Preparing for Warrior Leader course (WLC)

“Tips for Preparing for the Warrior Leader Course (WLC)*”

This Training Tip offers recommendations on preparing for the “first” block of institutional Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Professional Development, the Warrior Leader Course (WLC). WLC trains prospective and newly appointed sergeants of the Active and Reserve Components in basic leadership skills and in noncommissioned officer duties and responsibilities.

It also addresses the authority of NCOs and instructs on effectively conducting individual and selected collective training tasks. Through its rigorous training regimen, WLC builds competent first line leaders for the U.S. Army’s teams, sections and squads. The bottom line: WLC teaches young NCOs how to lead soldiers. The information provided is drawn from discussions with numerous leaders at NCO Academies and the U. S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, who are responsible for writing the WLC Program of Instruction, and from comments of recent graduates of WLC.

1. What are the objectives of WLC?

The objectives of WLC are to graduate future Army NCO leaders who:

  • Are technically and tactically proficient.
  • Make sound decisions.
  • Plan correctly.
  • Adhere to the professional Army ethos.
  • Communicate effectively.
  • Supervise and care for subordinates.
  • Teach, coach, and counsel subordinates.
  • Build effective soldier teams.

    As you join the NCO Corps, you should become familiar with and understand the NCO Corps Vision. As stated, that Vision is :

    An NCO Corps, grounded in heritage, values, and tradition, that embodies the warrior ethos; values perpetual learning; and is capable of leading, training, and motivating soldiers. We must always be an NCO Corps that:
      • Leads by Example
      • Trains from Experience
      • Maintains and Enforces Standards
      • Takes Care of Soldiers
      • Adapts to a Changing World


Your completion of WLC will place you on the path to becoming a successful noncommissioned officer in today’s Army. For more information as to the importance of WLC in becoming an NCO, read the articles “PLDC – A Foundation for Future NCOs, and Dix Warrior Leader Course Shoots to set Army Standard.”

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2. How is WLC run and what is expected of participants?


The course is taught at an NCO Academy in a live-in environment. You must remain at the NCO Academy for the duration of the course (Active Component: 4 weeks; Reserve Component: 2 weeks).

You must be an E-4 promotable or a newly appointed E-5 to attend.

Your NCO chain of command and unit commander must recommend you.

You must be physically fit to attend and undergo the required training. If you have a “Temporary Profile”, you may not attend. If you have a
“Permanent Profile” and have an approved Medical Board (MMRB) that stipulates your physical limitations, you may attend. If you do have a Permanent Profile, check with your chain of command and with the WLC faculty to verify that they can accommodate your special needs or limitations.

You are required to wear your warfighting uniform to include Kevlar Helmet and Load Carrying Equipment (LCE). You must also carry an M16A2 rifle with bayonet. You must pass all student requirements with a “GO” or 70 Percentile grade.

Evaluations are conducted in the following areas:

  • Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT)
  • Conduct of Physical Fitness Training (Train the Trainer)
  • Drill and Ceremonies
  • Land Navigation
  • Individual Training
  • Three Written Examinations
  • Leadership Evaluation (Each student is evaluated on his/her performance while serving in two or more leadership positions during the course).


3. How do you prepare for admission to WLC?


Remember that WLC focuses on the primary level of NCO development.

If you do not succeed in this block of instruction, you will not be a NCO.

Consider the following:
First, read background material on WLC. Understand the general requirements. Conduct a self-assessment of individual leadership strengths and weaknesses and current proficiency in areas to be evaluated at WLC.

Second, talk to recent graduates of the course, particularly from your unit. Ask questions – lots of questions. Inquire into what they learned, how they prepared, and what they found most challenging. Ask them about areas that caused them difficulty. Question them about actions that, in hindsight, they wish they had taken before going to school.

Third, and probably the most critical, talk to your NCO chain of command about being selected for WLC. Ask for a critical evaluation on your personal strengths and weaknesses and areas to improve upon as you prepare to become a NCO.

Note: As you gather information, keep an open mind. You are probably going to hear lots of war stories. Don’t let the smoke confuse you. Remember your personal and chain of command assessments, be confident, plan for success, and prepare to face the challenge.

4. How do you prepare for success at WLC?

Preparing for the APFT

  • The APFT will be administered within the first 72 hours at the NCO Academy. It will be administered to the Army standard! You must be able to successfully pass all events by correctly performing each event in accordance with the standards in FM 21-20, Army Physical Fitness. Prior to attending WLC, read and understand the standard for each exercise as described in FM 21-20.
  • Ensure you meet height and weight standards before arriving at WLC. If overweight, see a doctor and/or dietician to assist you in designing a diet and personal conditioning program.
  • At least 6 months prior to WLC, engage in a rigorous program of physical conditioning. Exercise all muscle groups and the cardiovascular system. Run long distances, engage in road marches, and continuously practice each event on the APFT. Ask a unit NCO or friends to observe your performance to ensure you are executing each event properly. Cutting corners during practice will only hurt your performance later.
  • If you are having difficulty in meeting physical fitness standards, ask an NCO or a friend who is an expert in physical fitness to coach you.
  • Maintain long-term physical health supported by avoiding use of all tobacco products, not abusing alcohol, and abstaining from illicit drug use.
  • You may also log on to the Army’s Physical Fitness Center web site at http://www.benning.army.mil/usapfs/index.htm for some professional advice from those who write the physical fitness doctrine/manuals. It is very interesting and discusses how each exercise should be executed.

Preparing to lead Physical Fitness Training
Remember, you will be taught “HOW” to conduct fitness at WLC. You can improve your basic proficiency in several ways :

  • Several weeks prior to attending WLC, read FM 21-20. Understand how each exercise is performed.
  • Observe your leaders when they conduct unit PT in your unit.
  • Volunteer to be an assistant PT instructor.
  • Practice leading PT with friends.
  • Remember you will soon be leading your subordinates and peers in Physical Training. Prepare for that day!


Preparing for Drill and Ceremonies


  • Several weeks prior to attending WLC, read and understand FM 22-5, Drill and Ceremonies.
  • Observe your leaders when they conduct drill and ceremonies.
  • Volunteer to assist in unit classes on drill and ceremonies. Ask your squad leader, section leader, or platoon sergeant to let you lead drill a few times before attending WLC. This will increase your self-confidence.
  • Practice giving commands and drills with your buddies.

Preparing for the Land Navigation Evaluation
WLC land navigation is not a stroll across the countryside. In order to succeed in land navigation, you must know how to read a map. To graduate you have to pass a written map reading examination and successfully negotiate a difficult Land Navigation Course. You can prepare for these events in the following ways:


  • Review map-reading skills from the Common Skills Soldiers Manual/Test (STP 21-1-SMCT).
  • Read and understand FM 21-26, Map Reading and Land Navigation.
  • Practice locating points on a map, determining distance from one point to another, plotting grid coordinates and plotting azimuths onto or from a map.
  • Understand how to prepare and execute movement from one point to another using a military map, coordinate scale, protractor, and lensatic compass.
  • Practice walking from one point to another using a map and compass. Determine if you tend to veer to the right or left as you move and learn to compensate for such habits. Identify your pace for 100 meters on flat and hilly terrain. Gain experience maintaining azimuth while keeping track of distance traveled. Practice navigating around obstacles.
  • Ask to be an assistant instructor for land navigation during unit training.
  • If you have difficulty with map reading or land navigation ask an NCO to tutor you in order to improve your proficiency.
  • Seek opportunities to practice on a land navigation course on your installation.
  • If possible, gain additional proficiency by participating in orienteering activities sponsored by your installation or adjacent community.

Preparing for Individual Training and Written Examinations:Leadership Evaluations
The “Leadership Evaluation” will be based on your performance in leadership positions and on your ability to apply leadership doctrine. You can improve your leadership skills in several ways:


  • Understand basic interpersonal communications and counseling skills.
  • Understand how to motivate people and build teams.
  • Observe your leaders and identify role models.
  • Engage in discussions of leadership with your chain of command and friends.
  • Study leadership by reading history and case studies, particularly as they apply to small unit leadership and operations.
  • Remember to be yourself. Be confident of your abilities, be open to constructive criticism, and constantly seek opportunities to improve.


5. What should you do to get your personal affairs in order before attending WLC?

To be prepared for and focused on WLC, you must get your personal affairs in order:

  • Develop a plan for preparing for WLC that accounts for unit training, assigned duties, and deployments.
  • Plan your annual leaves around WLC training requirements.
  • Pay bills and service debts prior to leaving for school.
  • Inform friends and relatives that you will be in school and unavailable for other activities.
  • If married, teach your spouse how to read an LES (Leave/Earning Statement) and ensure he or she knows how to balance the checkbook
  • Ensure your Will, power of attorney and important papers are current and properly filed, so your loved ones can find them.
  • Several weeks prior to attending WLC review and update as necessary shot record, annual dental check-up, and eye examination. If you have any physical problems, have them examined and corrected prior to attending school.
  • Review the packing list several weeks prior to attending WLC. Make sure you have the right uniforms and equipment. Make sure all clothing, shoes, and boots fit and are serviceable. Don’t try to break in new boots at school: You’ll get blisters and sore feet.

    6. What are some of the problems encountered by recent WLC students?

Several recent WLC students reported the following:

  • Reporting to WLC with personal problems such as financial difficulties and or family issues not being resolved.
  • Reporting ill-prepared to take and pass the APFT.
  • Reporting with Temporary Profiles. Remember you will be sent back to your unit if you have a Temporary Profile.
  • Unable to pass the Land Navigation phase of WLC.
  • Poor study habits.

You can avoid these problems by implementing the recommendations that have been suggested.


WLC is the first step along the long, challenging path of NCO Professional Development. It is the starting point to build the professional education and physical fitness foundation for your future as a professional NCO. Techniques and procedures learned during the early years of your career will be the basis for future growth and success. Rise to meet the challenge and
reap the rewards!

*The Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC) has been renamed Warrior Leader Course (WLC) .