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NCOs Enjoy Chance to Take Military History Instructor Course

By Master Sgt. Gary Qualls, JR. - NCO Journal

June 8, 2016

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A senior noncommissioned officer fires a Charleville Musket during the recently completed Military History Instructor’s Course Range. The French-made muskets were used during the American Revolutionary War, according to Military Heritage.com. American Soldiers received them after France answered a desperate U.S. plea for assistance.

Noncommissioned officers who recently completed the Military History Instructor’s Course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, found it filled a knowledge gap common among enlisted personnel.

The NCOs said the course gave them a broad foundation in military history and in techniques to teach it effectively. They took the course because they will eventually teach it, but their hope is all NCOs will be afforded the opportunity to eventually take the class.

“Everything we do in the military is based on our history,” said 1st Sgt. Justin A. Hardy of U.S. Army Cadet Command at the University of Missouri at Columbia. “Through history, we can instill in Soldiers more purpose and NCO development – all that comes through history.”

The Army’s education system doesn’t afford NCOs the opportunity to learn military history like their counterparts in the officers’ ranks do at staff and service colleges. Although the MHIC is primarily for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadre, state military academy cadre, and others with a military history instruction requirement to teach U.S. military history to cadets, candidates, and student officers, it is a model of laying the groundwork of that knowledge for rank-and-file Soldiers throughout the Army.

“There should be a Command and General Staff College for NCOs,” said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Cook, a military science instructor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “There is a void between learning opportunities for officers and the educational experiences NCOs receive.”

Training and Doctrine Command Historian Dr. Britt McCarley lays out TRADOC guidance for teaching U.S. military history to Reserve Officer Training Command and state military cadre, university history professors, noncommissioned officers and others at the recently completed Military History Instructor’s Course. (Photos by Maj. Steven L. Miller)

“They give a Soldier a rifle, but they don’t tell them why they’re there,” Hardy said.

Master Sgt. Robert Camacho, an infantry instructor at the 201st Regiment (Regional Training Institute), Puerto Rico Army National Guard, said he and the other NCOs who took the course learned not just one aspect of military history, but received a solid, widespread foundation from which to build on the subject.

The NCOs said that they liked the open, rank-free environment of the course, that they found the class enlightening, and that the instructors made it come to life. They also found the course challenging – having had no formal background in military history – but said as the course progressed they reached a comfort zone.

The course, which began in the early 1980s, consists of large-group conference classes, small group seminars, a battlefield staff ride, a hands-on historic weapons range, a visit to the National World War I Museum, and a museum class to view examples of nontraditional methods of teaching history.

All four NCOs in the course successfully completed it.

“NCOs have to know military history so they can instill it in their Soldiers, because if they understand a unit’s history and heritage and how it fits in, it helps them see the big picture. I think it’s really important,” said Military History Instructor Course Director Lt. Col. John T. Wimberley.

Wimberley said having NCOs in the course adds more variety to the class. Specifically, he said, “They bring the small unit tactics perspective to the class. This adds another perspective to the battles and historical events we discuss in class.”

Wimberley added that every NCO who has been in the class in the six years he’s been associated with it has represented the NCO Corps well.

“They know why they’re here. They’re professionals who want to learn. It makes teaching the course a lot easier,” Wimberley said.

Camacho was sent by his unit to the course so the regiment could pioneer teaching NCOs and others military history in Puerto Rico.

The NCOs agreed, however, that a history course for NCOs is not for everyone.

“It (should be) for those NCOs who are passionate about their profession – who go on and help the force and make it better,” Hardy said. “If an NCO takes this kind of training to heart and applies it, his troops are going to know that it’s important to him and it will become important to them, too,”

Two of the four NCOs, who took the course and are assigned at university ROTC programs, will be teaching it to future Army officers. Do they feel any awkwardness in fulfilling their coming duty? Their response was a unanimous “Negative!”

“No one is more professional than NCOs,” Hardy said. “Officers (who were cadets) may not remember everyone in their chain of command at ROTC, or every officer who teaches them, but they’ll remember that NCO.”

“This kind of training helps us to be better teachers of not only officers, but of our Soldiers,” Camacho said.