CAMP BUEHRING, KUWAIT –
It was nearly five years since a Basic Leader Course class graduated in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility until 16 students of class 401-23 graduated Dec. 21, 2022, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
This version of BLC was a “blended” course instructed by the 3rd Battalion 166th Regiment at both Camp Buehring and Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. The course consisting of 169 academic hours focusing on the six leader core competencies: readiness, leadership, training management, communication, operations, and program management.
"USARCENT restarting BLC in theatre is an outstanding opportunity for Compo 1, 2, and 3 (active, reserve, and national guard) junior Soldiers to complete required Professional Military Education during mobilization," said Brig. Gen. Thomas Vickers, Jr, commanding general of the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. "This course allows Soldiers to remain with their unit, their civilian job, and their families after mobilization rather than being asked to leave those entities immediately after a nine to 12-month deployment. This is a huge retention tool and win for the Soldier, unit, and the Army."
Of the 16 students in BLC Class 401-23, half the class was Soldiers from the Army National Guard. Most were from the 135th ESC in the Alabama National Guard.
"I had a (BLC) slot for when I got home, but this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up,” said Sgt. Caleb Wilson, 130th Field Artillery Regiment in the Kansas National Guard. “I didn't have to worry about returning home after nine months and taking another month away from my family."
The blended BLC is the result of a partnership between U.S. Army Central, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence (NCOLCOE), and the National Guard Bureau. Throughout the past year, these commands collaborated to develop the blended BLC concept which allows units to train future leaders while mobilized overseas.
"We are very grateful for the support of the 166th RTI for delivering the course content and running the course,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Disque, USARCENT Operation Senior Enlisted Advisor. “This is not a ‘virtual’ course. We have Assistant Instructors and Classroom leaders to ensure all training is conducted to standard and in the same manner as any NCO academy across the U.S. Army. The Soldiers trained at Camp Buehring will have the same professional and rigorous training as any Soldier in the U.S. Army."
The “hands-on” portion of the training consisted of physical readiness training and “drill and ceremony”, where students learned to march, inspect, and align a squad. The students also had to teach a skill level one task like land navigation or emergency medical treatment.
"Some Soldiers are in highly technical careers like networking and information technology, cyber and electronic warfare,” said Disque. “These skills are very in demand in the civilian world, and if we're making it a hard choice for Soldiers to continue to serve because they can't advance. It makes it an easy decision for them to get out. You can only have a people-first army with people."
"I'm glad they brought BLC back to Kuwait because we're already in this mindset from the deployment,” said Spc. Jaelyn C. Roberson, 135th ESC and BLC 401-23 Distinguished Honor Graduate. Roberson said she felt eager to learn because everything they taught in class was part of her daily life during her mobilization.
"The thing is, they're here, they're focused, they have the time, as long as the command can allow that soldier to be absent for those three weeks, it's a win for everybody,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Randall Pritts, Task Force Spartan. “It helps with their military education, and it helps with our retention."
BLC builds essential leader and trainer skills needed to lead a team-size element while providing the foundation for further development along the professional military learning continuum. Sixty-four Soldiers are scheduled to take the next class on Jan. 3, 2023. Six hundred students are projected to graduate from the course next year.