ARLINGTON, Va. – For Command Sgt. Maj. Brunk Conley, the sergeant major of the Army National Guard, the Army’s new noncommissioned officer professional development program speaks to him not only as a soldier taking care of troops, but also in his capacity as a former high school chemistry and physics teacher.
“My whole life I’ve been a teacher, whether in the military or in the civilian world,” Conley said. “In the military we call it training, but if you’re … training soldiers, you’re teaching soldiers.”
Conley said he first heard about the “America’s Army – Our Profession” program, which included information packets for NCOs to conduct professional development sessions, while attending a conference at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“I thought, ‘Man, this is great.’ Any NCO can pick this up and be ready to teach it a half-hour later,” he said. “When I saw all of this, I said to myself that I want to teach this; I want to share this with the Soldiers and show them that I think that it’s important.”
Developed by the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic, the program is a way to enhance the education, training, and pride of service for Army professionals.
Conley said many Army leaders have been concerned with the Army’s non-combat skills becoming a little “rusty,” which led to the formation of the Army’s Center for the Army Profession and Ethic.
“What they’ve done is try to reinvigorate our Army values-based system and put together products so that we can knock a little bit of the rust off of our training that we do back at home so that we can keep getting better,” he said.
And the training itself is designed to be easily integrated into the duty day.
“The good thing about these lesson plans is they are executable and easy to do, because let’s face it, we know how busy Soldiers are during a drill weekend and usually the first thing to fall by the wayside is (professional development),” he said. “I believe these lesson plans are very executable, but it has to start at the company level.”
This is the program’s first year and the topics being covered each quarter form a baseline for the Army to build upon in the future with more in-depth and critical thinking skills, said Conley, adding that the first four are the “bread and butter” of the NCO.
At the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, Va., Conley himself has already conducted the first of the quarterly professional development sessions.
“I believe the program the CAPE has put together at West Point is phenomenal and I wanted to demonstrate and share it with our soldiers in the Army National Guard,” he said. “I’ve conducted (professional development) my entire career and have been a trainer my entire career.”
Conley also said the Army he’s always known has been an Army that is training based.
“Every time I’ve been in a leadership position and had the opportunity to instill my own personal training values, I’ve [taken] advantage of that,” he said. “I believe that training and education, and life-long learning is important and I wanted to demonstrate it from my position.”
It is the hope of Conley that the program and the focus on NCO development from the CAPE continue into the future.
“The product [the Army] has created is phenomenal and if we can’t keep this up, it’s going to be disappointing,” he said. “We can put these incredible products into the hands of NCOs across the Army and it is my hope that they keep it up.”
It all comes down to education, said Conley.
“I’m a high school physics and chemistry teacher … so I believe in education,” he said. “I encourage soldiers to get on the Internet, find out what interests you and … start reading into it. There is so much information out there to be gleaned.”
For Conley, education is a continual process that should never stop,
“Keep learning, keep training, and never stop,” he said.