NCOs sound off ...

Special to the NCO Journal

March 5, 2018

In January of 2018, the NCO Journal contacted a number of command sergeants major across the Army and asked them to have some of their sharpest Soldiers answer two questions regarding how the Army can better prepare its Soldiers for future conflicts.

The six-part series begins at Fort Riley, Kansas:

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NCOs sound off ...

Command Sgt. Major Eric T. Jefferson's, "Iron Rangers," of the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas:

  1. How can the Army better prepare your career field for future conflicts?

Standardized Testing

Staff Sgt. John W. Premo, 11B (infantryman), A Company: The Army should create a standardized test for each skill level in every military occupational specialty to prove competency and knowledge. For example, if a Soldier believes he/she is competent in 20-level MOS-specific skills, they take the required test to prove they are capable of performing at higher levels. The tests should be conducted annually. They should also be required before attending the promotion board and in order to attain the next rank.

These MOS-specific tests will force Soldiers to read technical manuals and other professional literature pertaining to their MOS. Soldiers tend to memorize the board members' tendencies and perform well, based on past experiences. With our Soldiers retaining, knowing, and understanding their MOS-specific skills and tasks, our Army will have a brighter future. Every level of the Army should have experts in their formations to continue our tradition of winning!

As an Army, we need to continually focus on training by following the field manuals, technical manuals, and Army regulations. Subject matter experts have written these manuals and, more often than not, senior leaders make their own rules.

It is important to note that progressive training will generate the most proficient and qualified Soldiers. This is consistent with all of our scheduled training in a calendar year, from individual qualifications to battalion level gunneries.

From my professional viewpoint and experiences, high echelon senior leaders create their own standards because of their ideals and background. Who is scrutinizing these decisions? At the company level, I know a number of Soldiers who feel decisions go unchecked and this, unfortunately, results in mediocre and watered-down training. Today's Army needs to train to the standard, not train for a PowerPoint slide.

Lessons from History

Sgt. Eduardo M. Vega, 19K (M1 Abrams armor crewmember), C Company: Develop a series of tactics, techniques, and procedures from past conflicts and adopt them into the modern force. By knowing what our adversaries' past actions and their techniques are, our forces have an advantage on the battlefield.

Fighting Vehicle Infantryman

Staff Sgt. John W. Premo, 11B (infantryman), A Company: As much as it pains me to say this, we need to bring back the 11M (fighting vehicle infantryman) MOS. We, as an Army, lost specialty capabilities when we lost the 11M. Our promotions are more difficult in armor units, and junior NCOs have very little motivation to learn the M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, because it will literally inhibit their career advancement.

Pre-Shot Threat Detection

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel V. Coehlo, 11B (infantryman), A Company: A Program Executive Office Soldier out of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, has developed a Pre-Shot Threat Detection system so every Soldier, down to the lowest joe, will have the ability to detect snipers on the battlefield before they are even able to take a shot. Snipers have always been and will continue to be, a great threat, which we have never been fully able to mitigate until now. Why doesn't every Soldier have it?

  1. What training should Army focus on to be better prepared?

Air Assault Missions & SIM Rounds

Sgt. Benjamin M. Sassaman, 11B (infantryman), B Company: I honestly love participating in the air assault missions at Korea. We are mechanized with Bradleys, and that's how it's done there. Why wouldn't we get more of that training? When conducting training, it is more effective to use simulation rounds and not the laser tag equipment. It would prepare Soldiers for 'live fire' and sharpen their reaction time when taking cover.

Range Time

Sgt. Christituto Pitchford, 11B (infantryman), A Company: Soldiers would be more combat effective if they were given more range time. No more not qualifying, more of, here is the ammo, shoot targets. Anybody can go out, shoot a 24, and barely qualify, but more range time would allow Soldiers to hone their shooting skills and become better marksmen. It would definitely raise troop morale. Being in an infantry unit, all these guys want to do is get behind their weapon and let it rip.

In order to be better prepared for the future, the Army should focus on building Soldiers' proficiencies with all weapon systems. Too many Soldiers are not proficient with weapon systems such as the M500 shotgun, M9 pistol, Mk19 grenade launcher, and M2 .50 caliber machine gun, because they are rarely if ever, afforded the opportunity to shoot and train on these weapons.

Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System

Staff Sgt. John W. Premo, 11B (infantryman), A Company: Incorporate operation orders into NCOPDS so Soldiers can better support their platoon leaders in planning, and gain a better understanding of the mission.

Prioritize the availability of MOS-specific schools such as Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leader's Course and Army Reconnaissance Course for cavalry scouts. Develop lower level schools for junior NCOs to be effective instructors.

NCOPDS & College Credit

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel V. Coehlo, 11B (infantryman), A Company: NCOPDS. I believe that the current NCOPDS should incorporate enrollment into college classes. At a minimum, take an English intro or writing course. It will enable our NCOs to better articulate and accurately perform administration work, whether at home or abroad.

Improvised Medicine

Sgt. Christituto Pitchford, 11B (infantryman), A Company: The Army should focus on improvised medicine; a rigid structure and training are all well and good when variables are controlled. However, when supplies are unavailable or running low, being able to adapt and improvise is crucial. Focusing on improvised medical interventions will teach medics how to be more versatile on the battlefield and expand their mindset so they can adapt to the situation when the variables aren't controlled.


Staff Sgt. John W. Premo, 68W (combat medic specialist), A Company: As a 68W (combat medic specialist), I feel that taking a course in the understanding and use of pharmaceuticals is a key fixture in life sustainment measures.

Live Fire Lanes

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel V. Coehlo, 11B (infantryman), A Company: We need to embed mortar squads within platoons to build better unit cohesion.

Training-wise, Soldiers should be afforded more opportunities to train at the squad and team levels on live fire lanes, as well as receive more NCO lead training.


Sgt. Christituto Pitchford, 11B (infantryman), A Company: Marksmanship has become a perishable skill, just like land navigation. Soldiers don't get enough trigger time at ranges, and this limits the ability of NCOs to teach the basic concepts. Soldiers need to be better shooters.

Garrison Training Time

Staff Sgt. John W. Premo, 11B (infantryman), A Company: Collectively, the Army needs to refine training requirements that do not directly relate to infantry Soldiers going into combat. I do not discredit that Army Regulation 350-1, Army Training and Leader Development, training is important and necessary, but this training, and the infinite amount of required online courses we must take is a burden to our frontline units. We need more time in garrison to ensure quality, battle-focused training is being conducted and not "hand-jammed."

Mounted Maneuvers

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel V. Coehlo, 11B (infantryman), A Company: Speaking for the Soldiers in mechanized infantry units, I do not think we have enough skilled and experienced Bradley fighters. I strongly believe that getting rid of the 11M MOS was a grave mistake. At any given time, 80 percent of our Bradley crews are inexperienced, not only on their track but also on how to fight the mounted fight. By the time they start getting the hang of it, they move to a light infantry unit or vice versa. There should be more focus on mounted maneuver throughout the entire infantry force.