Friday, May 27, 2016

Texas State Guard Basic Non-Commissioned Officer Course

BNOC is required of all non-commissioned officers seeking promotion from E-5 (“buck” sergeant) to E-6 (staff sergeant), in my case from Petty Officer 2nd Class to Petty Officer 1st Class.  The training is offered online, but I elected to take the live classroom presentation specifically because it is delivered by the US Air Force Joint Base San Antonio Leadership School at Lackland AFB.  That course was recommended to me by one of the Master Gunnery Sergeants in TMAR, the Texas Maritime Regiment of the Texas State Guard. The class exceeded my expectations.

In all, we had seven different presenters. Each was an expert in one or more fields, but all were instructors at the school and each had volunteered to work with us, in addition to their regular duties.

One of the Many Sights to See at Lackland AFB

The lectures were generally interactive. Questions were always encouraged. On the second day, we had more live exercises.  In many ways, these were similar to other management classes, a comment made, also, by one of my classmates who is working on another master’s degree, this one in administration. The focus, however, was on the military. Some of it was a bit foreign to the TXSG. Although about half of us are prior federal service, what we do seems to draw little from the Warrior Ethos. We take care of people.  However, in our battle books, taken from standard military reporting forms, we do list an enemy: the hurricane, flood, or wildfire. The introductory lecture pointed out that depression is an intangible enemy.
  • Are leaders born or made?
  • What are the characteristics of a good leader?
  • What are the characteristics of a good follower?

Another Sight to See at Lackland AFB, 
Gateway to the Air Force

We explored the interactions between leaders and followers as we learned about contingency theory, skills theory, and transformation theory. We inventoried intrinsic and extrinsic values.
  • What is personal power?
  • What is positional power?
  • What a referential leader? 
  • How can you increase or decrease power? 
  • If all else fails, can you play Rock, Scissors, Stripes?

We learned about Vision Statements and Mission Statements and were encouraged to look up the ones written by and for our own commands.

Team dynamics is an ongoing process involving interaction of individuals (within a team) to achieve a desired result.
Straight out of management theory we were presented with the six stages of a project: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, (Adjourning), and Transforming.  That transformation occurs to the team, its wider organization, and to the individual members of the team.

Everyone else in the class seemed pretty sure that we were a team because we had the same goal, passing the class.  I was not so sure.  For one thing, if that sergeant over there did not take good notes, if she let it go in one ear and out the other, I could still pass the class. More to the point, the set and setting did not provide either a motive or an opportunity to help that other noncom to be successful in this class.  It was a problem that I slept on.

Of course, we explored out own personality types. This class used the “True Colors” or “Four Lenses” temperament theory proposed by Don Lowry, which is apparently based on the Myer-Briggs.  I came out Green: independent, non-conforming, head over heart, data-driven, non-decisive, curious, complex, abstract, and logical. When we Greens created a poster to show our type, we started with an ice cube at the lower left taken by an arrow to a lightbulb at the upper right. Between them were the Starship Enterprise and CDR Spock, a broken heart, and a computer. “Ah!” the instructor said, “you Greens do not have feelings.” Oh, we have feelings, our leader replied. “We just don’t care about yours.”

Making Friends: Two of us were from TMAR

Then we had to devise a no-smoking campaign targeted at our opposites, the feely-squishy Blues.  “No one else is smoking,” we said. “And when you die, you will make everyone else sad.”

Coming back to Earth, we discussed the Oath of Enlistment and the Non-Commissioned Officer’s Creed, and how they define the core values of the profession of arms.

Finally, we debated several either-or propositions, such as “What happens TDY [temporary duty] stays TDY.”  At first we thought of the analogy to Las Vegas, but do we keep commendations secret? We also examined ethical traps such as relativism and the loyalty syndrome.
This was the most professional set of presentations that I have had in the Texas State Guard. My wife thought that I was there to teach. Explaining to her that I was there as a student, referring to the instructors, I called them professors.


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