Non Commissioned Officers from all branches of the Army, stateside and overseas, made up Battle Room 5, Class 005-12 of Phase 2 Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Battle Staff is a performance oriented course that prepares the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO), in the rank of Staff Sgt. and above, to perform operationally on the battlefield. The course is taught using the Small Group Instruction (SGI) concept. During orientation all students were reminded of the course failure rate, and the message was clearly sent that Battle Staff would be one of their most academically challenging Army courses. The tone was set as all students broke off into their prospective Battle Rooms.
Battle Room 5 was lead by Small Group Leader, Sgt. 1st Class Lance Wilson who made it very clear that active participation and positive interaction was essential to graduating. When asked what makes the course so challenging, Sgt. 1st Class Wilson said, “The challenge is seeing real world graphics and interpreting them into a mission and also taking a written OPORD (Operation Order) and developing a graphic overlay.” Paying attention to detail was constantly stressed along with perfecting one’s research capabilities. Another extremely important asset to doing well in the course was the diverse Military Occupational Skills (MOS) represented within the group. It was an excellent resource of experiences, technical skills, and tactical knowledge. While there was occasional competitive bantering between the different branches of Active Duty, Army Reserve, and National Guard, there was no separation. Everyone worked together as a team with a common goal in mind. When a battle buddy struggled, everyone pulled together to help.
I asked all of the students in Battle Room 5 what they gained from attending the course and whether they thought the Army is keeping them educationally prepared to remain proficient in their job(s). Staff Sgt. Daniel Halloran, a Human Resources NCO with 94th Division at Fort McCoy, said that while he believes Battle Staff offered minimal benefit as a Human Resources NCO, he still gained a better understanding on what operation responsibilities are in a JOC (Joint Operations Center) and TOC (Tactical Operations Center) during time of war. Furthermore, Staff Sgt. Halloran stated, “There are not many schools geared to my professional development that I would be allowed to take.” He is constantly searching to further his military education beyond the Senior Leadership Course (SLC). Sgt. 1st Class Darin Hawfield, assigned to 122nd Engineer Battalion as the S4 NCOIC (Noncommissioned Officer In Charge) stated that the course ranked among one of the most in depth and informative classes he has ever attended.
When an NCO graduates from Battle Staff, they earn the Additional Skill Identifier (ASI) of 2S. Sgt. 1st Class Wilson explained why it is important for NCOs to earn this ASI. He said, “It is important for NCO’s to learn about the bigger picture of what is done in a brigade area or larger and why and to learn the computer systems involved with it.” Furthermore, Sgt. 1st Class Wilson believes the biggest advantage is learning the IPB (Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield) process and the different staff positions. This is validated by Sgt. 1st Class Hawfield who already utilizes the skills he gained during the course on a regular basis. “I now know the importance of each role in the TOC. The key players in our TOC are now asking me to conduct classes on overlays, MDMP (Military Decision Making Process), and task organization. It is self assuring, to teach classes that I can honestly say I know what I am talking about and refer to the correct references,” he said.