The first noncommissioned officer to serve as commandant of the Sergeants Major Academy said, the academy’s "goal is to provide a better educated noncommissioned officer to support the commander. We try to do that in echelons from the Warrior Leader Course on up. In the sergeants’ major course, we want him to walk into his next unit and assignment grounded in the strategic context on why it is our Army and our nation are doing what they are doing."
Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Chandler said, "We are going to make him value added and an asset in supporting the commander."
With that background, the sergeant major is able to help soldiers make sense out of what they are being asked to do. Chandler said that also means that the sergeant major provides his knowledge and experience in the planning process "and is able to translate that into actions, something that makes sense to the young soldiers when they go into combat."
Chandler, who is a non-resident course graduate, said, "The curriculum hasn’t fundamentally changed since 1996 until this year. What we focused on previously was what we called common core operations, military operations, resource management, leadership. We could never get the instructional model right."
The class was then divided into four groups and the students rotated among the groups. The curriculum was "focused on the tactical level."
Adding, "It was a task-based approach" to training from the Platoon Leader Development Course on up. "It wasn’t a question of why."
As the curriculum is changing, so is the infrastructure. Chandler said $7 million has been invested in improving the classrooms and installing the necessary information technology, communications technology and building a digital library that includes oral histories and interviews with sergeants major of the Army.
"We’ve got to give them more than a bag of books. They are going to have to go to the library; and this forces them to look at the history of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps in a structured environment."
While a goal of having learning available to every soldier who logs on, "how do we maintain security" on networks is a real challenge.
The change that began with one group at the academy this year adapted a curriculum from Intermediate Level Education from Fort Leavenworth for noncommissioned officers.
Chandler said there were two considerations in making the change: how rapidly can it be done and how will it support the Army Force Generation Model.
"The hardest sell has been to senior noncommissioned officers" on why changes needed to be made. "We will continue to educate the force on what we are doing [not only in the sergeants major course but in the structured self-development phases of the other courses in the education system] and why it is important."
Adding, "Change is difficult. … Folks are not as welcoming of change as we get older."