Last Updated: 18 September, 2015
PART ONE: INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) has a long and proud history of training the British Army’s future officers. And, although commissioned officers and civilian tutors provide the academic skills demanded by a modern military organisation, the British Army (uniquely) delegates the job of delivering military skills to its Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs).
These SNCOs, collectively known as the Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructor Cadre, are highly trained, dedicated and professional individuals who help to train and shape the British Army’s leaders of the future. Just being nominated for the role can be an achievement in itself, as competition can be fierce. From nomination to selection the process can take up to 3-years for some individuals.
Potential Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors’ will undergo a tough training and selection process to realise their ambition to become a trainer at the British Army’s world famous and highly respected officer training academy. This process can be viewed as a number of stages:
- Stage 1: Application, and commendation, for the role of SNCO Instructor;
- Stage 2: Completion of mandatory training courses;
- Stage 3: Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors’ Pre-Cadre Course; and
- Stage 4: Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors’ Cadre Course.
A number of Corps and Regiments have a strong tradition of sending individuals to the RMAS as SNCO Instructors, and have developed support processes for these aspirants. For example, the Royal Corps of Signals has a well-established process for the development of individuals who aspire to be trainers at the RMAS (The Wire, 2015) and it is a proven career path; this is in contrast to the Royal Engineers in which it is an unproven career path.
Like other military training courses, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Assistant Instructors’ Cadre has witnessed a number of iterations, with a major redesign of the course in 2008 (Tyler, 2008) and a title change in 2014 to reflect the greater integration between the Regular Army and Army Reserve; with the new title being ‘The Sandhurst Group Senior Non Commissioned Officer Instructors’ Cadre’ which will be used throughout this article.
This article has been written for the wider audience (i.e. the General Public) rather than specifically for military personnel. Its purpose is to provide insight into the general process for training and selecting candidates who wish to become the British Army’s trainers to the next generation of officers. Current military personnel who desire precise information on the process for training and selecting Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors’ should look at the useful documents section below.
2.0 The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
The RMAS is part of ‘The Sandhurst Group’ which was created in January 2012 to unite Regular Army and Army Reserve officer selection, initial training and alumni. The Group consists of:
- The Officers’ Training Corps;
- The Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB);
- The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS); and
- The Sandhurst Trust.
More than 80% of officer cadets at the RMAS are university graduates, but some arrive with A-levels or equivalents (approximately 90% domestic, 10% female and 10% overseas). Others are serving soldiers who have been selected for officer training, and some come from overseas, having been chosen by their own country’s army to train at the world famous Academy. People cannot undertake training at their own private expense.
Training at RMAS covers military, practical and academic subjects, and while it is mentally and physically demanding, there is also plenty of time set aside for sport and adventurous training.
The Commissioning Course for Regular Army officers is 48-weeks long, including recess periods, starting in January, May and September of each year. There are three terms (Junior, Inter and Senior), with each being three months. Each intake numbers approximately 200 officer cadets, each of whom is assigned to a platoon within one of two companies.
Platoons are commanded by Captains (OF-2), with a Colour/Staff Sergeant (OR-7) who takes the main burden of day-to-day training, especially during the first term (uniquely, the RMAS entrusts the majority of officer training to SNCOs). The training team consists of SNCOs and officers from all different cap badges representing their Corps/Regiments. There can be as many as ten companies within the RMAS at any one time, each commanded by a Major (OF-3) and named after a famous battle or campaign in which the British Army has fought.
The Army Reserve course is shorter, as is the training course RMAS offers military personnel with professional qualifications in areas such as law and medicine.
More on the initial training of the British Army’s officers can be found here.
2.1 Don’t Leave Leadership Development Entirely to Trainers
As suggested by Dr Ian Stewart (who was a member of Sandhurst’s academic staff for 18 years) and David Mellor (Client Director at Cass Executive Education) (2013, p.4):
“At Sandhurst, the training and development of cadets is not left to generalist trainers or facilitators. Carefully chosen men and women skilled in the organisation’s core activity – war fighting – serve as instructors and role models. There are some exceptions. Where specialist knowledge is required, specialists – academics, medics, lawyers etc – provide that input.
The effect is to pass on not only the required skills and know-how, but also to role-model leadership behaviours. Many of the key instructors are non-commissioned officers, who the cadet will out-rank the day he is commissioned, but, during his training, will pass on key military skills as well as providing the soldier’s viewpoint.
This blend of practitioner leaders, technical operators and subject matter experts to teach novice leaders ensures the quality, relevance and credibility of the training, a lesson for those commissioning developmental interventions in the commercial world.”
If you would like to read about the other principles: Lessons in leadership, Principle 04
3.1 The Role of a Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructor
The role of a Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructor is to teach and develop (common military skills and leadership qualities respectively) to the British Army’s next generation of officers. SNCO Instructors fulfil this role by delivering military skills (through the common military syllabus), weapons training and values-based leadership. As such SNCO Instructors will perform a number of functions to fulfil this role, which include (Roberts, 2015):
- Be responsible for the delivery of a 12 month common military syllabus to male and female officer cadets in order to serve as future leaders of the British Army.
- Teach methods of instructions both outdoors (on field exercises) and indoors (in the classroom environment).
- Be responsible for the progression of students through formative and summative assessment on a range of military subjects.
- Aid in the development of officer cadets through the application of coaching and mentoring techniques.
- Instruct and assess live firing marksmanship and live firing tactical training.
- Produce detailed written reports and appraisals in order to monitor individual progression and provide feedback.
- Teach officer cadets the principles behind the planning and execution of missions, incorporating best practice to teach their counterparts and subordinates (aka train the trainer).
- Teach the concepts and application of threat awareness, conflict management and personnel management.
Two examples of jobs fulfilling this role include:
- Instructor in the Dismounted Close Combat Wing (DCCW) (Gurung, 2014): previously known as the Skill at Arms Wing (Spiers-King, 2009), this is where instructors teach platoon weapons, run ranges and assist in the training of officer cadets on exercise.
- Platoon Colour Sergeant in the College: considered the more challenging and time consuming role (Spiers-King, 2009). The Colour Sergeant acts as the second in command to the Platoon Commander, a Captain (OF-2). “This relationship in itself is critical and a sound working relationship is a must in order to deliver the best training to the Officer Cadets.” (Spiers-King, 2009, p.130).
The training programme is packed and as a result a proportion of instruction is delivered out of hours, but this is where an instructor’s character and method of delivery are key in order for their Platoon to progress at the set standard (Spiers-King, 2009).
SNCO Instructors may also become team members on small training teams that deliver training (domestically and internationally) to a variety of nations “that have forged strong alliances, not just with the British Army, but specifically RMAS.” (Spiers-King, 2009, p.130).
3.2 Who Can Apply To Become a Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructor?
Notwithstanding the mandatory courses that candidates must complete, individuals from any cap badge (i.e. any branch of the Army) can apply to be a Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructor. Candidates are typically at the rank of Sergeant, but Corporals are also considered.
Those individuals (Senior Corporals/Junior Sergeants) who aspire to become a Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructor must be sponsored/nominated by their respective Corps/Regiment.
A nomination is granted on successful completion of a Corps/Regimental level interview process prior to being selected for training.
Successful nominees will then be eligible for priority loading (i.e. fast tracking) on the various mandatory courses required for the Cadre.
3.4 Length of Posting
Upon successful selection candidates will enjoy a 2-3 year posting at Sandhurst, which typically starts in the summer (around the September intake).
3.5 First Gurkha SNCO Instructor
In 2013 Colour Sergeant Jiwan Gurung achieved a double accolade, he was nominated as the first ever Gurkha for the role of Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructor and subsequently selected as the first ever Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructor (in its 200 year history!) (Gurung, 2014). In 2015, another three Gurkhas soldiers were selected: Sergeant Sanjib Rai (2 RGR); Sergeant Phurba Tamang (2 RGR); and Sergeant Pandu Tamang (QG Signals) (Gurkha Brigade Association, 2015).
In , Staff Sergeant FIRST NAME SURNAME was [nominated] and [selected] as the first ever female Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructor (WHO, WHEN).
PART TWO: COMPLETION OF MANDATORY TRAINING COURSES
4.0 Preparation and Training
This Section provides an outline of the mandatory training courses required for candidates to attend the Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors’ Pre-Cadre and Cadre courses.
All military instructors (known as Army Skills Instructors) at Phase 1 training establishments are required to successfully complete a number of mandatory courses and encouraged to gain other optional qualifications (Table 1). However, Army Skills Instructors (aka Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors’) at the RMAS are required to successfully complete a considerable number of courses prior to attending the ‘main’ Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors’ Cadre Course.
Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructor Cadre hopefuls are tested in all areas to assess their suitability to work with officer cadets, from physical fitness to instructor capabilities. Completion of all the required courses takes approximately 2-3 years of hard work.
“It must be remembered that the following courses are merely a vehicle to deliver the required information at a set standard to the Officer Cadets” (Spiers-King, 2009, p.130).
- The DTTT v2, DIT and DTTT(C) courses (now superseded by the Army Instructor Capability programme) are delivered by the ARTD Army Staff Leadership School at Alexander Barracks in Pirbright. The Army Staff Leadership School (ASLS) has the task of training the Army’s trainers, from Corporal section commanders and trade instructors to Commanding Officers, as well as administrative and support staff. The ASLS opened in 2007 and trains approximately 2,400 military and civilian training, supervisory and support staff each year.
- The AA SAA instructor course is delivered by the Infantry Battle School in Brecon, Wales.
- The DTTT v2 course is also mandatory for Army Skills Instructors at Phase 2 and 3 training establishments.
4.1 The Platoon Sergeants’ Battle Course
The Platoon Sergeants’ Battle Course (PSBC) is delivered by the Infantry Battle School located in Brecon, mid-Wales, and forms part of the School of Infantry (British Army, 2015a).
The PSBC is a promotion qualifying-course for Rifle Company Platoon Sergeants, and a pre-requisite for all candidates attending the Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructor Cadre. The course is run in January, April and August each year, and is broken down into two independent phases:
- Tactics: The Tactics phase of the course is seven weeks long, and delivered by Senior Division Instructors.
- Live Firing Tactical Training (LFTT): The LFTT phase is five weeks long and run by the Infantry Weapons’ Division.
The course is split into platoons with Colour Sergeant Instructors with each section and an Infantry Captain oversees the platoon’s training. On completion of the PSBC individuals are:
- Eligible for promotion to Sergeant;
- Able to fulfil the role of a Platoon Sergeant; and
- Qualified to plan and conduct demanding and realistic live fire range packages.
The PSBC is both mentally and physically demanding, however, students receive the highest level of tuition and testing to ensure they are fully prepared for the rigours of command (British Army, 2015a).
4.2 All Arms Drill Courses
The All Arms Drill Wing is a branch of the Army School of Ceremonial, which is part of the Infantry Training Centre (Catterick) located at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire (British Army, 2015b).
The All Arms Drill Wing runs the basic drill course which lasts 13 days and is aimed at junior NCOs getting ready to be posted to an Army Training Regiment or Recruit Training Centre, or individuals attending the Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors’ Cadre.
The basic drill course runs six times a year. The advanced course, of which there are four each year, is aimed at SNCOs and Warrant Officers who are taking on the role of drill instructor at unit level. The advanced drill course also offers the student the chance to take up a BTEC level four qualification in teaching (British Army, 2015b).
4.3 Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear (CBRN) Defence Trainer Course
The CBRN Defence Trainer Course is delivered by the Defence CBRN School, which is part of the Defence CBRN Centre, located at Winterbourne Gunner, Salisbury (MOD, 2015).
The course is aimed at military personnel who deliver Mandatory Annual Training Test Four (MATT 4), common military skills or common core skills training for the three Services.
The course trains personnel to fit, repair and maintain the general service respirator (GSR), operate the advanced respirator testing system (ARTS) and use CBRN training aids and facilities. It also trains personnel to operate chemical and radiation detection and monitoring equipment.
The course duration is 2-weeks (10 working days) and personnel at the rank of Corporal (or Service equivalent) or above are eligible to attend.
4.4 Battlefield Casualty Drills Trainer (BCDT) Course
The MATT 3 Instructor Course, incorporating the Team Medic course and formerly known as the BCDT course, is aimed at military personnel who deliver MATT 3, Battlefield Casualty Drills (BCD), training. The course is delivered by the BCDT Training Team located at Fort Blockhouse, Gosport.
The course is 4-days in duration and students must undertake an entrance on day one which is based on MATT 3. On successful completion of the course students will receive two qualifications:
- Army Team Medic: trains individuals to be a medic in a section/team and lasts for two years. It does not qualify individuals to teach the Army Team Medic qualification.
- MATT 3 Instructor: Essentially, the BCDT trains the trainer, on successful completion individuals will be a qualified BCD Trainer which enables them to teach and test the BCD system. It lasts for three years.
The BCDT is aimed towards the training environment whilst the Team Medic is aimed towards the exercise/operations environment.
4.5 SNCO Command, Leadership and Management Course
The SNCO Command, Leadership and Management (CLM) Course must be successfully completed by Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructor candidates, as this is a mandatory career course for promotion to the rank of Sergeant.
Further information on this course can be found here.
4.6 Prince’s Trust
The Prince’s Trust, as part of its remit, has a requirement for a number of Short-Term Volunteer Leaders to facilitate a number of opportunities which would suit aspirant Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors.
- 2010DIN01-048 – MOD Armed Forces Support to the Prince’s Trust Team Programme: Appeal for Short-Term Volunteer Leaders.
- Latest version is: 2014DIN01-102 – MoD Armed Forces Support to The Prince’s Trust TEAM Programme; Appeal for Short-Term Volunteer Leaders.
PART THREE: SANDHURST GROUP SNCO INSTRUCTOR CADRE COURSES
5.0 The Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors’ Pre-Cadre Course
The Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors’ Pre-Cadre Course (previously known as the RMAS SNCO Instructors’ Pre-Cadre Course) is essentially a ‘Look on Life’ as an instructor, i.e. it is designed to give an insight into life in Sandhurst for potential Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors.
The course typically lasts for three days and is a pre-requisite for attendance on the Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors’ Cadre Course (The Wire, 2015). There are typically two courses per year (around May and September).
6.0 The Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors’ Cadre Course
During 2008 the RMAS SNCO Instructors’ Selection Cadre Course was redesigned to remain fit for purpose and to counter dwindling numbers of applicants (Tyler, 2008). As the then Officer Commanding of Dettingen Company, which is responsible for short courses and redesigned the Cadre, stated (Tyler, 2008, p.38) “Realistically promotion is the main attraction of this course, but it also gives a unique insight into the way that officers are trained.” During 2014 the course was retitled from ‘The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Assistant Instructors’ Cadre’ to ‘The Sandhurst Group Senior Non Commissioned Officer Instructors’ Cadre’ to reflect the greater integration between the Regular Army and Army Reserve.
The Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors’ Cadre Course is the ‘main event’ for those aspiring to this role, and it may have taken up to 3-years for some individuals to reach this point.
The course has a limit of 60 candidates per course, with only 30 being selected (Gurung, 2014), and therefore competition for a place is fierce. It last for 4-weeks (6-weeks back in the 1970s (Eastwood, 2015)) and there is usually one course per year (typically the first half of the year in preparation for the summer start), with the main subjects being CBRN, Skill at Arms, Tactics, Field-craft and Ceremonial Drill.
The course is designed to test the physical and mental aptitude of candidates, whose performances are closely observed throughout the process. When considering a candidates performance the British Army’s core values are applied (information on these can be found here). Regular advice is given throughout the course and weekly feedback is also provided so candidates can judge how they are progressing on the course (Tyler, 2008).
An example of what to expect on the course includes (Tyler, 2008; O’Brien, 2009) Exercise Long Reach which is a trip to the Black Mountains in Wales, with an 80 km tab (run/walk with weight) interspersed with command tasks to be completed at a number of (manned and unmanned) checkpoints. Manned checkpoints tended to be on the low ground, whilst unmanned checkpoints tended to be on the high ground! The command tasks are evenly distributed between the mental and physical, although the difference can sometimes be blurred. Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructor candidates are treated as officer cadets, and considering officer cadets conduct this type of challenge after roughly six weeks of training, the imperative is on the candidates to perform.
Assessors on the course want to see suitability to teach, relate to and get the best out of a highly motivated, intelligent group of young men and women; it is about suitability for the role (Spiers-King, 2009).
On passing the Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors’ Cadre Course, candidates will be promoted to the rank of Colour/Staff Sergeant and take their place as an instructor, responsible for teaching and developing the Army’s next generation of officers.
Although not all candidates will be successful, the courses they will have undertaken (and successfully passed) will provide them with a solid foundation for their future careers; as such it can be career enhancing despite not being selected. Candidates can also reapply for the course.
PART FOUR: MISCELLANEOUS
7.0 Useful Documents
- 2012DIN07-169: Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Assistant Instructors’ Cadre: 2013 Course Dates. All Regular/TA Army units. Details of 2013 RMAS SNCO Instructors’ Cadre and Pre-cadre briefings.
- 2013DIN07-140: Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Assistant Instructors’ Cadre 2014: Course Dates. All Regular/TA Army Units.
- 2014DIN07-130: The Sandhurst Group Senior Non Commissioned Officer Instructors’ Cadre 2015. All Regular/Reserve Army Units.
8.0 Useful Notes
- Corps of Royal Engineers: The Corps RSM is the point of contact for potential Sandhurst Group SNCO Instructors. See the Royal Engineers Action Directory and view People Policy Notes 12.5 and 11.06 (correct January 2014).
British Army (2015a) Platoon Sergeants’ Battle Course. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.army.mod.uk/training_education/24536.aspx. [Accessed: 31 August, 2015].
British Army (2015b) All Arms Drill Wing. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.army.mod.uk/training_education/24655.aspx. [Accessed: 31 August, 2015].
Eastwood, J. (2015) The Feature Page of Capt Joe Eastwood (Retd) BEM CQSW Your Web Site Editor. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.lancsfusiliers.co.uk/feature/Joe/JoeEastwoodFeature.htm. [Accessed: 30 August, 2015].
Gurkha Brigade Association (2015) Three New Gurkha Instructors as RMAS. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.gurkhabde.com/three-new-gurkha-instructors-at-rmas/. [Accessed: 30 August, 2015].
Gurung, J. (2014) The First Gurkha Colour Sergeant Instructor at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS). Parbate: The Magazine for Gurkha Soldiers and their Families. 65(10), p.6-7.
MOD (Ministry of Defence) (2015) Defence Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Centre. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/defence-chemical-biological-radiological-and-nuclear-centre-dcbrnc/defence-chemical-biological-radiological-and-nuclear-centre. [Accessed 17 September, 2015].
O’Brien, A. (2009) The CSgts Cadre: A Perspective by CSgt O’Brien. The Grenadier Gazette: The Regimental Journal of the Grenadier Guards. 2009. 32, pp.32. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/31301580/grenadier-gazette-grenadier-guards/33. [Accessed: 30 August, 2015].
Roberts, G.P. (2105) Curriculum Vitae. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamPaulRobertsSAC/grahampaulrobertssacdipcv. [Accessed: 17 September, 2015].
Spiers-King, W.M. (2009) A Colour Sergeant’s Perspective of RMAS. The Mercian Eagle: The Journal of the Mercian Regiment. October 2009, pp.129-130. Available from World Wide Web: http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1pjzd/MercianEagle/resources/131.htm. [Accessed: 31 August, 2015].
Stewart, I. & Mellor, D.W. (2013) Lessons in Leadership. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.trainingjournal.com/articles/feature/lessons-leadership. [Accessed: 31 August, 2015].
The Wire (2015) Fancy being an Instructor in the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst? The Wire: The Magazine of the Royal Corps of Signals. April 2015, pp.i.
Tyler, S. (2008) Teacher Training: Sergeants Push for Promotion on Rejuvenated Sandhurst Cadre. Soldier: Magazine of the British Army. August 2015, pp.37-39.