Army cutting backlog on NCO education requirements

The Army is starting to make a dent in a backlog of noncommissioned officers that need training by the middle of next year.

In the first quarter of fiscal 2016 more than 2,250 soldiers received the training that is now required by the Army to hold noncommissioned officer positions, according to Army Training and Doctrine Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport.

That cuts the previous backlog of 14,000 to less than 12,000 soldiers that need to take courses.

The Army’s Select, Train, Evaluate, Promote (STEP) program, which was implemented last year, requires that as of Jan. 1, NCOs take the appropriate courses before they can be promoted.

That means a soldier wanting to be promoted to sergeant must complete the Basic Leader Course, staff sergeants must take the Advanced Leader Course and sergeant first classes must take the Senior Leader Course.

Previous Army policy wasn’t as strict and used a promote-then-educate policy. That led to the hefty backlog the service is now trying to whittle down.

The Army is also creating some new courses for higher level noncommissioned officers.

“The Master Leader Course is a 17-day course for sergeant first classes being promoted to master sergeants, we just finished up the second iteration of the pilot. We will begin the third and final pilot next month in March, so it becomes a program of record for our Army,” Davenport said during a Feb. 17 teleconference with reporters.

The courses were created to better prepare NCOs for military leadership and civilian life.

For instance, the Master Leadership course teaches sergeants to lead troops and serve on staffs.

All of the courses either provide soldiers with college credit or career credentials. If a soldier drives a truck in the military then he will get a Class C commercial driver’s license.

“It’s going to assist our noncommissioned officers to become even more professional, so that they can operate in the Army concept to be adaptable and lead organizations to win in this complex world,” Davenport said. “It’s a deliberate process of progressive and sequential training and education to gain those experiences.”

The Army is planning on increasing its STEP programs as time progresses. TRADOC is now working on how it will retain and promote NCOs that perform exceptionally well in courses.

Davenport said right now the policy on what will happen with exceptional students is vague, but TRADOC is trying to put some meat on the bones of the provision.

Davenport said to expect that by this summer.

The STEP program ties into the Defense Department’s larger effort to retain and recruit talented employees for the future of U.S. defense.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has created the Force of the Future, which sets up programs for talented individuals and students and makes it easier for workers to go between the private and public sectors.

Most recently, Carter announced an expansion to military maternity leave so DoD and the services could compete with private industry benefits.

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