BNCOC stands for Basic Non-Commissioned Officer Course. It’s the second level of the Army’s NCO Education System (NCOES), designed for new staff sergeants (E-6) and sergeants-promotable (E-5). In common parlance, it’s pronounced “bee-nock,” even though a more correct (and more embarrassing) verbalization would be “bin-cock.” I use that sometimes, and nobody ever understands what I’m talking about.

BNCOC is divided into two or three phases. The first phase – Common Core – is, just as the name implies, common to soldiers of all jobs. It’s a two week course, designed to teach the basics of being an intermediate-level NCO. The second (and third, if applicable) phase is job-specific – a seperate course for each MOS. Some are short – three weeks for infantryman BNCOC – and some, like mine, are long, to the tune of sixteen (16) weeks. God bless the Signal Corps!

I was lucky enough to get home field advantage and be able to take phase I at Camp Ripley. It’s nice to not have to get on a plane to go to one of these things – if nothing else, it means I can bring as much crap as I want. Also, it’s nice to be on familiar ground. I went to Iraq before I went to ol’ Ripley, but I’ve become quite friendly with the place in the years since.

I arrived last night, even though I didn’t have to report until this morning. I figured I could get settled in, roll out of bed, and get inprocessed with little fuss. That much was true, but the ridiculously generous reporting time (any time between 0900 and 1100! see you in class at 1300!) meant that I could’ve basically gone on a bender last night and staggered into camp at 1030 this morning AND napped off the booze before showing up for class.

The whole introduction process was rather casual, as befits a Minnesota National Guard operation. I’m pretty glad the majority of the class is composed of locals (the few outsiders are Midwesterners), because I was almost embarrassed by the Minnesota-nice-ness of it all. At inprocessing, I expected to be greeted by a leathery old female admin NCO with a gravelly smoker’s voice, croaking “Next Sergeant!” at the line of gray-clad students. Instead, it was a couple of cute younger NCOs (wearing the North Star patch of STARC, naturally – where does the state find these women?) who helpfully called, “I can help the next person!” The new Army, indeed.

The rest of the day was spent on introductions, paperwork, and reviewing course objectives and expectations. A surprising amount of time was dedicated to discussing the many fine amenities of Camp Ripley (fitness center, bike rentals, PX, snack bar) and the rules governing our off-duty time. Nothing sets the mood for serious study like covering the all-important recreation time up front!

The study, however, seems curiously unserious – at least when looking over the training schedule. Tomorrow we will spend five hours on the topics of Equal Opportunity (yes, a proper noun – it’s an entity unto itself and must be named) and the Army’s sexual assault prevention program. Hard hitting topics for leaders in an Army at war!