FORT PICKETT, Va. – At Fort Pickett’s 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, 20 active duty, U.S. Army Reserve and U.S. National Guard infantrymen gained the skills and knowledge necessary to take on roles as senior noncommissioned officers during the Infantryman Advanced Leader Course held Jan. 11-28, 2015. The 18-day course is required to be eligible for promotion to sergeant first class and focuses on both the administrative and tactical skills required for advanced noncommissioned officer leadership positions.
“The course hones in on leadership for NCOs and builds on the fundamentals which they already know,” explained Staff Sgt. Jason Beach, the senior instructor for the course. “We want to make sure these guys leave here learning something new to take back to their units and that they’ve communicated with their peers to find out what works and what doesn’t work.
Students of the course split their time between classroom instruction and hands-on training in the field or on the range. The training for the NCOs included a 24-hour field training exercise, instruction and confidence building with crew-served weapons, how to lead troops both in combat and through training exercises, how to correctly complete NCO evaluation reports, forward observer procedures, land navigation and advanced situational awareness training.
An additional key part of the course is the knowledge shared among the students, who each bring their own experience set to the classroom.
“As instructors, we’re here to facilitate class discussions,” Beach said. “We’ll bring up topics and get the class to participate and let them talk amongst themselves as introduce additional questions and get different opinions and different outlooks. Some people have been there and done that and they can share how they dealt with it.”
As Beach explained, different units have different standard operating procedures, different ways of accomplishing tasks, and bringing together Soldiers from the active duty, National Guard and Reserve allows the students to learn from the experience of their peers.
“You got guys that are recruiters, you got National Guard, you got regular Army and we’re all kind of like, ‘you help me, I help you,’” said Sgt. Daniel R. Woodard, from 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “We just kind of help each other out.”
Staff Sgt. Juan Ventura, from the Rhode Island National Guard’s Company C, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division, echoed Woodard’s sentiments, saying, “The experience gained from having active duty, National Guard and Reserve guys in the same class, being able to pick their brains and bring different [tactics, techniques and procedures] and [standard operation procedures] back to the unit is invaluable.”
Varied deployment experience among the students also facilitated in boosting the quality of class discussions.
“Most everyone has deployed,” explained Beach. “So everyone has a different piece of the pie, or a different take on things, so we bring that into a big mixing pot and then everybody learns and grows together.”
A favorite part of the course for many of the students was a class on reflexive fire, taught by a former operator and 183rd RTI cadre member. The training aimed to teach the NCOs how to quickly and effectively engage targets at close-range when encountering enemy combatants in an urban, close-quarters environment.
“We’re here shooting guns and how can you not like shooting guns?” asked Woodard, who said the reflexive fire training block was one he was most looking forward to.
The training focused on “perfect practice,” making sure that each movement was precise and deliberate in order to develop muscle memory to make the infantry leaders more efficient and accurate in close-quarters combat.
“Repetition builds muscle memory so they can react instinctively,” Beach explained.
Beach said he hoped the students would leave the class better prepared and able to teach their Soldiers back at their home units and that they’d leave the schoolhouse as better-trained infantrymen.