NEWS | Dec. 10, 2019

17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion Trains Newest NCOs

By Chris McCann 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Soldiers of the 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, U.S. Army Alaska, participated in a Junior Leaders Development Course Dec. 2 through 5 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER).

Approximately 35 Soldiers participated in the course, a lead-in to the roles and responsibilities they’ve recently stepped into as noncommissioned officers (NCO).

Much of the course was classroom instruction on topics not addressed in the Basic Leader Course Soldiers attend before pinning on NCO rank.

An overview of the history of the NCO corps, use of the “Blue Book” – an installation-level handbook of policies – and the finer points of leave forms will help the new NCOs better guide junior Soldiers.

“This program is outstanding due to the fact the classes have a practical application that doesn’t get covered in [NCO Educational System] classes,” said Sgt. 1st Class Bradford Livingston, one of the course instructors, stationed at Fort Wainwright with the 28th Military Police Detachment. He taught the new NCOs about the Army Body Composition Program, which ensures Soldiers maintain a professional appearance and a military standard of weight.

“We did a demonstration of proper circumference-taping techniques and correctly filling out the paperwork. It’s something that’s not really taught in NCOs, but not knowing can be detrimental to a Soldier’s career.”

Junior NCOs own the culture of small units and are empowered to care for Soldiers and their families. A well-led team can be a great example, and leaders can then replicate that success in other units. A good NCO creates a work environment where Soldiers want to come to work, train, and grow – which improves not just the squad or platoon, but the Army as a whole. Some of the most important information, however, was regarding the JBER resources available not only to junior Soldiers, but also to the NCOs. Speakers discussed Army Emergency Relief, the Education Center’s offerings, the Space-Available travel program, and other major resources at length.

95th Chemical Company First Sgt. Victor Bundu said much of what the course covered will help the junior NCOs mentor their Soldiers.

“These agencies come in and help them disseminate that information to the younger Soldiers,” Bundu said. An aspect of moving into the NCO Corps which often goes unemphasized is the professional line which divides them from junior troops.

“This course really bridges the gap between being a Soldier and being an NCO,” Bundu said. “It’s a huge deal. They’ve been friends with these guys, but now they need to have a line – there can’t be any favoritism, and so on.”

Naturally, every day started with physical training – both the Physical Readiness Training calisthenics and training for the new Army Combat Fitness Test. Soldiers also conducted marksmanship training and drill and ceremony throughout the course.

“The classes had a lot of very good information from senior leaders speaking about when they were junior,” said Sgt. Chace Obermueller, a native of Sierra Vista, Arizona, assigned to the 109th Transportation Company.

“The Army changes so fast, you have to keep learning – not just Army things, but also current events.”

One thing the course made clear to Obermueller is the need to lead a variety of people.

“Not all Soldiers are going to learn the way I do; some learn best by reading, some people learn hands-on, or whatever. I realized I’m going to need to vary the way I present information.”

The new NCOs also learned how to write effective awards documentation, the eight-step training model, and a significant block of instruction on effective communication.

Some of the most important information, however, was regarding the JBER resources available not only to junior Soldiers, but also to the NCOs. Speakers discussed Army Emergency Relief, the Education Center’s offerings, the Space-Available travel program, and other major resources at length.

“The most interesting part was seeing all the resources the Army has available,” Obermueller said. “Soldiers can be going through things, and maybe they don’t want to express it to an NCO. But we learned about the options for counseling [off base] and other resources. Space-A travel if they want to get out, so they’re not stuck in the barracks. The Red Cross programs that can keep them in touch with families, that kind of thing.”

The emphasis on knowing your Soldiers wasn’t lost on him. “You have to know people on a personal level, so you can recognize if something’s not right, maybe with their family or work. Family is a key factor in someone’s life, and you need to be there for them.”

The course wrapped up with an induction ceremony for the newly minted NCOs at the Alaska National Guard Armory.