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May 28, 2010

News

Warrior Leader Course teaches Soldiers concepts, tactics, doctrine

Story & Photo by Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff

Noncommissioned officers (NCOs) in the Fort McCoy NCO Academy Warrior Leader Course (WLC) learn the basic concepts of leadership and making decisions as a leader during a challenging two-week training period.

Sgt. 1st Class Nathaniel Jones, the Fort McCoy NCO Academy WLC course manager, said classroom work teaches specialists or sergeants about concepts, tactics and doctrine needed to develop combat leadership skills.

PHOTO: Soldiers in the Warrior Leader Course at Fort McCoy prepare to move to contact an opposing force during a situational training exercise. Photo by Rob Schuette
Soldiers in the Warrior Leader Course at Fort McCoy prepare to move to contact an opposing force during a situational training exercise.

A 96-hour situational training exercise helps the students pull all the knowledge together and begin the path to becoming an effective leader.

Course completion is required to be promoted to or retain the rank of staff sergeant and to assist leaders at the squad- or team level, he said.

“The big thing is we get Soldiers from all types of backgrounds, from those who are 19 years old with one year of experience to those who may have a 15-year break in service,” Jones said.

“We don’t have members of a unit who are familiar with each other.”

While most of the Soldiers coming to the course have been deployed, he said, for most students in the course it is the first time they have been designated as a leader.

“We introduce stress in a controlled environment,” Jones said. “They are making decisions they probably are not comfortable making with their experience.”

“We expect them to make mistakes,” he said. “It’s better they do it here than during a deployment. They know they will go through an after-action review after an exercise so that adds stress to the situation as well. But it begins the process for them to start building the judgment they need to be leaders.”

Sgt. Mark Twardy, an Army National Guard Soldier with A Company, 834th Aviation Support Battalion of St. Paul, Minn., said the WLC training was demanding both from physical and mental standpoints.

Twardy deployed to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“This teaches you what you need to do to be a leader, and what you need to do to make the troops good-to-go,” Twardy said.

Sgt. Joshua Barker, an Army National Guard Soldier with D Company of the 2nd, 135th Infantry of Albert Lea, Minn., said the course expanded on the leadership skills he had begun to hone during a deployment to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“You learn more skills here and how to apply them tactically and administratively,” Barker said. “The challenge of the training is the best part. You can ask questions and they will give you input on how to do things.”

Other personnel attending the course, who ranged from Public Affairs to Intelligence, brought a lot of knowledge that the Soldiers shared, Barker said.

Sgt. Amy Ellenwood, an Army Reserve Soldier with the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion in Kalamazoo, Mich., said she came to the course very nervous about becoming a new leader.

“I found out that we were all in the same boat,” Ellenwood said. “We’re all learning to be leaders. No one had done it before, at least to this extent.”

Ellenwood said she was excited the training had given her the tools she needed to do her job and be the leader she wants to be.

“I had the rank, but I didn’t have the experience and the tools to be a leader,” she said. “I had the administrative knowledge because of my position in Civil Affairs, but this gave me the tactical experience.”

Jones said the WLC course is the first level of the NCO Education System school and is offered 12 times a year at Fort McCoy.

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