Signal Center hosts first Signal Regiment personnel summit

by MAJ Alan Makowky, CW5 Pete Hewitt and SGM Iules Patton Jr.

FORT GORDON, Ga. – Signal Regiment personnel issues were hot topics here for two days in October 1999 as the Signal Center hosted the first Signal personnel summit. The conference brought together Signal Regiment personnel managers from the office of the deputy chief of staff for personnel, Total Army Personnel Command, office of the chief of Army Reserve and the National Guard Bureau, as well as the personnel-proponent managers from Office Chief of Signal.

The personnel summit had several goals. The first was to bring together key personnel managers in one place so they could put a face against a voice on the phone and get to know each other better. Over the past few months, there has been a large turnover of personnel in key management positions. OCOS wanted this face-to-face meeting to be the building block for a good working relationship between Fort Gordon and personnel agencies that support the Regiment. This type of interaction took place throughout the summit meetings and was very successful.

Secondly, the summit was a chance for everyone to learn what each agency and each action officer in that agency does to support the Signal Regiment’s overall goals. To accomplish this, the summit’s first day was devoted to informational briefings from each participant. Each briefing outlined the functions of the briefer’s agency and where it fit in the "big picture" of Army personnel management. The briefing also addressed the briefer’s particular responsibilities and how they supported the Signal Regiment. Finally, each briefer presented personnel issues affecting the Regiment for discussion at the summit.

Overall, the briefings were informative and generated lots of discussion. Many attendees commented that this day of the summit exceeded their expectations. Most agreed they learned a great deal and came away from the table with a better, more informed view of the issues.

The summit’s third goal was to give MG Peter Cuviello, Chief of Signal, a chance to meet with his personnel-management team, discuss important issues and impart his philosophy to them. In this way, everyone had guidance from the top, and Signal Regiment personnel management could be a unified and coordinated effort.

Cuviello spoke to the group and engaged in an open discussion for about an hour on day two of the summit. He emphasized taking care of Signal soldiers. He also commented that the group’s achievements would be measured by how well they could work creative solutions that supported the Regiment’s goals while taking care of soldiers and their families. According to the Chief of Signal, the ability to work closely with soldiers to address their individual needs would go a long way towards maintaining the Regiment’s health. Cuviello also discussed recruiting and retention issues, plus National Guard and Reserve personnel issues, and fielded questions from the group.

Chief of Signal with personnel summit representatives Chief of Signal MG Peter Cuviello, foreground right, talks with attendees at the personnel summit.

As the fourth goal, the summit provided a forum for various action officers to discuss issues and develop possible solutions. At the end of the first day, all the issues presented were compiled, categorized (officer, enlisted, warrant) and given out to all the participants. This laid the foundation for the conference’s second day, which was devoted to group discussions of the issues.

Participants broke off into one of three groups, led by the OCOS proponent managers. The groups discussed many issues in the areas of officer, warrant officer and enlisted personnel management. Some participants rotated among the various groups, as they had interests in issues across the board.

Major officer topics discussed were the Army-wide shortage of captains; training strategy and timing for attendance at the Signal officer basic and captains’ career courses; recruiting and retaining officers; managing lieutenants; functional-area training; and design of training for Reserve Components.

The warrant-officer group discussed major issues such as warrant-officer recruiting and feeder military-occupation specialties; the Warrant Officer Personnel Management System study; proposed warrant-officer MOSs; warrant-officer structure; a cooperative degree program; and designation of a Regimental Chief Warrant Officer.

The enlisted group’s topics included deletion of MOS 74G; enlisted promotions; standards of grade; reclassification actions; structure issues facing the Reserve Components; change-in-noncommissioned-officer structure’s impact on Reserve and National Guard units; and training for challenges in the Reserve Components.

Since the summit, OCOS and the rest of the Signal Regiment personnel-management team have continued to work issues. Officer Personnel Management System XXI’s implementation has created many challenges for Officer Division, OCOS, for instance. Creation of the information-operations career field and the new Functional Area 24 (information-systems engineering) have presented structure, training and coordination issues to be solved. Army-wide, the shortage of captains has created many problems in the field as well as training, promotion and assignment challenges for the personnel community.

The rest of this article is devoted to major issues presented at the personnel summit and an update on them, divided by topics pertaining to officers, warrant officers and enlisted soldiers.

Officer issues

FA STRUCTURE. Under OPMS XXI, the structure of each FA is very important, as authorizations at each grade level will impact promotions and the career-field-designation process. Both FA 24 and FA 53 are understructured in the sense that there aren’t enough colonel positions to support the number of lieutenant-colonel and major positions. OCOS is working with PERSCOM, DCSPER and various major commands to identify more colonel positions that can be coded as FA 24 or FA 53. So far we’ve identified about 10 positions and are working to recode them. We’ve been successful in recoding two other colonel positions into FA 53. Also, OCOS is scrubbing all FA 24 and 53 positions to ensure the proper coding of positions throughout the Army. This will help stabilize the structure over the long-term. These structure problems are fixable but will take some time to correct.

FA 24. This FA was created under OPMS XXI and continues to suffer some growing pains. Due to structure and resource issues, and input from the information-systems community, the Signal Center is proposing to eliminate area-of-concentration 24B, computer-systems engineer, from the FA. Most positions coded as 24B originally came out of FA 53 and would be moved back into FA 53 under this plan. Officers already designated as 24B would be given an option of remaining in FA 24 (as a 24A telecommunications engineer) or moving over to 53A.

OCOS is continuing work with the Signal Center Computer Science School and the Regimental Leadership Department to develop AOC 24A’s training program.

FA QUALIFICATION COURSES. Three courses comprise qualification training for FA 24 and FA 53. Both FA 24 and FA 53 officers must attend the Information Systems Officer Leveler Course. This 10-week course contains common-core Signal and automation training and is designed to bring officers to a common training level before they enter their AOC’s qualification course. The course has been developed, and we’re hoping to begin it in late fiscal year 2000 pending purchase of networking lab equipment.

Following ISOLC, FA 24A officers will attend the 20-week Telecommunications Systems Engineer Course. This course is being developed under RLD’s direction. The course is shaping up as a graduate-level training program designed to produce an apprentice-level engineer. RLD is assisted by a contractor and is working with a major university in developing the curriculum. The goal is that officers will receive up to nine graduate credits for attending this course. We hope to conduct a pilot course in late FY00 pending more resources.

FA 53 officers will continue to attend the 19-week, four-day Systems Automation Course following ISOLC. CSS is working on developing an enhanced SAC. This version of SAC will incorporate some new training based on the recent critical-task/site-selection board for FA 53, as well as provide more in-depth training in several areas currently taught in the course. The goal is to implement the new training in FY01.

All new training is contingent on the Signal Center receiving required resources. The Army didn’t program more resources to implement OPMS XXI, so all new FAs are having problems implementing their training. The Signal Center is working hard with Training and Doctrine Command and the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to obtain resources for our programs. CAC’s commander is the IOCF coordinator and is pressing the fight for resources on our behalf. If resources don’t become available, training planned for FY00 may be postponed into FY01 or beyond.

INTERMEDIATE-LEVEL EDUCATION. ILE is the eventual replacement for the Command and Staff College or Military Education Level 4. The current plan is that ILE will consist of a Command and General Staff Officer’s Course common-core course of about four to five months and follow-on training determined by each branch/FA.

One means of delivery for the CGSOC core is through extended campuses at several installations throughout the continental United States. OCOS is working with Fort Leavenworth to bring an extended campus to Fort Gordon. We’ve submitted a proposal that was very well received to Fort Leavenworth on our ability to support an extended campus. The Chief of Signal is very supportive of this plan and has expressed his desire to locate an extended campus here.

Under our objective concept, FA 24 and FA 53 officers would attend CGSOC core at Fort Gordon and remain for about another seven to eight months to complete a master’s degree in their respective field. This would comprise ILE for our FA officers. OCOS is working to bring a cooperative-degree program to Fort Gordon to support this plan.

Branch 25 officers would most likely attend CGSOC core at Fort Leavenworth, followed by the Applied Operations and Warfighting Course. This will comprise ILE for all operations-career-field officers. AOWC is under development by Fort Leavenworth.

SIGNAL-OFFICER TRAINING. Several initiatives are working concerning the Signal-officer basic course and Signal Captains’ Career Course, as well as new training for officers serving as S-6’s. As we move towards the digitized Army – and considering personnel constraints – the Signal officer must be a multifunctional officer who can handle the communications and automation needs of tactical battalions and brigades.

Several years ago, the automation training in SOBC and SCCC was increased in length and depth and transferred to CSS. CSS and RLD are working together to find ways to enhance this training and increase the number of days of training in each course.

Another initiative in this area is the goal to eventually send all Signal officers to SAC immediately after SCCC. This will give the Signal officer the FA 53 officer’s full skill set and move us closer to the goal of the multifunctional Signal officer. OCOS is working with PERSCOM to begin sending selected Signal officers to SAC in FY01.

RLD is working in partnership with CSS to develop an S-6 course. This is to be a four-week course designed to give Signal lieutenants the survival skills necessary to function as an S-6 staff officer. The course is approved for implementation in late FY01. However, the Chief of Signal has directed the training departments to look at developing a two-week interim course to be implemented in FY00.

Finally, OCOS and PERSCOM are working on developing a new training strategy for professionally developing lieutenants and captains. Under this proposal, the Signal officer will come back for SCCC earlier. We’re finding that because of the Army-wide captain shortage, lieutenants are filling many captain positions. Many times the lieutenants lack the training necessary to successfully fill these positions. By bringing lieutenants back to SCCC at the 30-month mark, we’d put more trained captains out in the field sooner. These officers will then be available to fill the captain positions now filled by untrained lieutenants.

This may require that we look at shortening SOBC, just training the lieutenant for his or her initial assignment. Then we concentrate most of the company-grade training in the advanced course to prepare the officer for assignments at the captain level.

On the Reserve Component side, OCOS is working the issue of USAR/NG officers attending Signal courses as resident training. Most of these courses are more than 10 weeks long, and USAR/NG officers have problems getting away from their regular jobs for such an extended period. We’re looking at ways to make training exportable to the Reserve Components to alleviate this situation.

ARMY-WIDE CAPTAIN SHORTAGE. Recent trends such as high attrition rates and issues such as the operations tempo and pay have contributed to an overall shortage of captains in the Army. The Army has taken actions such as moving the pin-on point to captain back to 42 months to help with the shortage. Various study groups are looking at incentive programs for technical-skilled officers to help recruiting and retention. The OCOS proposal to bring lieutenants back earlier for SCCC will also help alleviate the shortage by putting more lieutenants in the training account and returning them back to the field as captains. This will make more captains available to fill vacancies.

BRANCH QUALIFICATION AND PROMOTION BOARD REPRESENTATION. Some issues have been raised recently about how promotion boards interpret Department of the Army Pamphlet 600-3 with respect to branch qualification. The problem is there may be some confusion in the interpretation of this document. At the personnel summit, OCOS, PERSCOM and DSCPER discussed solutions to this issue. One solution is to rewrite the part of DA PAM 600-3 pertaining to branch qualification so it’s clearer in its intent and meaning. The second is to make sure senior Signal officers are familiar with DA PAM 600-3’s provisions so they can properly represent the Signal Regiment on promotion boards. Both these proposals are being worked.

Warrant-officer issues

WOPMS XXI TASK FORCE. The task force has convened with a charter to study all aspects of Army warrant-officer personnel management. An initial list of topics has been identified, with a call to the field to generate others. Possible topics for study are technical-training frequency, assignment-oriented training and cooperative-degree programs for warrant officers. The task force’s Signal representative is CW4 Dennis Nemec. Proponents are to be big players. Initial recommendations will go to the Army’s chief of staff by March 15.

RCWO. The Chief of Signal approved creation of the RCWO position within OCOS shortly after the personnel summit. CW5 Pete Hewitt was named the first RCWO and installed in that position in a ceremony Dec. 2, 1999. In this capacity, Hewitt serves as the Chief of Signal’s principal adviser on warrant-officer matters. This position should have a major impact on how Signal warrant officers are mentored, trained, managed and assigned.

SIGNAL WARRANT-OFFICER RECRUITING. A dramatic increase in the number of applicants has been achieved through recruiting initiatives OCOS has put in place. We must continue our efforts and identify new ways to get the message out to all Signal soldiers about warrant-officer opportunities. MOS 251A applications are still lagging and require special attention. There’s an ongoing effort to add a Signal warrant officer to Recruiting Command’s warrant-officer recruiting team.

FEEDER AND MOS PREREQUISITES. Reworking the feeder MOSs is helping identify more candidates and resulted in an increase of 31Ss, 31Ps and 31Rs applying and being selected for MOS 250N. RLD will help track the success rate of these MOSs in the warrant-officer basic course. Most of the potential candidate population is still unaware any MOS can apply for warrant officer if practical-experience requirements can be met. Prerequisite changes have proved to be highly successful in our efforts to ensure only the most highly qualified candidate is selected. The requirement for three outstanding NCO evaluation reports is working out as a great quality-control tool.

WARRANT-OFFICER RESTRUCTURE (ROLLDOWNS). The structure rolldown to bring Signal warrant-officer grade structure into compliance with DCSPER directives has been completed and passed through MACOM staffing with no revisions. Changes will be published in the next-cycle Notification of Future Change with implementation in FY02.

NEW WARRANT-OFFICER MOS PROPOSALS. Developmental work on MOS 254A, Signal systems-support technician, and MOS 255A, senior Signal technician, is ongoing. If approved, MOS 254A’s primary mission will be to provide Signal support (communications/automation) to non-Signal units and commands at all echelons. MOS 255A is a capper MOS for all Signal MOSs at the chief-warrant-officer-five level, with positions located at commander-in-chief J-6, MACOM, Signal Center, Army Signal Command, White House Communications Agency and major Signal theater commands.

The new-MOS proposal was briefed during the recent Signal Symposium and has been informally staffed at the action-officer level. The plan is to submit the final military-occupation classification-structure proposal to PERSCOM no later than March 15. The Army Regulation 611-1 action to implement the new MOSs was scheduled to be completed and staffed internally during FY00’s second quarter.

TYC-39/DEFENSE MESSAGE SYSTEM ISSUE. DMS’ fielding will result in elimination of the TYC-39 message switch. There are 11 MOS 250N warrant officers assigned against these switches at the Signal-battalion level. OCOS will coordinate actions with the force developers to reclassify these positions to MOS 251A. This will help meet an emerging requirement for MOS 251A skills in Signal brigades and battalions.

ADDITIONAL-SKILL IDENTIFIER 3E FOR MOS 31S/31P. Selection of enlisted-MOS 31S and 31P soldiers for warrant-officer MOS 250N has resulted in re-establishing the procedure to award ASI 3E. MOS 250Ns who are previous 31S/31Ps, who have backgrounds in strategic satellite communications and are being assigned to a fixed site can be awarded ASI 3E.

COOPERATIVE-DEGREE PROGRAM. OCOS is working on developing a cooperative-degree program in conjunction with the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Army Degree program. This would enable Signal warrant officers to get a technical degree related to their specialties. Cooperative programs would be set up with a sponsor school, which would provide a degree program to the individual warrant officers – who can then pursue the degree through multiple sources wherever they’re assigned. This type of program has already been established in some of the enlisted aviation and medical career fields.

Enlisted issues

ENLISTED PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM XXI TASK FORCE. The EPMS task force has convened along with the WOPMS task force under the umbrella of the Army Development System. The task force convened with a charter to study all aspects of enlisted personnel management. The Signal representative on the task force is SGM Dale Manion. Initial recommendations will go to the Army’s chief of staff by March 15.

STANDARDS-OF-GRADE PROBLEM IN THE RESERVE COMPONENT. The recent NCO relook was completed based on percentages of Active Component soldiers only. The mandated 49 percent NCO structure across the Army was based on 49 percent of AC authorizations. (There was no feasible way to include the RC in the calculations.) The mandated structure will affect RC units in the standards of grade at tables-of-organization-and-equipment level. Due to central documentation, all units – AC or RC – will look the same based on their standard-requirements code.

When the SG is applied based on numbers of authorizations in the AC only, it creates problems for RC soldiers. RC soldiers are tied to their units based on geography. If a unit doesn’t have progression for soldiers in specific MOSs, they’re faced with either staying at their current grade or changing MOSs.

There has been no plan derived to solve this issue. OCOS career managers worked closely with the RC force-integration NCO to ensure SG changes won’t have a negative effect on any RC unit.

31C VIABILITY ISSUE. MOS 31C is being kept viable mainly due to authorizations placed against an AN/GRC-106 radio system. The 106-radio system was replaced to 49 percent in the Army by the improved high-frequency radio. The 106 radio is used predominantly in the NG, so we’re working with the NG to seek a solution to this problem. Based on the number of 106-radio systems in the inventory and other 31C responsibilities, the MOS as it stands is viable. OCOS plans to look closely at the MOS to determine its future viability. If 31C were to be eliminated, the only adverse effect on the RC will be operators for the 106-radio systems. If an operator can be retained for this system, the deletion will have minimal effect on the RC.

CINCOS’ EFFECT ON RC TROPOSCATTER UNITS. NGB and OCAR drafted a letter requesting exception-to-policy to have the "pre-CINCOS" SG applied to the light-tropo units, and the Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations approved the letter. OCOS also fixed the long-term issue by reverting the SG back to its pre-CINCOS level of six 31R staff sergeants in the light-tropo units and four 31R staff sergeants in the heavy-tropo units. This was fixed during our NCO relook this year and should be applied to the FY02 modified TOEs.

PROBLEMS FOR THE USAR/NG SOLDIERS AND OFFICERS TO ATTEND LONG SIGNAL COURSES. We’re working on modularizing courses taught in the seven regional Army School System Signal battalions. The courses, mainly 10-level, will be broken down into modules that reflect the RC units’ SRCs. Soldiers will receive, to standard, training on all tasks associated with their unit of assignment. If a soldier transfers to another unit, the Army Form 1059 from his or her modular course will go with him or her. Gaining units can review documents to see where soldiers might need more training. There are some courses – for example, for MOSs 74B10 and 31U10 – that will pose a challenge due to rapid changes in courseware based on systems’ spiral development.

PROJECT WARRIOR. Soldiers serving in positions that are coded for PW at the National Training Center and Joint Readiness Training Center will have a follow-on assignment to the Signal Center. This will help get soldiers with the experience level we desire to the Signal Center. All agree this is a great program, and PERSCOM’s enlisted Signal branch is willing to manage soldiers on a one-on-one basis. Fort Gordon will be coordinating with TRADOC on coding two PW positions at JRTC and one at NTC to reflect observer-controller in the PW program. Also, Fort Gordon will coordinate with TRADOC to increase the requirement/authorization at NTC to two.

CAREER-MANAGEMENT FIELD 74 ISSUES. The MOS 74G deletion will be in a NOFC, but not early reclassification of soldiers to 74B. OCOS will be working closely with our organizational integrators and Signal-personnel-systems staff officer to gain agreement to topload authorization-document data, permitting early reclassification of soldiers from 74G to 74B.

Also, personnel-summit attendees discussed ASI Y2 at great length. It’s important to hand-manage these soldiers to make sure Y2 doesn’t drop from their records and that they’re scheduled for reclassification training according to transition training plans.

In closing, the personnel summit was a great success and helped pave the way for OCOS, DCSPER, PERSCOM, OCAR and NGB to work on many personnel issues of importance to the Signal Regiment’s future. The relationships formed over the conference’s two days will help us to work together as a team to support the Chief of Signal’s vision and carry us to success in the 21st century.

MAJ Makowsky, a FA 53 officer, is FA 53 and FA 24 manager in Officer Division, OCOS. CW5 Hewitt, also assigned to Officer Division, OCOS, was co-leader of the personnel summit’s warrant-officer groups. SGM Patton, CMF 31 team leader in Enlisted Division, OCOS, led enlisted-issues discussion at the personnel summit.

Acronym QuickScan
AC – Active Component
AOC – area of concentration
AOWC – Applied Operations and Warfighting Course
ASI – additional-skill identifier
CAC – Combined Arms Center
CGSOC – Command and General Staff Officer’s Course
CINCOS – change in noncommissioned-officer structure
CMF – career-management field
CSS – Signal Center Computer Science School
DA – Department of the Army
DCSPER – deputy chief of staff for personnel
DMS – Defense Message System
EPMS – Enlisted Personnel Management System
FA – functional area
FY – fiscal year
ILE – intermediate-level education
IOCF – information-operations career field
ISOLC – Information Systems Officer Leveler Course
JRTC – Joint Readiness Training Center
MACOM – major command
MOS – military-occupation specialty
NCO – noncommissioned officer
NG – National Guard
NGB – National Guard Bureau
NOFC – Notification of Future Change
NTC – National Training Center
OCAR – office of the chief of the Army Reserve
OCOS – Office Chief of Signal
OPMS – Officer Personnel Management System
PAM – pamphlet
PERSCOM – Total Army Personnel Command
PW – Project Warrior
RC – Reserve Component
RCWO – Regimental Chief Warrant Officer
RLD – Regimental Leadership Department
SAC – Systems Automation Course
SCCC – Signal Captains’ Career Course
SG – standards of grade
SOBC – Signal-officer basic course
SRC – standard-requirements code
TRADOC – Training and Doctrine Command
USAR – U.S. Army Reserve
WOPMS – Warrant Officer Personnel Management System

dividing rule

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