By Spc. Roland Hale, PAO eCAB, 1st Inf. Div.
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - An Army aviation brigade deployed to Iraq has created a seven-day program designed to develop the full spectrum of leadership skills for future noncommissioned officers.
The program, known as the Demon Academy, was created by the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. The first class of students began at the academy on Nov. 14, and several more classes are scheduled to be held before the brigade leaves Iraq this spring.
Soldiers attending the academy are taught and mentored in both combat and noncombat aspects of military leadership. Classes include physical fitness, communication skills, resiliency training, risk management, weapons training, leadership philosophies, map reading, and military history.
The academy is the first step many of these soldiers will take in the NCO Education System (NCOES), a series of schools implemented to develop NCOs' leadership skills throughout their careers. Classes at the Demon Academy are specifically tailored to prepare junior leaders for the Warrior Leader Course, the first official school in the NCOES.
"Our NCO corps is the best in the world of any military," said Master Sgt. Harvey Player, the NCO in charge of the academy. "There has to be an education system so that NCOs can continue to lead and improve."
Most of the students hold the rank of specialist and are preparing for promotion to the rank of sergeant, the first rank of the NCO corps. Some of the students, however, already have experience as leaders.
"This course is a good way to re-energize and refocus," said Sgt. Seth Poulin, a student at the academy. "It gives us a chance to get back on track with the whole leader concept of not just leading in combat, but taking care of your subordinates and their families, as well."
Days start early at the academy for Poulin and the other students. The first block of training begins before sunrise with an hour of physical training, followed by several blocks of classroom and hands-on instruction.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Gilliland, an instructor and small group leader at the academy, said that the program is essential in preparing junior leaders for promotion.
"A day in this course is absolutely great," said Gilliland. "This is the first step in their NCO career, and something like this can set the tone for the rest of their career."
The classes changed the meaning of military leadership for Spc. Steven Switzer, who before attending the academy had planned to leave the enlisted ranks to become a commissioned officer.
"I was thinking about becoming an officer, but I'm not sure about that after being in this course and seeing the NCO side," said Switzer. "Even if I do become an officer, I want to get the experience as an NCO first; I want to have the direct impact on soldiers that an NCO can have."
"Coming up through the ranks you always remember that one NCO who you want to strive to be like," said Switzer. "This course teaches you how to be that NCO."