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