NCOES is becoming increasingly more difficult than in the past and it also weighs much heavier on your career. I want to share with you some tips and observations from my attendance Sep-Oct 2019.
Phase I is part of your overall score for the resident (phase II) portion. Some of the NCOs attending my course had completed the Phase one distance learning portion years prior and just hadn't been able to get into the resident portion for whatever extenuating circumstances. Many of them had no idea what their score from the distance learning portion was and how it was going to affect their overall course grade. This was something that stressed several people out and led to disqualification for commandant's list for several people.
When I went through you had to achieve a 90/90/90 for the APFT and a 90 or greater in Phase II assignments. The Phase I grade was averaged into your overall score at the end of Phase II. The PT portion alone disqualified most people. The grades got the rest. There were ZERO NCOs on the commandant's list for my class.
Essay writing was conducted in the classroom on the computer. The topic was drawn out of a hat by the senior SGL the morning of the essay so there was no foot stomping or hints leading up to the essay like most courses. Everything taught was a possible topic for the SAE.
The essays were done on the student laptops and each student had to log into a lockout browser that would terminate your test if you attempted to open another browser, pull up another program or app, etc.. You had a very small 3" x 5" window to type your essay in. This window does not spell check for you and will not tell you any errors or how to fix them automatically. There is a spell check function but it will not show you the correct version or autocorrect the mistake. When you run the spell check function, it will underline the incorrectly spelled word in red and as soon as you click on the work, all red marks will go away. This means you will have to know how to spell a word yourself or choose another word to write. In addition, each misspelled word or grammar error received a deduction of points with a cap. We were told that there is no cap for point deduction in MLC. This means no more "control F" for your tests.
There was a new collaborative Phase III in which we worked with the ALC course to run MDMP, and execute a strategic maneuver using simulation.
We were told that it was completely normal to not have anyone on the commandant's list or Distinguished Honor Graduate.
We were the first cycle to receive the new DA 1059. Did not meet standard was automatically given to anyone who scored less than 70 on essays.
We had an opportunity to ask the Senior SGL, 1SG, and SGM why they graded so heavily on things like spelling and asked how it was practical when we generally always have access to a spellcheck. The response we received was NCOES is now designed to shape NCOs to fill the gaps of the CSM population today. Current CSMs display inability to brief and write causing the Army to waste significant money on hiring civilian counterparts to do the work for them or be there to proof their work.
Spell check may not be available at all in the future as we were told and MLC is even more focused on APA, grammar, spelling, and writing. This is greatly because you will now receive a degree upon completion of the SGM Academy. In order for the Army to do this, they must meet the standards of the civilian school system.
We were also told point blank that NCOES is now a way to weed out Soldiers. The increased standards make it more difficult to pass, and by their point of view leave less room for incompetency in our senior leaders. A problem that was communicated to us was that Sergeants Major, when interviewing for GO billet positions, were able to orally articulate and brief what makes them the right person for the job very well. When they landed the position though, they did not have the education or ability to communicate effectively in writing to pass the mark as they should in the position. Because of their failure in this aspect, the standards were increased in NCOES to fill the gap. You have to be well rounded, not only in positions that you serve, but also interpersonal, oral, and written communication.
I sincerely hope this helps some upcoming NCOS. Good luck team.