Story and photo by Spc. Robert J. Holland
3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
Ninety Soldiers squeezed into the small battalion conference room, eyes focused on Command Sgt. Maj. Edwin A. Rivera as he spoke to the group about being a leader in today’s Army.
“You cut yourself short when you make the wrong decision,” said Rivera, senior enlisted leader, 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. “You are it; you are the ones coming behind us; you are the future. You know that, right?”
Numerous “hooahs” echoed throughout the room in response. The Soldiers are students in the second annual Blackjack Academy, which ran April 15-19.
“That is why we have these classes,” Rivera said. “To teach you the basics, the fundamental skills you need to be successful.”
Sgt. 1st Class Danny Miller, assistant operations sergeant, Head-quarters and Headquarters Troop, 4th Sqdn., 10th Cav. Reg., said the battalion-created training program helps develop senior specialists and newly-promoted noncommissioned officers to become effective Army leaders.
“The Blackjack Academy mirrors an NCO academy-type format,” Miller said. “The Soldiers improve their military and community knowledge, gain an understanding of operational processes, ways to conduct formal and informal business and how to properly interact with other Soldiers.”
The Soldiers participate in 26 different classes, ranging from properly dispatching a military vehicle to properly taking advantage of various community programs on Fort Carson.
Sgt. Kyle Ort, cavalry scout, Troop A, 4th Sqdn., 10th Cav. Reg., said he found the training beneficial.
“The classes are really helpful,” Ort said. “The instructors are teaching skills that we all need in order to be successful leaders.”
The program is evolving, Miller said.
“I think we improved this year’s academy,” he said. “We added classes that familiarized the Soldiers with Army finance, wellness and resilience, as well as having guest speakers from outside agencies like the Colorado State Police, the Army Substance Abuse Program and Army Community Service.”
Miller said the newly added classes were popular among the Soldiers, and Ort agreed.
“For me, the best two classes were the Army Physical Readiness Training Program instructional class and the Fort Carson Wellness Center familiarization class,” Ort said. “I really did not know all that much about PRT, and the Tactical Athlete Program instructors did an amazing job at walking us through the proper way of doing PRT.”
Miller said a large number of the battalion Soldiers are not aware of these programs, or if they were, they were afraid to use them.
“We wanted to help our Soldiers know what is available to them, as well as to their Families, so that they could better themselves and their Families, provide a better product at work and also be able to lead their subordinate Soldiers more effectively,” he said.
Miller said he considered this year’s academy a success, and is excited to begin developing and enhancing next year’s program, with hopes to better serve the “Blackjack” Soldiers and their Families.