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Training our Future Leaders

Becoming a competent and skilled leader is a significant milestone for those in uniform. But to get to that point you must be rigorously trained, tested and assessed.

18 November, 2021

That’s exactly what happens at the 3rd Regional Training Wing (3RTW), Army Command School, which runs the Junior Non Commissioned Officer (JNCO) course - Lance Corporals (first promotion course).

The ten week long course takes place three times per year at both 2 and 3RTW and trains personnel from across the Army who have been selected by their chain of command because they exhibit the qualities required to be an effective leader. Senior Instructor, Warrant Officer Class Two Geoff Smith, 3RTW, says the modus operandi for the JNCO course is very simple.

“We are here to train our future leaders, so they are able to command, manage, lead and train their subordinates whether on operations or not. We’re looking for knowledge, skill, loyalty, initiative, responsibility, courage, endurance, and above all professionalism. These are the qualities that make up an effective JNCO,” ~ Warrant Officer Class Two Geoff Smith

What’s striking about the course is that it brings together a diverse group of personnel selected from a wide range of units and trades with varying experience and skills. The recently completed course in Burnham, qualified 19 personnel from Infanteers to Logisticians, Combat Engineers to a Musician and a Dental Assistant. The course demands that each individual works seamlessly to lead themselves, but more importantly they successfully transition from Lead Self to Lead Teams, in accordance with the NZDF Leadership Framework.

Soldiers group together at the Tekapo Military Training Area during Exercise Young Lion

The penultimate phase of the course was Exercise Young Lion, a ten-day deployment to the Tekapo Military Training Area. The scenario is designed to replicate a real-life operation, everything the soldiers learn in the classroom in the seven weeks prior is put into practice out in the field. Each individual must lead a section through complex and challenging scenarios, including Stability and Support Operations type tasks (Urban Patrolling, Vehicle Check Points), Clearance of Objectives, Quick Reaction Force, to name a few. All scenarios that the commanders find themselves in are designed by following some basic tenets: Shoot, Move, Communicate and Medicate.  

WO2 Smith’s description of a day on the exercise gives some insight into the planning, preparation and decisiveness that’s required to be a successful leader.

“The commander receives their task at 1700, they then go through the individual military appreciation process (decision-making process). At 1900, they back brief their instructor on their plan. From here they write up a set of Verbal Orders (detailed instructions to subordinates), detailing how they are going to achieve the mission. The following morning at 0700 they deliver their Verbal Orders to their section. The final part is the practical task where from 0800-1200 or 1300-1700, where they lead and command their section,” he said.

Soldiers in the field during Exercise Young Lion

Lance Corporal Luca Soares Gonzalez is one of the students who took part this year. He joined the Army in 2014 and is 2IC in Reconnaissance and Surveillance Platoon, 2nd/1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment. While on the course he discovered that working with people with all sorts of backgrounds was beneficial because it developed his leadership style.

“Learning how to take lessons in the classroom, more practical ones outside, and then with the field phase was good exposure on how to control a task and get it done. Prior to this, I’d never worked with such a different variety of trades and backgrounds, and in many respects that was the icing on the cake because that’s what developed me as a leader,” he said.

Lance Corporal Luca Soares Gonzalez (right) during Exercise Young Lion

LCPL Se Won Kim also joined the Army in 2014 and is a Section 2IC within 1 Platoon, Alpha Coy, 2nd/1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment. He discovered that there’s far more to leadership than just commanding a section.

“The exercise made me realise the pressure that our leaders face. They have to think about so much, it’s not just the task, they also need to take into account every individual’s needs to achieve the task and accomplish the mission,” he said.

Lance Corporal Se Won Kim during the field phase of the Junior Non Commissioned Officer (JNCO) course.

The course concluded with a March Out parade to officially mark the completion of their studies. Several awards were presented, to highlight particular students including LCPL Soares Gonzalez who received the Leadership Award. Voted by his student peer group, LCPL Kim received the Peers Award for displaying the attributes and core values of the NZ Army throughout the course, as well as the Instructor Excellence Award for gaining the highest aggregate marks in the delivery of both Mental and Physical Skills Instruction and Battle Handling Lessons. The award for Top Student was presented to LCPL Dovaston of Depot Coy, 2nd/1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment for the consistently high standards he displayed throughout the course.

WO2 Smith says that although some of the recently qualified JNCOs will find themselves back under the OP PROTECT umbrella, the biggest challenge will be ensuring that what they have learnt, is not lost over the coming months.

“Training within the units will begin at some stage and when this does, the JNCO rank level will become vital to the success of this period of regeneration,” he said.