In the early days pre-WWII most training was provided by officers at the unit level. In 1824 the “School of Practice” was established, from which the Artillery School at Fortress Monroe was developed teaching entire units; this school was closed 11 years later in 1835 due to conflict but was again reopened in 1858 by the 1870’s they were training NCO’s in reading, writing, math, geography and United States history. Post WWII the Army started realizing the need to for the specialty duties required of the occupation of trooper, the 88th Infantry Division established a training center.
The “Blue Devils,” in Venezie Giulia, Italy, then set out to develop a more professional noncommissioned officer by establishing the Lido Training Center in November 1945. The training center was not really a school, but a model battalion in which NCO’s lived by the Army standards for 6 weeks by 1947 the center had trained over 3,000 men the successful training was discontinued due to a unit move. But later in 1947 a theater wide Noncommissioned Officers Course was opened to train potential and young NCO’s in their basic duties and responsibilities but with course emphasis in basic subjects, supply, and administration. In early 1949 the Armor School at Fort Knox, KY developed the Noncommissioned Officers Course. Initially, the course was considered most comprehensive ever presented to noncommissioned officers it was initially four-month’s long thru the years other NCOA were introduce. At Gen Clark’s urging on 25 Jun 1957 the Army’s NCO Academy system was developed when the Department of the Army published its first regulation to establish standards for NCO Academies, Army Regulation 350-90, Noncommissioned Officer Academies. By 1958 there were 17 NCO Academies operating in the US.
In 1963 the idea of a NCO College was talked about and agreed upon by all 6 Armies but not acted on. The idea to establish a Sergeant Major Course in 1964 and 1965 but was dropped due to lack of funding and qualified instructors. Then in 1967 the Noncommissioned Officers Candidate Course (NOCC) was born. It was a 23-week course of intensive training that would qualify him to lead a platoon, then others can be trained to lead squads and fire teams in order to maximize the 2 year tour of a draftee.
NCOES Development On 26 October 1968 The Office of DCSPER published a memorandum outlining the Enlisted Grade Structure Management Project. The project would be done in 2 Phases from 68-69 outline a plane then 69-70 finalize coordination and publish directives. Force Renewal thru NCO Educational Development this would bring a three-level structure Basic, Advanced and Senior this would train NCOs and specialists for the level of responsibility in which they are to serve. As you can see in almost a 100 year span it has been an ongoing battle to establish a NCO Education System but things are progressing in a good way and NCO’s are being valued as key member of the team and leaders. NCOES The Basic Course was the first NCOES introduced thru pilot courses and finally rolled out to all Academies by late 1971. A big step in the NCOES system took place in January 1972 making all commandant positions at NCO Academies were officially designated as CSM positions giving the NCO’s control of the NCOES system in early 1972 the first Advanced Courses was taught and on July 15th 1972 the US Army Sergeants Major Academy at Ft Bliss, TX was developed to teach the Senior Course and finally on the 15th of January 1973, 105 students began Class #1 of the US Army Sergeants Major Course.
Although the current NCOPDS has gone thru numerous updates and revisions throughout its history it structure hasn’t changed much but it has established its functionality. The Army must decide what it really needs from its NCO Corp do they need leaders that can take charge of any situation and lead Soldier to victory or does it want to groom well educated NCO’s that can’t take charge and have little field experience. I quote General Martin E.
Dempsey “We cannot expect the imagination of combat-seasoned forces that have been in some of the most complex environments imaginable for almost a decade by sitting them in a classroom and bludgeoning them with PowerPoint slides. We must make the ‘scrimmage’ as hard as the ‘game’ in both institutional and at home situation.”