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New in 2017: Big changes to training, NCO education

December 30, 2016 (Photo Credit: Marie Berberea/Army)
The Army continues to look at whether to bring back drill sergeants to advanced individual training and replace AIT platoon sergeants. 

If adopted, this would mean a huge reversal for the service.

The Army in 2007 replaced drill sergeants with AIT platoon sergeants as a way to recognize a young soldier’s transition from “less total control and a little bit more of recognizing the role of the noncommissioned officer,” Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, the senior enlisted soldier for Training and Doctrine Command, told Army Times earlier this year.

The proposal to bring back the drill sergeants is still being studied – especially as drill sergeants receive at least $300 a month in special duty pay while AIT platoon sergeants do not.

Also being studied is whether to extend basic training by a week in an effort to maximize the training soldiers receive before they arrive at their first duty station.

No decisions have been made about either initiative, as leaders continue to look at whether each proposal makes sense for the Army.

In 2017, the Army also will continue to develop its Master Leader Course, a new NCO school designed to prepare sergeants first class for promotion to master sergeant.

This is all part of the Army’s STEP strategy, or “select, train, educate and promote,” which requires soldiers to have the right level of education before they can be promoted to the next rank.

While requirements are already in place for soldiers seeking promotion to E-5 through E-7 and E-9, the Master Leader Course is not expected to be up and running until fiscal 2018.

The Army also will continue to require NCOs to take a writing assessment before attending an NCO education course. The English comprehension and writing assessment is part of the Army’s ongoing effort to sharpen its education courses and develop better leaders.

The Army first tested the idea with Basic Leader Course students, but the Army began offering the assessment at all NCO academies across the Army, including the Sergeants Major Academy, beginning Oct. 1.

About 97,000 soldiers attend NCO professional military education courses each year, officials said.

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