NCOs gain knowledge on being effective leaders

Story and photos by Brandon O’Connor Assistant Editor

March 7th, 2019 | In Focus, News
 Cohort 4 of the U.S. Military Academy Benavidez Leader Development Program graduated during a ceremony Feb. 21 in the Thayer Award Room. During the graduation ceremony, Sgt. 1st Class Carla Loy Song (above left), West Point Band plans and operations NCOIC, was presented with the inaugural Sgt. Maj. Christopher A. Nelms Award as the top graduate in the cohort.
 Cohort 4 of the U.S. Military Academy Benavidez Leader Development Program graduated during a ceremony Feb. 21 in the Thayer Award Room. Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston, U.S. Army Forces Command, was guest speaker at the event.

Cohort 4 of the Benavidez Leader Development Program graduated following a three-week course Feb. 21.
The program, which included one week of classes at the U.S. Military Academy and two weeks of classes at Teacher’s College at Columbia University, teaches non-commissioned officers, and in particular TAC NCOs, how to be more effective leaders.
While most of the cohort was made up of TAC NCOs, the class also included NCOs from the West Point Band, U.S. Army Special Operations Command and one NCO from the Coast Guard Academy. The course is designed to be a more concise version of the course West Point TACs undergo before taking command of a cadet company.
“This class was used to bridge the gap between us and our officer counterparts,” Sgt. 1st Class Jonah Heard, company G-4 TAC NCO, said. “It gave us the opportunity to learn meanings to terms as far as leadership and coaching go. The course gave us the key terms and definitions we needed and tips to reinforce what we knew and develop us more as leaders.”
During the graduation ceremony, Sgt. 1st Class Carla Loy Song, West Point Band plans and operations NCOIC, was presented with the inaugural Sgt. Maj. Christopher A. Nelms Award as the top graduate in the cohort. The award is named for a member of BLDP cohort 1 who died during a training accident in Laurinburg, North Carolina in July.
The award was presented by Col. Everett Spain, head of the Behavioral Sciences and Leadership department, and Stephanie Nelms, Sgt. Maj. Nelms’ wife.
“After hearing Sgt. Maj. Christopher Nelms’ story, because I didn’t realize this was the first award they had given, I felt much more the weight of the honor bestowed on me,” Loy Song said. “It means a lot because of the legacy he has left behind.”
The graduation ceremony featured a talk by Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston, U.S. Army Forces Command, who spoke about striving for excellence as a leader through your actions.
The BLDP course teaches NCOs about leader development, coaching and mentorship of those they lead and group dynamics within an organization.
“In every class that was taught throughout the course, I attempted to relate the topic to my own personal situation in the workplace and I was able to get something from everything,” Loy Song said. “Whether that was understanding how others developed where they are in their lives to better understanding how to lead them effectively and take them from where they are to where they want to be. It was really interesting, impactful and relevant to what I do on a regular basis.”
Whether it was learning the definitions of terms such as mentorship and coaching or taking time to self-evaluate his own skills as a leader and how much room he still has to grow, Heard said the three-week course laid a foundation he will be able to build upon as he continues to strive to better his leadership abilities.
“My biggest takeaway is to never stop learning and stop enhancing your own leadership style. It is easy to rest on your laurels and accomplishments and think you have it figured out. At the end of the day, this course showed there is still a lot of leadership left to learn,” Heard said. “It helped me develop my leadership style a little bit more and it can be applied to everything I do from this point forward.”