FORT MCCOY, Wis. — Newly minted non-commissioned officers in the Army are now being told to "check their privilege" as part of a radical new form of training that would re-examine issues such as giving lawful orders, leadership skills and showing real competency in Army traditions and knowledge, Duffel Blog has learned.
"We're taking a drastic step to ensure that no one in the NCO corps would ever dream of feeling privileged to serve in it," Command Sgt. Maj. Garry L. Cole said, during the policy announcement last week.
The new philosophy of teaching the sometimes-grueling two-week Warrior Leadership Course (WLC) has seen both celebration and sharp criticism, according to Cole, who leads the program at Fort McCoy.
The change to the course stem from Specialist Clarissa Estes, who had effectively lobbied for the Army to address what she called “rank privilege,” as well as assignment of details and how to maintain the self-esteem of junior enlisted soldiers.
According to Estes, junior enlisted soldiers decided the NCO corps needed to have a better understanding of “race, gender, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, ability, religion, international status, and power differentials” prior to entering classroom discussions.
"Basically it boils down to you having a dick," Estes told Duffel Blog matter-of-factly.
“You can either go to a diversity talk, or you can go take the APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test). That was our orientation,” Estes said, of what she was hearing out of the most recent course this past April. "I mean sure, they all went rather than take a test that flagrantly discriminates and measures our ability to physically perform ... but did they really listen?"
Though Estes has been critical of the NCO corps, she also has empathy for soldiers who might only be realizing their privilege for the first time.
“If what we’ve been told since AIT (Advanced Individual Training) is that you’re a good leader and you deserve what you have, it’s going to be really hard to find out ’Maybe I don’t deserve it, and all these other people equally deserve it but never even had a shot,’ Estes said. “Because, well you know, merit and stuff.”