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Expanding the Soldier/NCO of the Month Board

By Sgt. Maj. Craig A. Collins

NCO Leadership Center of Excellence

May 21, 2021

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U.S. Army Spc. Owen Cyr

Leader development has never been more important. The contemporary operating environment (OE) is defined by chaos and ambiguity with near-peer threats and non-state actors continuing to challenge American interests (Department of the Army, 2019a; Mattis, 2018). The obstacles facing today’s Army continue to expand as technological innovations redefine the OE. Upholding the Warrior Ethos must remain a priority to ensure the force is ready to meet any challenge.

One way leaders can emphasize the Warrior Ethos is by expanding the Soldier/NCO of the Month Boards to focus on not just textbook knowledge, but also combat skills. As Nobel Prize-winning biophysicist Archibald Hill discovered in the 1920s, you can scientifically measure and predict a person’s peak performance capability in a controlled setting, but it means nothing when stress, fatigue, and chaos kick in (Housel, 2018). This article discusses ways in which expanded Soldier/NCO of the Month Boards can add dynamic challenges to better prepare Soldiers for future combat.

Shaping Operations

Soldier/NCO of the Month Boards are a vital part of the leader development process. Traditionally they have served as rehearsals for promotion boards, preparing Soldiers to answer common core questions consistent across most units. According to Army Regulation (AR) 600-8-19: Enlisted Promotions and Reductions:

 

“The board, utilizing a question and answer format, will test the preparedness of the recommended Soldier to determine their potential to serve at the recommended rank. Hands-on tasks are not authorized. Questions should focus on leadership, awareness of military programs, and knowledge of basic Soldiering and world affairs.” (Department of the Army, 2019b, pg. 42)

 

The promotion board is an integral part of leader development and provides a platform for senior leaders to validate a Soldier for the next rank. Usually consisting of the command sergeants major and first sergeants of an organization, it has historically served to test a Soldier’s ability to answer questions under pressure, allowing them to demonstrate knowledge and highlight accomplishments. The Soldier/NCO of the Month Board has typically been the primer for a promotion board, but I would argue not enough emphasis has been placed on it and it has not been maximized to achieve its full potential. If the goal of leader development is to create Soldiers capable of operating in chaos and ambiguity, then every opportunity should be leveraged to create conditions that will enable Soldiers to rapidly develop skillsets needed to dominate in the contemporary OE.

Seize the Initiative

Expanding the Soldier/NCO of the Month board to a more combat-focused event includes adding Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills while simultaneously assessing basic knowledge. The regulations for promotion boards prohibit “hands-on” testing, but there are no such restrictions for Soldier/NCO of the Month Boards (Department of the Army, 2019b).

U.S. Army Spc. Jordan Herring

With this concept in place, the president of the board should be a first sergeant and the board members should be platoon sergeants. The room would be set up in a round robin format for Level 1 and 2 tasks. Stations should include, at a minimum, a weapons testing station on as many of the unit’s organic weapons as possible, map reading station (recommend a testing scenario), communications station, and a night vision device station. This setup is consistent with the command priorities of shoot, move, communicate, and own the night, a popular U.S. Army mantra and philosophy.

In the second phase, as Soldiers and NCOs are tested on their Warrior Tasks and Battle Drill skills, they are asked general knowledge questions testing their ability to think under pressure. The uniform for this board should be full field uniform to include face paint, body armor, personal weapon, and protective mask. The sponsor would also be involved and in the same uniform, creating a team-building opportunity. Board members would rapidly fire questions at both the Soldier and the sponsor to create stress during the proceedings while testing cognitive abilities and motor skills.

An Example: A Soldier sets up and conducts a radio communications check with their sponsor, who is on another radio in the room, this tests both the Soldier and sponsor creating a learning and team-building event, all while reciting the Soldiers Creed.

Conclusion

Leader development is paramount to sustaining a strong force capable of dominating any adversary. Upholding the Warrior Ethos must be a priority for every leader to ensure Soldiers are prepared for tomorrow’s challenges. Improving Soldier/NCO of the Month Boards would better prepare Soldiers to operate in chaotic and ambiguous OEs while staying focused on mission accomplishment.


References

Department of the Army. (2015). FM 6-22: Leader development. https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/fm6_22.pdf

Department of the Army. (2019a). ADP-1: The Army. https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/ARN18008_ADP-1%20FINAL%20WEB.pdf

Department of the Army. (2019b). AR 600-8-19: Enlisted promotions and reductions. https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/ARN17424_R600_8_19_Admin_FINAL.pdf

Housel, M. (2018). Real world vs. book knowledge. https://www.collaborativefund.com/blog/real-world-vs-bookknowledge/

Mattis, J. (2018). Summary of the national defense strategy of the United States of America. https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf

 

Sgt. Maj. Collins currently serves as the sergeant major for Curriculum Development at the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence. Collins previously served as the command sergeant major for the Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment. He is a Class 67 graduate of the Sergeants Major Course, holds a Bachelor of Science from Excelsior College and a Master of Science from Syracuse University.

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