NCOs guide ROTC cadets on their paths as future leaders 



After serving 30 years in the Army from private – as a cannon crew member at Fort Sill, Okla. – to command sergeant major and the top enlisted soldier at the U.S. Army Cadet Command, Fort Monroe, Va., – Hershel L. Turner knows first-hand the importance of noncommissioned officers in training ROTC cadets to become competent and adaptive newly commissioned second lieutenants in America’s Army.

Reflecting on Secretary of the Army Pete Geren’s announcement at the Association of the United Sates Army’s 2008 Annual Meeting in October that 2009 will be the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer, Turner said, "It is important for a young cadet to know that our NCOs work in this command to develop them into the warriors of the future."

Acknowledging that the NCO Corps is the "Backbone of the Army," Turner, who was attending the George C. Marshall ROTC Award Seminar at the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Va., told AUSA NEWS, "Our NCOs motivate, train, educate, grow and develop our cadets until they become commissioned officers."

Adding, "This training helps them better relate to NCOs at their first duty station – when they meet their first platoon sergeant. This gets them to their full potential."

Turner, who served as a ROTC senior military instructor at Kent State University, emphasized that the noncommissioned officers serving in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program "not only do classroom work – teaching classes – but they are also out in the field developing the future Army leaders during field training exercises, Ranger Challenge competitions and at the two summer training events – the Leaders’ Training Course at Fort Knox, Ky., for cadets who will enter the two-year ROTC program – and Warrior Forge, the leader development assessment course at Fort Lewis, Wash."

At Warrior Forge, the 29-day program all cadets must attend before commissioning, "NCOs have to do an assessment of the cadets, and our role is to get them through their tough courses like the physical training test, individual tactical training, land navigation and squad and patrol training exercises," Turner said.

 CSM Turner talks with cadets
Command Sgt. Maj. Hershel Turner, U.S. Army Cadet Command, meets with Cadet Griffith Getty, Columbus State University, and Cadet Travis Eddleman, Arkansas State University, at the George C. Marshall Army ROTC Award Seminar at the Virginia Military Institute. The top senior cadets from over 270 colleges and universities attended the four-day event.

The object of the all-important training is to develop the cadet’s self confidence, leadership skills, teamwork, technical and tactical proficiency, and warrior skills.

The challenges are rigorous and demanding, both physically and mentally, according to Cadet Command officials.

"We are the mentors," Turner said, "who go through this training with the cadets. We help them be successful."

There are approximately 600 enlisted men and women assigned to Cadet Command and working in the senior ROTC program at 273 colleges and universities.

They are carefully screened before they are selected for what is usually a three-year assignment.

"There is one important requirement," Turner said. "The NCOs who we bring to Cadet Command have to have platoon sergeant time. They either have to have been a drill sergeant or recruiter. They have to have experience … working with a lieutenant before. They must understand the officer- noncommissioned officer relationship."

The command looks for NCOs that have the "knowledge and the wisdom" that can be passed on to cadets who are preparing for commissioning and their first assignment.

"They have to have the ability to pass on to the cadets what they have learned in their prior assignments."

Recruiting this type of NCO for a key assignment in Cadet Command is not a problem, there are NCOs "waiting to come in."

But, there are areas of the country where ROTC units are located that are not appealing as a recruiting incentive.

"Sometimes it’s hard for NCOs to live in an area where there is a high cost of living, especially if there is no military installation in the area, no commissary, no PX, hospital, and limited support for an Army family."

Turner noted that the NCO of today has a much stronger educational background than those in the past, in terms of both civilian and military education.

"I’ve been out to the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, several times, and the curriculum out there is really tremendous now," Turner said.

Adding, "We work to ensure that we have the best possible NCOs involved in the training of our cadets."

As a soldier who has held every enlisted leadership position in the Army, Turner said, "As noncommissioned officers, we grow the future leadership of the Army."