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Army changes PLDC to Warrior Leader Course

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 12, 2005) -- The Army has announced that its Primary Leadership Development Course will be renamed the Warrior Leader Course, beginning Oct. 15, and officials said the new name reflects changes made to PLDC curriculum over the past year.

The course has been redesigned to better prepare Soldiers for asymmetrical warfare and now includes lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Brig. Gen. James M. Milano, the Army’s director of Training under G3.

“The new WLC will not only prepare Soldiers for traditional challenges, but irregular challenges as well,” Milano said after reviewing all the changes made to the curriculum this past year.

WLC now emphasizes the skills and knowledge small-unit leaders need to excel in a contemporary operational environment, Milano said.

Academy helps revamp course

“We are a nation at war. We have taken the lessons learned from our deployments and incorporated them into our revised leadership course,” said Col. David Abramowitz, commandant of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, which played a major role in redesigning the PLDC curriculum.

“These changes add rigor and relevance to the course and improve leadership skills and confidence in our junior leaders,” Abramowitz said. “The course is revolutionary and warrants a name change.”

Warrior Leader Course is the right name for the new course, Abromowitz said, because it “espouses the tenets of the Warrior Ethos.”

PLDC used an instructor-centered, exposure, and feedback system. Instruction consisted of lecture, classroom-based practical exercises, and a cognitive skills test. A short Field Training Exercise was the practical exercise used to evaluate combat leader skills.

The FTX, though, lacked standardization throughout the Army, said retired Sgt. Maj. Ron Schexnayder of the G3 Leader Development Division. He said a different approach was needed to produce a competent, innovative, adaptive and agile combat leader required by the current operational environment.

Changes stem back to ATLDP

The NCO phase of the Army Training and Leader Development Panel, known as ATLDP, was not about “fixing” the NCO Corps; rather, it was an introspection to determine how the Army could make a professional NCO Corps even better, Schexnayder said. He said since ATLDP, the Army has been in the process of transforming the NCO Education System in an effort to design a system that would not dilute the warfighting focus of NCOES.

NCOES must remain focused on NCO core areas of leading, training, maintaining standards, caring for Soldiers, technical competencies and tactical warrior skills, Schexnayder said, while integrating greater conceptual and interpersonal skills.

Changes in the modular Army and operational environment now require decentralized leadership skills, Schexnayder said. He said a small unit leader is needed who can employ all warfighting functions rapidly.

Modular force needs versatile NCOs

The modular force structure and contemporary operational environment relies heavily on small-unit tactics. The demands of today’s battlefield require leaders who can think independently, Schexnayder said.

The Warrior Leader Course is designed to provide the Army with NCOs who can visualize, describe, and execute squad-level operations in varied operational environments, Schexnayder said.

“The WLC places the responsibility of training individual Soldier skills back on the junior leader,” said Command Sgt. Maj. James E. Dale of the Sergeants Major Academy. “This course prepares him/her to assume that role.”

WLC is battle-focused

Graduates of WLC will have experienced standard-based, performance-oriented and battle-focused training, which supports squad-level operations, Schexnayder said. Every specialist (promotable) and sergeant in an all-volunteer Army require training as combat leaders, he said.

The WLC is now tailored to the environment in which the Army operates today, Schexnayder said. Every student now receives detailed squad-level combat leader training. This learner-centered and outcome-based approach reinforces all small unit tactics, techniques, and procedures, he said.

The WLC incorporates recent lessons learned, Schexnayder said. As such, he said the course constantly adapts to world threats by incorporating the experience from the battlefield. Combat skills are trained and reinforced upon arrival, “Weapon immersion” is emphasized throughout the new course.

Training and evaluation as a combat leader now applies to every soldier. Evaluation is centered on the NCO’s ability to demonstrate troop-leading procedures in current threat-based scenarios.

New STX is now 96 hours

The combat focus of the course culminates in a 96-hour Situational Training Exercise or STX. Nine battle drills and 39 warrior tasks are the framework driving the planning, preparation, rehearsal and execution of all squad operations, This STX is competency-based, battle-focused, grounded in a combat scenario, driven by troop-leadingprocedures, officials said.

Instructors must complete certification before leading and evaluating students. The WLC also requires trainers to have squad leader and platoon sergeant experience and to be certified to teach the entire curriculum.

NCOES has been changing since WWII

The post-World War II NCO Academies at division level began a great tradition of NCO education that continues today. The concept was later adopted Armywide, but it initially provided education only to Combat Arms Soldiers. PLDC integrated Soldiers from all fields, but instructors were not certified.

The Warrior Leader Course is the first course to apply the same combat leader- specific training standard for all Soldiers, regardless of gender or background, Schexnayder said.

G1/G3 set long-term goals

The long-term goal is to train all specialists with promotion potential at the WLC, Schexnayder said. He said the course will teach specialists how to be an NCO and focus on leading, training, caring, maintaining, and warrior skills.

The WLC will prepare Soldiers for promotion to sergeant and for assignments in teams, crews, and squads. Conceptually, graduating Soldiers could be appointed to corporal upon graduation, he said – effectively symbolizing their transition from “follower” to “leader.”

Gerald Purcell, a retired sergeant major now serving as a personnel policy integrator for G1 Enlisted Professional Development, said “In concert with this philosophy, and in an effort to ensure all Soldiers are trained before the Army asks them to perform at the next level, only corporals would attain eligibility for recommendation to sergeant.”

This is strictly a long-term goal, explained Schexnayder, adding that there is currently no timeline to implement such requirements for promotion to sergeant.

(Editor’s note: Information provided by G3 Leader Development Division.)

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