About the NCO Historical Society

The NCO Historical Society is an online, central repository allowing free access to information and material relating to the US Army Noncommissioned Officer Corps.

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We seek to provide easy access for soldiers, historians, researchers or others seeking to learn more about the professional enlisted Corps of the United States Army.

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The curator and founder of the NCO Historical Society is available for lectures, presentation or professional development sessions on NCO History.

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Detailed Reports - 1989, the first Year of the NCO II

Two leader development studies were conducted in FY 1989. The first was the NCO Leader Development Study, conducted by a task force at the Sergeants Major Academy, Fort Bliss, Texas which resulted in the NCO Leader Development Action Plan, signed by General Carl Vuono in October 1989. http://www.history.army.mil/books/DAHSUM/1989/CH12.htm

On 8 October 1988, the Commanding General, TRADOC, chartered the NCO Leader Development Task Force to develop a strategy and action plan for improving the Army's NCO leader development system to ensure the continued professional growth of the NCO corps. The resulting Noncommissioned Officers Leader Development Action Plan (NCOLDAP) contained 18 recommendations. Two key recommendations were (1) the development of skills, knowledge, and attitudes - from now on called skills, knowledge, and behavior (SKBs) - which define the NCO "Be-Know-Do" competencies for each grade level, and (2) linking of the Noncommissioned Officer Education System (NCOES) to promotions. Beginning in October 1993, completion of NCOES courses is a prerequisite for promotion; i.e., Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC) for SGT, Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course (BNCOC) for SSG, Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Course (ANCOC) for SFC, and Sergeants Major Course (SMC) for SGM. The NCOLDAP will be revised to reflect changes in the world environment, national strategy, and role and missions of the Army. The revised LDAP will ensure noncommissioned officers are developed to meet the Army's future needs within resource constraints. DA Pam 350-58

Leader development programs provide educational opportunities for soldiers to enhance leadership abilities. Read-to-Lead, Leader Skill Enhancement courses, and NCO Leader Education and Development (NCO LEAD) programs address SKAs as identified in the June 1989 NCO Leader Development Action Plan (NCOLDAP). Leader development programs provide opportunities for soldiers to undertake self-development activities that lead to certification, licensure, or degrees. All programs address SKAs identified in FM 22-100 that support professional development. Leader development programs support readiness and training beyond the fundamental level. AR 621-5, Army Continuing Education System, http://www.ed.umuc.edu/eso/aces.pdf

In 1988, CG TRADOC chartered a special NCO leader development task force. This task force determined that NCOES was meeting NCO and field requirements and required only some updating. It produced the 1989 NCO Leader Development Action Plan (LDAP). The LDAP led to functional courses, such as the Battle Staff NCO Course (BSNCOC) and First Sergeant Course (FSC), and the NCO Journal, a professional publication that focuses on NCO leader development. (from The Army The Army Training and Leader Development Panel Training and Leader Development Panel Report (NCO) Report (NCO) Final Report Final Report, 2 April 02) http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/army/atld-panel/nco_report.pdf 

NCO STUDY REPORT produced the 1989 NCO Leader Development Action Plan (LDAP). ..... Role of the Noncommissioned Officer 68. The NCO role outlined in current Army training ... www.scribd.com/doc/1824864/US-Army-NCO-STUDY-REPORT

"The NCO" : in their own words / / [prepared by FORSCOM Directorate of Public Affairs and the Leadership Office of FORSCOM Directorate of Personnel, J1; with the assistance of the Office of the FORSCOM Command Sergeant Major.].

Army Times:
'The Year of the NCO' declared 1989 theme. Army Times; Jan. 16, 1989; 49(23): p. 3.
Index to Army Times 1989: http://handle.dtic.mil/100.2/ADA261150

Story of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps: The Backbone of the Army. The original publication of this volume culminated the U.S. Armyis contribution to the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps (NCO). The Secretary of the Army directed this year-long consideration of the special responsibilities & accomplishments of the noncommissioned office so that members of our Army might come to appreciate better the vital role they have played & continue to play in the defense of the nation. Description: CMH 70-38. CMH Pub. 70-38. David W. Hogan, Jr., Jr., et al, general editors. New edition which updates the 1989 version which culminated the Center of Military History's contribution to the Year of the NCO Corps since 1775. Has added chapters on Desert Storm, the Army during the 1990s, the Army in Afghanistan, and a new epilogue to carry the story forward. Contains portraits of NCOs in action; and selected documents on responsibilities, professional status and specialist rank. Appendices include: evolution of NCO rank insignia, and a gallery of Noncommissioned Officer heroes. Year/pages: 2005: 367 p.; ill. revised ed.

CMH Pub 70-36, The Noncommissioned Officer: Images of an Army in Action, Full-color reproductions of eighteen paintings done by a team of Army artists that depict the history of the noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Army with an accompanying guidebook to the print set. GPO S/N 008-029-00178-1. 

Department of the Army Historical Summary: FY 1989
Chapter 7, Manpower

In January 1989 Secretary of the Army John O. Marsh, Jr., along with Chief of Staff General Vuono and Sergeant Major of the Army Julius W. Gates, declared the Army theme for 1989 as "The Year of the NCO." General Vuono viewed it as an opportunity to enhance both the responsibilities and the status of the NCO corps by programs that underscored the four enduring roles of NCOs-leader, trainer, role model, and standard-bearer. General Vuono authorized an adjustment to the Army budget that allowed an additional 3,000 enlisted personnel to be promoted to sergeant E-5 during the last eight months of FY 1989. Shortages in that grade accounted for two-thirds of all NCO vacancies. Approximately 60,000 of 202,000 specialist E-4s and corporals were eligible to advance to sergeant E-5. The Army estimated that a 1 percent increase in NCO operating strength caused nearly a 2 percent increase in the number of units that reported readiness ratings at or above their authorized level of organization (ALO). By his action, the Chief of Staff raised the NCO strength to nearly 276,000.

 The NCO ranks of E-6 through E-9 had an exceptionally good yea r for promotions in FY 1989. Promotions increased as much as 45 percent in senior grades. This followed the increases approved by the Chief of Staff in operating NCO strength. Promotions in FY 1990 returned to a more normal level. The 5,997 NCOs selected for promotion to sergeant, first class, E-7 in November 1988 represented a drop from 15 to 11 percent of those eligible compared to the previous year, presaging the return to more normal rates in the future (FY 1990). The rate for promotion to master sergeant E-8 in FY 1989 was 12.9 percent, slightly higher than the 10.8 percent rate of FY 1988. Of the approximately 22,000 soldiers considered for promotion to master sergeant, the E-8 selection board chose 2,834, or about 600 more than the prior year's total of 2,200. Promotions to master sergeant were above average in fields such as special operations, aviation maintenance and avionics, ammunition, and topographic engineering and below average in combat arms except for air defense and armor.

A hallmark of "The Year of the NCO" was the work of the NCO Leader Development Study Group. Organized by TRADOC in October 1988, the eight-month study was conducted at the Sergeants Major Academy, Fort Bliss, Texas, by a task force that included representative s from TRADOC, PERSCOM, the Center for Army Leadership, the Health Services Command, and the reserve components. On 22 August 1989, General Vuono approved eighteen of the group's recommendations during a briefing at the Center for Army Leadership, Fort Leavenworth , Kansas. Many of the group's recommendations stemmed from initiative s contained in an earlier study, the 1985 NCO Professional Development Study. That study prompted the Army to modify the NCO evaluation system and to tie NCO promotions more closely to the NCO Education System (NCOES).

The NCO Leader Development Study Group's most salient area of recommendations was its identification of skills, knowledge, and attitudes (SKAs) expected of NCOs at each level and formulation of career or leader development models for both active and reserve component NCOs. SKAs were the foundation for the NCOES. Leader development programs in service schools, units, and operational assignments were based on SKAs developed for each grade based on the nine leader competencies described in FM 22-100, Military Leadership — communication, supervision, training/counseling, soldier-team development, technical/ tactical proficiency, decision making, planning, the use of available systems, and professional ethics. Other skills were identified and defined using NCO leader training curriculum, FM 25-100, Training the Force, and FM 100-5, Operations, the Army 's capstone doctrinal manuals for training and operations. The study group identified specific knowledge requirements for each skill. Attitudes deemed essential for successful NCO leaders were derived from the tenets of professional ethics in FM 100-1, The Army; FM 22-600-20, The NCO Creed; and the Oath of Enlistment. Unlike skills and knowledge, the attitudes were the same for all NCO grades.

The second key area of the study group's recommendations linked NCO advancement to attainment of specific levels of training in the NCO Education System and leadership qualities that included continuing education and self-development. As a prerequisite for advancement, the group proposed that NCOs attain minimum reading standards. About 30 percent of the Army's soldiers read at the 9th grade level or lower. For NCOs attending the primary, basic, and advanced NCO courses, a 10th grade reading level was expected. Students at sergeant major courses were required to read at the 12th grade level. Remedial instruction would be afforded to NCOs and an extensive program of diagnostic testing that used the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) would be instituted at regional and installation NCO academies.

Some improvements were made in 1988 to the Qualitative Management Program (QMP), which prescribed stringent standards for promotion and retention in the four highest NCO grades and became the basis for a new NCO evaluation report (NCO-ER). The QMP provisions were published in FY 1989 as a revision of AR 601-200, Enlisted Ranks Personnel Update 15. The rigor of the revised screening process for promotion was evident when a promotion board for sergeant, first class, in early FY 1989 tagged 904 staff sergeants E-6 from a pool of 55,000 for possible involuntary separation. Adverse ratings on the NCOs' records included several factors, such as failure to meet minimum performance standards, numerous Articles 15, letters of reprimand for driving under the influence, the inability to carry out duties commensurate with grade, or a lapse of moral or ethical rectitude. The period for an appeal was shortened from a year to ninety days. A sustained finding on appeal was followed by separation from service within ninety days. NCOs within two years of retirement, however, could remain on active duty until they attained twenty years of service.

After almost a year's experience with the new NCO-ER System both NCOs and raters accorded it high praise. Required quarterly counseling by a senior officer, already required for E-5 through E-9, began for corporals in December 1988. An assessment of the new system indicated that counseling engendered a better understanding among NCOs of their duties and compelled unit officers to become more actively involved in the evaluation process. The QMP fostered unit cohesion and discouraged inflated ratings by the substitution of short narrative evaluations for numerical scores. The new evaluation system enabled selection boards to identify more accurately the best qualified NCOs for advanced schooling and promotion. A modified NCO-ER was introduced in the reserve components in FY 1988 and FY 1989.

High priority was given to NCO training and education as a requisite for promotion. By FY 1989 most facets of a revised NCO Education System that based advancement on satisfactory completion of a sequential mandatory education and training program were in place. The NCOES spanned the development of fire-team leaders in the Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC) to schooling for command sergeants major. Since NCOs were first-line supervisors, NCO training emphasized "training the trainers." Basic was acknowledgment of the NCO's crucial role in integrating individual and unit training and determining training plans and objectives. NCO training focused on how each training task developed wartime skills, or "battle competencies." The PLDC was the initial rung in the NCO educational ladder, a four-week resident course conducted at twenty-five regional NCO academies in the United States and overseas. Each academy followed a common curriculum with the aim of preparing promising corporals and specialists to be sergeants and team leaders. A requirement was adopted in FY 1988, effective FY 1990, that specialists and corporals must complete the PLDC before promotion to sergeant. In FY 1989 the Chief of Staff made the PLDC more performance oriented; classroom instruction was reduced from twenty-one to eight days, and the time devoted to hands-on training was increased. Many NCO academies lacked the capacity to train the large number of E-4s on selection lists. On 28 March 1989, the Chief of Staff modified promotion policy to allow E-4s nominated for promotion during FY 1989 to retain their eligibility for advancement to sergeant E-5 during FY 1990.

Completion of the PLDC was required for selection to a Basic NCO Course (BNCOC). A promotion policy change stipulated that, effective FY 1991, promotion to sergeant, first class, E-7 and selection to the Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Course (ANCOC) would be contingent on graduation from the basic course. For the combat arms, a five-week BNCOC was given at eighteen NCO academies in the continental United States, Hawaii, Alaska, and Panama. Combat BNCOCs prepared sergeants E-5 and staff sergeants E-6 to become squad and section leaders or tank commanders. For combat support and combat service support MOSes, the BNCOC was conducted at stateside branch service schools. During 1989 attendance rates stayed at 105 percent for the third consecutive year. The BNCOC lasted from 3 to 18 weeks, with 8 weeks the average, and had about 22,000 spaces and nearly 150 courses. The highest levels of NCO training were offered at the ANCOC and the Sergeants Major Academy. Late in FY 1989 the Army made the ANCOC, geared to producing platoon sergeants, mandatory for promotion to sergeant, first class, effective October 1990. The ANCOC was also required for promotion to master sergeant E-8.

Graduation from Sergeants Major Academy or an equivalent course was necessary to be appointed as a command sergeant major. In FY 1989 the Army selected 1,224 senior NCOs from approximately 5,000 candidates to attend the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, or an equivalent Air Force or Navy NCO school, or to enroll in the academy's two-year sergeant major correspondence course. A total of 945 NCOs attended one of Sergeants Major Academy's three classes scheduled in FY 1989, nearly twice the number selected in previous years when promotions were fewer to meet the lower NCO strengths mandated by Congress.

Other changes occurred in NCO personnel policies during FY 1989. Beginning 1 January 1989, the Army ended its long-standing practice of computing dates of rank (DOR) separately from effective promotion dates for the four highest NCO grades and made both dates the same. This system is comparable to the one employed to manage the officer corps. Limitations on the size and rate of NCO promotions extended to the lower enlisted ranks as well. At the start of 1989 new enlisted personnel policies curbed the growth of the E-4 population caused by the slower rate of NCO promotions. Advancement from private, first class (E-3), to specialist (E-4) and corporal was managed by MACOM commanders rather than the Total Army Personnel Agency, which controlled E-5 through E-9 promotions. Enlisted personnel with twenty-six months of service, six of them as E-3, were eligible for promotion to E-4. Accelerated promotion was permissible for soldiers with twelve to twenty-five months' service and three to five months as E-3, but was limited to 20 percent of a unit's E-4 strength.

The normal period for promotion from private E-1 to private E-2 was six months. Company commanders, however, had authority to reduce that period by two months for E-1s who demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities. Potential leaders were given opportunities to volunteer for extra training and placement in a fast track NCO leadership development program. In early 1989 the Army allowed commanders to award accelerated promotions to 10 percent of the E-1s within their commands, provided they successfully completed a fast track program or were satisfactorily progressing and had at least four months' service. In addition, the Army granted commanders authority to appoint specialist E-4s as corporals. This action required no local selection board, provided the selectees were assigned to NCO positions. Once appointed to corporal, enlisted personnel would retain their rank and insignia even if reassigned to a non-NCO position.

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