Greetings from the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), our Army’s and our soldiers’ professional organization.
The 2015 Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition was a huge success.
With more than 26,000 registered attendees, the Annual Meeting showcased the strength of the American soldier and the greatness and breadth of America’s Army.
One of the highlights of this year’s Annual Meeting was the Institute of Land Warfare Contemporary Military Forum titled; "Noncommissioned Officers Operating in a Complex World."
The Association of the United States Army is proud to provide professional development forums like this throughout the year to broaden the knowledge base of Army professionals and those who support our Army.
These professional development seminars are the Association’s way of amplifying the Army’s narrative to audiences inside the Army, and help to further the Association’s mission to be the "Voice for the Army and Support for the Soldier."
These forums, such as "Noncommissioned Officers Operating in a Complex World," cannot tell the Army story alone.
AUSA relies on its members to take the information gained in these forums and "spread the word" by keeping the public and their friends and family, and others within their circle of influence, informed on relevant and current issues that affect their Army – its initiatives and focus.
For this forum, I had the honor to moderate the panel of six distinguished leaders and subject matter experts before an audience of over 500 attendees.
Representing the first of the three Army commands, the panel members included Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, Training and Doctrine Command; Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret) John Sparks, former Training and Doctrine Command, command sergeant major and former director of the Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development, now serving as a special assistant to the Sergeant Major of the Army.
Representing U.S. Army Forces Command, the panel members included Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Schroeder, and Lt. Col. (Ret) Ernie Borg who serves as the command’s subject matter expert on manning, training and equipping challenges.
Representing Army Materiel Command was Command Sgt. Maj. James Sims, and Michael Stanka, deputy director for programmed engineering, U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command.
Each of the three Army commands began the forum with a 20-minute presentation.
Audience participants were encouraged to write down their questions throughout the forum for submission to the panel.
The audience participation was outstanding, and while time allotted did not allow the panel to address all the questions asked, the Training and Doctrine Command in conjunction with the Sergeant Major of the Army’s Office will post the discussion questions on their website.
One of the principle discussion topics for Training and Doctrine Command was the introduction of "STEP" (Select, Train, Educate and Promote) as the next improvement to noncommissioned officer education.
Davenport explained the challenge of having 14,000 soldiers in a backlog across all components of the Army who have not attended their required level of professional development training.
The STEP initiative will no longer allow soldiers to appear before a promotion board without successfully attending and graduating their required level of noncommissioned officer education.
Sparks addressed a range of topics that included refocusing the current Noncommissioned Officer Education System (NCOES) to the new Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System (NCOPDS).
Now viewing education as part of a soldier’s career, NCOPDS will include not only the brick-and-mortar institutions at each level of responsibility, but also encompass career maps, broadening assignments, and certifications to grow and develop our noncommissioned officer leaders of the future.
Forces Command focused on initiatives to enhance noncommissioned officer experience and expertise at the lowest levels of responsibility.
These initiatives included longer stabilization periods for qualified crews to maintain and develop greater competency and maintain readiness levels for longer periods of time.
Schroeder addressed Forces Command’s focus on sponsorship initiatives that will include defined responsibilities for soldiers moving to a new command and their role to establish a communication link with the gaining command.
Sims addressed the role of Army Material Command in four major areas to equip, sustain, integrate and enable soldiers and their commands across the force.
With more than 180,000 soldiers deployed or forward stationed around the world, the Army Materiel Command identified key initiatives in each of these four major areas to ensure soldiers and their organizations are successful at the missions assigned.
Questions from attendees included several questions pertaining to STEP implementation dates and disposition of the 14,000 soldiers in the backlog, many of whom cannot attend school due to profiles, height and weight noncompliance, and Army Physical Fitness Test failures.
One question focused on how leaders within Training and Doctrine and Forces Commands select noncommissioned officers to serve as instructors at the noncommissioned officer academies across the Army.
Other questions centered on NCOPDS changes and implementation dates for requisite levels of education and asked if maintenance operations would become a priority in professional military education courses.
Overall, the first noncommissioned officer panel at the Institute of Land Warfare Contemporary Military Forum was a big hit for those in attendance.
This forum for noncommissioned officers focused on subjects that will be highlighted again next year, and may include some video teleconferencing to remote viewers and links to social media to allow online followers to join the discussions.
Now more than ever America’s Army needs AUSA and AUSA needs your membership support.
Membership is the volume knob to ensure your voice is amplified many times over and heard throughout the halls of Congress, from sea to shining sea across this country, and throughout every small town and community in-between.
Keep America’s Army Strong!
Take a Stand!
Still Serving, Still Saluting!
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, USA, Ret.
Director, Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier Programs