Junior enlisted members of Joint Task Force 374 MED completed a 16-hour noncommissioned officer (NCO) development course last month. The aim of the course was to better prepare and develop enlisted Soldiers at the E4 and E5 levels into future leadership positions at the squad level.
Key subjects of the eight-week course included counseling, evaluation, Army traditions, Army training models, ethical leadership, leadership styles, as well as the officer/NCO relationship. The training was primarily organized by senior enlisted members of the Task Force to include Command Sgt Maj. Jason Hopkins, Battalion Command Sgt. Major, Master Sgt. Kevin Hargraves, Chief Warrant Master; interim 1st Sgt.; Master Sgt. Warmke, senior enlisted hospital tactical operations NCO; and Sgt. 1st Class Randall Verick, NCOIC Radiology Sergeant. Other key enlisted members helped support the course by serving as alternate instructors.
"We wanted to put something together to help Soldiers know what is expected of them," said Command Sgt. Maj. Hopkins. "I made my E5 (Sergeant) back in 2000, and I really don't think I really knew what it meant to be an NCO at the time. I was a squad leader and had responsibilities, so now I would have the same job and more pay. I wish I would have known the importance behind it and the responsibilities of wearing the rank. The NCO is known as the backbone of the Army. We must know what the commander's intent is and then adjust the training of our Soldiers to complete the mission. The NCO sets the standard and must be willing to work at a level above their pay grade," he said.
“The purpose of the course was to help make informed NCO leaders of the future,” said Verick, one the senior instructors who taught Soldiers about different Army programs that are available. “The senior NCOs came together to combine our knowledge and develop a course to teach our junior enlisted. We wanted to create an environment to present meaningful information and to challenge them. I thought the training was full of enthusiasm and participation, more than expected. There was total interaction between junior enlisted and seniors to ask and answer questions,” said Verick.
To complete the course, junior enlisted members were required to submit written papers for the course discussing the importance of discipline, the importance of training, and what leadership means to them as well as give formal presentation.
"Willingness must be present to drive that state of being," wrote Spc. Berenice Lazaro, in one of her writing assignments on what readiness meant to her. "Sometimes I find it hard to find the willpower to get tasks done, and then I remember the commitment I made when I signed the dotted line. Sometimes what drives you is the sheer pressure of what may happen when tasks don't get done. That slight fear, that slight pressure, demands the willingness to strive to be ready," wrote Spc. Lazaro.
"I will tell you, these Soldiers put a lot of effort into writing these papers," said Hopkins. "Some stuck to the 2-page requirement, but some went above and beyond and wrote four pages. On both assignments, they crushed it," he said.
Reflecting on some of the major lessons he has learned as an NCO himself, spanning 23 year of service, Sgt 1st Class Verick shared that good leadership starts at the basic level.
“Monthly counseling’s are one of the most valuable tools to help guide and develop Soldiers. I also hope the Soldiers remember that their most valuable assets they have are one another. The NCO core works as a team. Know where your resources are,” he said.
"Before the class, I did not think I was ready to be an NCO," said Lazaro. "But after taking the class, I think I am more ready. Taking the class helped me learn what kind of leader I want to be. When I become an NCO, I want to be approachable. If there are things that my Soldiers don't know, I want them to be comfortable enough to ask me. Sgt. [Brian] Schopper is one of the sergeants I know I can talk to. He is not one of the NCO's that I work with all the time or in my section, but I know I can always ask him questions. If he doesn't know, he is going to look it up with me. He pushed for me to put in my promotion packet and get ready for the ACFT," said Lazaro.
“Being a leader really comes down to being present, knowledgeable, teaching and providing juniors the opportunity for growth, and to lead,” said Verick.
Closing the graduation ceremony, the group recited the NCO creed, a professional guideline challenge motto. The creed speaks to what is expected of every NCO leader remembering its history, roles & responsibilities, how Soldiers should be treated and respected, and the charge of acting autonomously in achieving the collective and individual goals of the Army. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Romero/released)