Army Eliminates Online Training Requirement for Noncommissioned Officers, Saying It's Too Burdensome

security halt at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
Sgt. Robert Fonner (left), a squad leader assigned to A Company, 29th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division discusses the next phase of their squad live fire exercise training lanes with his team leaders, Cpl. Kayttie Lambert (center) and Sgt. Jesus Quezada (right), during a security halt at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii on March 30, 2021. (Alan Brutus/U.S. Army)

The Army has eliminated a significant part of its online training for enlisted troops -- a learning program that has drawn the ire of the rank and file for years -- and in effect revamped how it handles enlisted promotions.

Effective immediately, the Distributed Leader Course, or DLC, is discontinued and will no longer be required, the service confirmed to on Wednesday after an internal briefing leaked to the Army Reddit forum. The roughly 40-hour courses were previously required for enlisted soldiers before they were authorized to attend a noncommissioned officer academy and eventually be promoted. All those courses added up to roughly 250 hours of training at a computer if a soldier completed all of them during their career.

The elimination of the DLC comes as the Army has shifted its requirements for noncommissioned officer promotions, removing barriers and tweaking schooling requirements. The DLC in particular has long been considered by many soldiers as overly burdensome, mostly due to it taking days or weeks to complete.

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"We are scrubbing everything we are asking our soldiers to study, because there is only so much time during the day to do your job, for your personal development, and for your family," Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Weimer said in a statement to "We have to do some subtraction to make sure what we are teaching in all those areas is quality, not quantity. We have not looked at all these requirements holistically in years."

Units have long struggled to juggle online training requirements with mission demands. The DLC generally focuses on teaching Army regulations but has a core focus on "soft" skills. Those skills are generally taught through scenario-based training and include properly counseling soldiers, handling sexual harassment cases, and deescalating tense situations a leader may find themselves in.

While those soft skills have been seen as more in demand for NCOs, both they and instruction on regulation are taught in NCO academies, which are at least a month long -- creating a redundancy and an enormous time investment. In practice, soldiers often click through a DLC course in a rush to get it completed as quickly as possible.

"We have added to the point of creating redundancies in distance learning, online learning, brick and mortar learning, self-study learning, what the units are teaching, what the leadership inside units are teaching, and we are overwhelming people," Weimer added.

The issue is compounded for National Guard and reserve soldiers. Completing such a long online course takes up a significant part of their training year, and units rarely have consistent access to computers and internet.

Meanwhile, the Army is in the midst of a total overhaul of how it promotes NCOs.

In June, the service is set to suspend its so-called temporary promotion system. That system, used since 2022, allowed NCOs to be promoted before going to the schools that correspond with a particular rank -- with a requirement that the soldier graduate the school within a year of the promotion.

The Army realigned which schools are required for each rank. For example, the Basic Leader Course used to be a school for promotion from specialist to sergeant; now, it is a requirement for promotion to staff sergeant. Promotion to sergeant no longer requires schooling.

The service is also offering fast-track promotions for recruiters as it grapples with a shallow pool of NCOs interested in the duty. In November, the Army enacted a policy automatically promoting sergeants who graduate the eight-week recruiting school, regardless of time in grade.

It's effectively the only instance in which the service has offered an automatic promotion exclusively for attending a school. Staff sergeants who volunteer for recruiting school and recruit 24 applicants during their first year on the job will be promoted to sergeant first class.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to better reflect the total number of hours for all DLC courses. 

Related: Temporary Promotions for Army Noncommissioned Officers to End in June

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