Soldiers learn leadership in virtual course

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Spc. Andrew Swindler, Spc. Lucas Miller, Cpl. Marc Andrews and Spc. Jamiia Gordon conduct physical readiness evaluations during the Basic Leader Course May 23 on Normandy Field. Two iterations of the course have been conducted for soldiers in the 15th MP Brigade at Fort Leavenworth while travel has been suspended. Because of COVID-19 precautions, in-person classes at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., have been suspended and replaced with local and distance learning. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Aimee Yasin/40th Military Police Battalion (Detention)

Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

Eleven corporals and specialists from the 15th Military Police Brigade will graduate from the Basic Leader Course June 12 after more than three weeks of distance learning.


Because of COVID-19, BLC classes at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., have been canceled until further notice. The first virtual class graduated May 8.


“(BLC) is a required primary military education for soldiers that will become (noncommissioned officers),” said course facilitator Sgt. 1st Class Aimee Yasin, 526th MP Company, 40th MP Battalion (Detention). “It is necessary for them to learn physical readiness training, squad drill, all those basic fundamentals that they’re going to need as they become an NCO.”
BLC goes over the fundamentals of leadership, training management, map reading, land navigation, drill and ceremony, and warfighting. It is the first leadership course a soldier must take before becoming an NCO.

Spc. Dawnsherri Jackson, Spc. Nicholas Dejarnett and Spc. Shelby Long conduct individual training during the Basic Leader Course May 5 on Fort Leavenworth. Two iterations of the course have been conducted for soldiers in the 15th MP Brigade at Fort Leavenworth while travel has been suspended. Because of COVID-19 precautions, in-person classes at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., have been suspended and replaced with local and distance learning. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Aimee Yasin/40th Military Police Battalion (Detention)


“As far as how the class is set up, I think it’s a lot better than what the students assumed it would be like,” said assistant facilitator Staff Sgt. Christian Garcia, 165th MP Company, 705th MP Battalion (Detention). “When they heard distance learning, they probably thought, ‘We’re going to be on the computer this whole time and all of our learning is just going to be through videos,’ and it hasn’t been the case at all.


“(Yasin and I) show them how to do the actual drills, so the soldiers are actually very gratified to know that they’re having live demonstrations rather than on the computer,” he said. “That way they get the movements down, get the techniques down, which is better for them. We get to train and critique before they are evaluated so they actually have a better understanding of how to do the skills.”


Participants said taking the course virtually is different, but no less informative.


“The course, overall, has been an enlightening experience,” said Cpl. Marc Andrews, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 705th Military Police Battalion (Detention). “It’s a bit different now (with distance learning), but it’s nice to come in here, come into a classroom with other specialists and corporals and really have some time to just pick each other’s brains and discuss what we’re doing in our organizations and how we’re bettering our teams and squads and organizations as a whole.

Spc. Cristina Dematteo, Sgt. Nathan Svidler, Sgt. Edwin Franco and Sgt. Joshua Barriga practice squad drills during the Basic Leader Course May 21 in the 40th and 705th Military Police Battalion (Detention) parking lot. Two iterations of the course have been conducted for soldiers in the 15th MP Brigade at Fort Leavenworth while travel has been suspended. Because of COVID-19 precautions, in-person classes at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., have been suspended and replaced with local and distance learning. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Aimee Yasin/40th Military Police Battalion (Detention)


“Once you get the hang of it and everybody is running on one accord, the virtual aspect of BLC is pretty easy,” he said.


Spc. Cristina Dematteo, 165th MP Company, 705th MP Battalion, said the class has been productive.


“It’s very to the point, giving us the meat and potatoes of what we need,” Dematteo said. “It’s not any less than what I would’ve expected. … (Our instructor) is just as efficient as he would’ve been if we’d been in the classroom.”


Andrews and Dematteo agreed that taking this first step toward becoming an NCO with the BLC gave them high hopes for their careers.


“I’ve been told by numerous leaders that I’ve had in previous organizations that they see me as a first sergeant somewhere, so I hope someday, somewhere, I can be the first sergeant of an MP company or a sergeant major,” Andrews said.


Dematteo said she hopes she can use what she’s learned from the course in her future career.


“There is no right or wrong way on how to lead soldiers. Obviously, there are book answers on what the right way is and what the wrong way is, but really, it’s just about having that trust and that connection with your team and being able to engage their trust or loyalty,” Dematteo said. “I hope … I can set an example for NCOs who are either doing things wrong or maybe not taking the best approach for things.”

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