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Noncommissioned officers want more clearly defined role in mission command

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (May 07, 2015) -- The role of noncommissioned officers, or NCOs, in mission command could be more clearly defined in Army doctrine and in the field, said Soldiers, who participated during the first-ever NCO Solarium.

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rosales III, 4th Brigade Combat Team/1st Armored Division on Fort Bliss, Texas, said that the terms "NCO" and "noncommissioned officer" do not appear in Army Doctrine Reference Publication 6.0 or Army Doctrine Publication 6.0 - both of which define mission command.

Rosales said NCOs might have a better idea of their place in mission command if their roles in the process were more clearly defined in that doctrine.

"Our ability to define doctrinally the mission of the NCO within the mission command process has been often unclear," Rosales said. "And although we as NCOs are currently and effortlessly working within our commander's mission command philosophy, we lack the formal doctrine to back up the NCO mission and vision within this concept.

"As NCOs, doctrine is empowerment, confidence, and the guide for us to lead and train Soldiers."

Rosales served as spokesperson for the "mission command" group during the 2015 NCO Solarium on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. During the Solarium, about 80 NCOs, from throughout the Army, were tasked to come up with solutions to problems involving education, Army culture, training, mission command, physical fitness, and Army vision and branding. Those Soldiers were then asked to brief the sergeant major of the Army on their findings.

The mission command group recommended that Army doctrine could be augmented to reflect the NCO duties and responsibilities, Rosales said.

The mission command group at the Solarium also asked for courses for NCOs, who will serve on command staffs, to better prepare them for the role. He said the Army ought to look into the NCO education system and institutional training to develop programs of instruction, where mission command is both trained and exercised.

"NCOs need to practice the military decision-making process all the way through, from receipt of the mission all the way to orders published," he said.

DEVELOPMENTAL EDUCATION

Another hot topic of discussion during the Solarium, and one deemed important to Army leadership, was Soldier attendance at developmental schools.

"This is an ongoing issue for me, but also for the Army," Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey said. "It stems from all of those key developmental schools, additional skill identifier- and skill qualification identifier-producing schools ... Why is it that NCOs are not going? Why is there a problem filling schools?"

Some of the schools in question include airborne school, ranger school, master gunner school and master fitness trainer school, Dailey said.

Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport Sr., of Training and Doctrine Command, said the Army has a "huge" problem filling seats in Army schools. "We have no school filled to 100 percent. And those seats are paid for," he said. For the Army's Warrior Leader Course, he said, "we did not use 2,003 seats in the first quarter," of this fiscal year. "The seats are there."

Dailey recounted that he had, as a division sergeant major, called together as many as 250 NCOs and discussed with them the possibility of going to Ranger school. He said that about 150 of them raised their hands and shouted their enthusiasm for the idea when asked who was interested in attending. But ultimately, he said, "only four packets were submitted."

Dailey gave one reason Soldiers might not be attending those courses in the right numbers - prerequisites, such as fitness levels, are prohibitive. He said Soldiers, who are dedicated to meeting Army standards should have no problem meeting the standards to attend developmental schools.

He also said that one of the things many of the courses in question have in common is a high-attrition rate.

"My perception is ... that people are afraid of failure," Dailey said. "I don't know how to overcome that. But I need those skill sets in my Army - desperately. We have to get NCOs to have the confidence and capabilities to go to these schools and achieve standards."