Big changes for PME: Report cards, GPAs and more

The Army is overhauling its PME, making classes tougher and more performance-based. Coming soon, soldiers will be graded on their work and maintain a grade-point average in their record. Soldiers will also be ranked by class — good news if you’re smart, bad news if you struggle with your studies.The Army is also looking to include a writing assessment before every professional military education course.

Source: Big changes for PME: Report cards, GPAs and more

I’m not entirely sure the emphasis on writing is what’s really needed for the NCO education system. It smacks of changing the syllabus for the sake of change. Some of the other changes make a lot of sense (such as dropping the silly “Warriors Leader Course” title in favor of Basic Leader Course. The Army goes through these occasional fads where everything gets named Warrior this or Warrior that. Or playing Lee Greenwood at every damn event.

At any rate, for a generation, the Army has tied promotion to successful completion of NCO education, usually via a resident course that lasts 4-6 weeks. And the courses were, in fact, quite valuable training, giving the NCO insight into the tasks they’d be expected to perform, not so much as a tactical or technical sense, but on the administrative side, or training management.

Unfortunately, the operational tempo of Iraq and Afghanistan led to units not willing to send NCOs to school during the training cycle before a deployment (and most certainly not during the deployment). That led to waivers for education, and meant some NCOs were less than wholly qualified for their positions. Coupled with shorter time in grade averages, that dumbed down the NCO corps somewhat. The Army has a challenge bringing that standard back up.

8 thoughts on “Big changes for PME: Report cards, GPAs and more”

  1. Of course, because your writing skill is WAY more important than teaching your troops about tracking, booby-traps,shot placement, camouflage and concealment, than anything else…

  2. Color me skeptical. I have now seen the same course packaged as Primary Non Commissioned Officers Course, Primary Leadership Development Course, Warrior Leader Course and now Basic Leader Course. On a good note, I’ve been doing the army thing since 1986, and I now know why our writing sucks.

  3. Depending on which instructor you asked, I was in either the last PLDC or the first WLC class at the school at Ashland. I seem to remember about a paragraph and a half about “writing in the Army voice” or something along those lines. Being able to write well would seem to go along with skill in communication but I don’t know how well it carries over into real world day to day troop leading. I was pleasantly surprised by the course and honestly learned a lot more than I expected to.

    1. Speaking as someone who had a special interest in technical writing in college, it may enhance the ability to think quickly & clearly. One of the expectations I faced was the frequent need to write something in class now in a clear & effective manner. You learn how to cut down to the essentials (while determining what is essential) and communicate them clearly and effectively.

      It was in many ways a lot more fun than “creative” writing. More challenging too.

  4. Here is why writing clearly is important. Unfortunately, many of our most effective leaders come across looking like buffoons in writing. One of my brother’s favorite stories of his time in the army was on being counseled by one of his NCOs on his “lack of integurty” to which he wrote down words to the effect that he was not sure if he had “integurty” but was sure of his integrity, signed it and gave it back.

  5. Here’s a thought: Kill NCOES as it now exists in its entirety. You can’t fix FUBAR, you can just start over.

    As presently constituted, the NCOES system tries to give a “one over the world” on a bunch of subjects like effective writing and communication that really need a lot more time and depth. You’re not going to fix a piss-poor civilian education in the limited amount of time you’ve got in any standard military education course. What we should be doing is using the already-existing infrastructure, the Army Education Centers, and doing real assessments of people’s academic skills, tied into promotions. Can’t read and write (realistically tested) at a standard high school level? Sorry–You’re not making Sergeant. Use some of your own time (and, some military time, as well–But not all of it. Some of this stuff should be fixed on your own time as self-improvement).

    The military leadership schools ought to be used solely for leadership and military-unique subject matter. I’d go so far as to say that there ought to be a requirement to prove you can run a fire team effectively in a tactical scenario before you make Sergeant; a squad for Staff Sergeant, and a platoon for Sergeant First Class. If I look out over a random selection of NCOs and troops, I should be able to rely on the fact that their stripes match their skill levels. And, if not? They don’t wear them. I honestly think that we need to decouple rank from pay and non-military specific specialized skills, and set it up so that you only wear the rank of the specific level at which you’ve proven your ability to lead. I’d have no problem with a highly-paid mechanic who ran a motor pool administratively, but never rose above the level of Sergeant in terms of tactical leadership. Let him get his high pay, and give him the respect he deserves for being a mechanic, but by God, do not put combat leader rank on his collar unless he can step up to the plate and fill the shoes of a tactical leader at that level. I’d encourage him to be able to do that, but it isn’t a necessity, and the situation shouldn’t be such that we pin SFC on the guy just because that’s what a Motor Sergeant rates–Especially if he’s ‘effing clueless, tactically.

    Use the money and time for NCOES to do leadership assessments and actual training for those that don’t do this stuff routinely. Leave the admin crap where it belongs–Taught by professionals who know their subjects. When I went to PLDC, BNCOC, and ANCOC, I got so damn tired of hearing the small group instructors constantly using the refrain “Well, I don’t know much about this, but here’s the ELO, and maybe we can work through this together…”. Yeah. Some guy who barely managed to get a GED is going to assess my writing skills, when I’m writing at a college level already? Two questions, here–Why am I having to waste my time with this, when I could be out doing professionally-related tasks, and how is this barely literate SGL going to legitimately help me improve my writing? WTF?

    Stuff like writing and math skills should be taught in an academic environment, by professionally qualified individuals who know how to teach. Period. Let that SGL do what he knows best, which is teach and evaluate military tasks, presumably. The idea that he’s going to be helping fix someone’s damn inability to write a coherent witness statement describing a serious incident? Laughable. Why waste the time? Test the NCO candidate before attendance at the military school, and if he can’t pass the academic requirements, point his ass at the Education Center. If he doesn’t fix his academic issues, he shouldn’t be wearing stripes in the first place.

    I would make it possible, however, for select individuals whose educational backgrounds were deficient to fix their issues on Army time. However, that would have to be done on a merit-based system, where if they don’t do the work, they don’t continue on with the program. The ASVAB improvement classes might be a model for this, but I would want to see some serious improvement in the way its done. A lot of people, unfortunately, enter the Army with really poor civilian educations. They’re smart enough, but uneducated, for whatever reason. I’d give them the opportunity to fix that, but not on a “make a career out of going to GT improvement” basis.

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