CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait –
Major changes to the Army’s Basic Leader Course (BLC) have created a better format of learning for 21st century Soldiers.
The Army implemented changes to its BLC, Aug. 1, 2018, to teach future leaders about leadership through each Soldiers’ experiences. These changes were on full display during BLC at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Jan. 28 to Feb. 19, 2019.
Command Sgt. Maj. Dan Churchman is commandant for BLC at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, and has been in the Army for 36 years with 23 of those years spent on active duty. He served as a BLC commandant for three years at Fort Carson, Colorado, prior to this assignment. He believes this new system will allow instructors to teach Soldiers in a more effective manner.
“The changes being made to BLC are seismic; it is the biggest adjustment to the foundational level NCO (noncommissioned officer) course since 1976,” said Churchman.
Basic Leader Course is designed to build the skills necessary to lead a team-size element. The new BLC program of instruction (POI) focuses more on the six leader core competencies, those competencies are readiness, leadership, training management, operations, program management and communications.
“Communications is where the new curriculum focuses a lot of time and energy,” said Churchman.
Changes also include making BLC into a skill level two focused course rather than skill level one. This means the curriculum is geared toward learning how to train Soldiers on exercises such as land navigation and other situational training exercises (STX). On top of basic leadership, the new BLC is designed to teach Soldiers critical thinking skills, creativity, problem solving and resiliency.
Churchman believes these changes were long overdue and is excited to see the results.
“The real course is much more focused on adult learning theory and the ability to rely on student experiences,” said Churchman. “The new BLC POI is bringing leadership back into leader development.”
Rather than learning via PowerPoint slides, the Soldiers now learn through each other in small group leader-(SGL) led discussions. This method is more engaging and allows Soldiers to be interactive. It also allows instructors to teach in a way that reaches Soldiers with different learning styles.
“The Army has come to realize that adult learning is much different than directive learning, and that’s the biggest change you will see,” said Churchman. “Collaborative learning, learning from each other, the experiences, the talents, the things that you know, are how people learn.”
Leadership has been in the Army since its founding in 1775. The six leadership core competencies will help future NCOs better understand what leadership is and how it is applied.
“The commodity with which we deal with in the Army is really leadership,” said Churchman. “We’re all about getting here to there and how we go about doing that, doctrinally, and all the models. Some of these things we have been doing for decades upon decades however, we need to actually identify what leadership is all about, and we need to grow leadership capabilities and competencies.”
This was Staff Sgt. Daniel Kantorowicz’s first cycle as a SGL here. However, he spent that time observing other SGLs and taking time to learn the new method so he can effectively train Soldiers in the next cycle. By thinking like a student, Kantorowicz will have a better understanding on how he needs to approach a class and how he conducts himself to ensure Soldiers are trained properly.
“Putting myself in the students’ shoes, it allows me to better understand what is expected of me,” said Kantorowicz. “I study all the lesson plans prior to giving the instruction because if I don’t understand as an instructor, how am I supposed to teach? How are they supposed to look up to me as a NCO?”
Small group leaders are in charge of teaching Soldiers about leadership. Through the new style of BLC, they can be more effective through hands-on learning and more leadership building activities. These activities can include balancing a metal rod a few inches off the ground or developing a plan to build a tower of cards.
“We have these classroom activities that may seem simple at first glance however, when Soldiers try to do it their own way, the simple task can’t be accomplished,” said Kantorowicz. “Without teamwork and someone stepping up to be that leader, the task is impossible. They learn to not only take orders from each other, they learn how to step up and lead to accomplish the mission.”
Growing up in a military family, Kantorowicz knows how good leadership is characterized and wants to see nothing less from his Soldiers.
“I have seen good leadership and bad leadership,” said Kantorowicz. “Since I am in this position, I only want to see them become a good leader.”