant to bridge the gap in-between the institutional learning environment that we provide by ensuring you get the skillsets you need prior to coming here.”
The SSD courses are broken down into modules. Each module focuses on different areas of learning.
The modules range from land-navigation skills to civilian programs like Lean Six Sigma, a business model that civilians use to help better their businesses, Bell explained.
“The Sergeants Major Academy really sat down and decided what skills they thought the WLC students were going to need,” Bell said. “On top of the military courses, they’ve added study habits, reading comprehension and an introduction to Lean Sigma Six.”
One of the challenges being faced by traditional guardsmen is that most soldiers in the National Guard only drill with their units for one weekend each month. In the time between drill weekends, traditional guardsmen are busy with their civilian jobs, schools and life in general.
Another challenge is limited or slow internet service, especially in villages in Western Alaska, explained Feaster.
To meet these challenges, the cadre at the MFTR has made various resources available to help assist soldiers in completing their SSD1 course so that they may attend WLC. These resources include discs and pamphlets that help soldiers enroll in the course, as well as card readers that they can sign out to be able to log into the site from their home computers.
During the drill weekends, they have also opened up two classrooms in their building, complete with 32 computers, so that soldiers may complete one or more of the modules of their SSD1 course.
The soldiers have to understand the importance of completing their SSD, explained Bell. As future leaders in the NCO corps, taking the initiative to complete the SSD is one step in setting them apart from the other junior-enlisted soldiers competing for promotion.
“An NCO who really lives the Army values, and not just know what they are, but truly live those Army values, is going to be a good NCO,” Feaster said. “It’s not just a Monday through Friday or Saturday to Sunday type of job. If you truly are going to be a good NCO, it’s pretty much a full-time commitment. Especially in the Guard, an NCO has got to step up to the plate because you’re not doing that job every day where you have the luxury of time. You can’t just let it go Sunday afternoon and you’re done. If you are a team leader, you’re a squad leader, you’ve got soldiers under you who you’re responsible for, and if you fail yourself, you’re failing your soldiers.”