Training update

Officer Education System enters the "transformation zone"

by LTC Robbie Mosely

Over the past several years, the Army has made significant changes to reflect today’s operating environment. The buzzword for these changes is transformation, which is touching every facet of the Army.

One of the main objectives of this transition is movement toward a much lighter, strategically responsive, rapidly deployable force that will leverage information technology to increase our lethality in the battlespace. Today’s operating environment will demand that these lighter, deployable units be able to fight in non-linear, small and independent formations – a drastic change from Cold War and Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm success stories.

As we push toward the Objective Force (which is all about change), new unit formations and structures – such as the initial/interim brigade combat team – have been developed to fight in the new strategic paradigm called the Contemporary Operating Environment, which will employ an array of new technologies. The time has now come to focus on the heart and soul of any fighting force: its people.

To support the OF with trained leaders, Training and Doctrine Command is sponsoring a transformation project known as the Officer Education System initiatives. The project’s initial concept started more than two years ago; the project is about to enter the implementation stage. This article’s purpose is to explain core features of these initiatives and address specific concerns regarding training our company-grade officers under OES.

What are the OES initiatives?

TRADOC published the Army Training and Leader Development Panel-Officer Report May 25, 2001, which validated the need for transforming training and education across the Army – whether institutional, unit (operational) or self-development. The OES initiatives focus on all three pillars with a simple mission: develop training-and-education requirements over a 20-year military career for commissioned officers (figure below).

OES overview Overview of the Officer Education System.

The OES initiatives were given six guiding principles and eight future focus points. The guiding principles are:

Right education, right officer, right place and time;
Bonding, cohesion and trust in cohorts;
Combined arms and joint operations;
Sequential and progressive training;
Common standards, assessment, feedback and accreditation criterion; and
Lifelong learning opportunities.

The future focus (long-term benefits) points are:

Strengthen the warrior ethos and warfighting focus;
Increase and enhance combined arms/joint training and education;
Increase performance-oriented training and education;
Embed digital command-and-control training;
Develop and implement shared training events with noncommissioned and warrant officers;
Increase emphasis on developing battalion and brigade commanders;
Improve faculty selection and assignment strategy to ensure the Army’s best qualified, most experienced instructors teach the least experienced students; and
Integrate distance learning; focus on self-direction and self-development.

The endstate is an officer capable of adaptively thinking, leading and winning in combat across the full spectrum of Army operations. We’ll review the educational concept in more depth.

Lieutenants (initial-entry training)

Officer basic courses will become two-phase training courses: Basic Officer Leadership Course Phase I and BOLC Phase II. BOLC Phase I will focus on training TRADOC’s mandatory common-core subjects, instilling the warrior ethos, reinforcing physical readiness over fitness and developing field-craft skills. Phase I will also cover the importance of the officer/NCO relationship, and it’s the first stage of developing competent and confident small-unit leaders. In a nutshell – besides two training locations (Fort Gordon, Ga., and possibly Fort Benning, Ga.) – the primary change in OBC is the heightened focus on leadership skills.

BOLC Phase II will provide officers with technical skills based on their assigned branch. Also, an initial common-training experience before they receive their specific branch training will enhance the overall bonding and trust among all officers.

The following figure shows the general timeline from precommissioning to arrival at first unit of assignment. All lieutenants (competitive category, Active Component and Reserve Component) must graduate from both phases.

BOLC timeline Two-phase BOLC timeline.

We project implementation of this initiative for Fiscal Year 2004. Four pilot courses have been conducted at Fort Benning for Phase I; however, the actual location for Phase I is still to be determined. BOLC’s length is currently scheduled for six weeks.

The Signal Center conducted a pilot course for Signal BOLC Phase II for 12 weeks from March to June. The current OBC and the BOLC concept are compared in the following figure. Reducing course length from 18 weeks to 12 weeks was largely accomplished by relocating most of the common-core training from Fort Gordon to Fort Benning; reducing administrative hours; streamlining specific blocks of Signal branch-specific training; and eliminating integrated-systems control from the course. Thus, the overall reduction is more than 200 hours, representing the six weeks’ decrease.

SOBC and BOLc comparison Comparison of current SOBC and approved BOLC.

The current track training in the Signal OBC is assignment-oriented and prepares the lieutenant for his/her initial assignment. With full-scale implementation of BOLC, track training will most likely be suspended, and all students will participate in the field-training exercise. Lieutenants with assignments that require knowledge of S-6 skills will remain on temporary duty to attend the 4C-F40 Signal Staff Officer (S-6) Course. Students going to an assignment where ISYSCON skills are needed can attend a stand-alone ISYSCON course (offered by General Dynamics).

With the OES initiatives, the Signal Regiment continues to develop a curriculum for preparing second lieutenants for their initial assignment. The above figure was just the starting point.

Captains’ training

Because of the three-year period to pin on captain’s bars, added to the ATLDP report’s results and critical shortages in the operational force, relevant and progressive training for our company-grade officers becomes a must-win for the Army. The following figure provides the general construct for institutional training for captains. The planned implementation dates are early FY05, with pilot courses in FY04.

Captains OES timeline Transformed captains OES, which aims for just-in-time training and more local-commander influence.

According to a concepts paper from the captains’ OES transformation team dated June 12, the methodology and goal for mission accomplishment is that captain’s OES

“… is to initially develop a model which links training to officer assignments with a warfighting focus. This model must account for the ongoing Army transformation, current and evolving technology and emerging OF requirements. The ultimate goal for captains’ OES is to produce a corps of leaders who are technically and tactically competent: officers who are knowledgeable of how the Army operates; who demonstrate confidence, integrity, critical judgment and responsibility; who can operate in a rapidly changing environment of complexity and ambiguity; who can build effective teams amid continuous organizational and technological change; and finally, who can adapt and solve problems creatively.

“The new captains’ OES will allow for just-in-time training aimed at reducing the time apart from troops for junior officers while providing them with exposure to requisite skills they need at a time when it most benefits them. The new OES will also greatly increase local-commander influence in regard to junior-officer professional development. Commanders will be able to slate officers for upcoming assignments well in advance and ensure they’re trained locally and at the individual schools and centers when it behooves the unit.

“Captains’ OES also will include an interaction with an observer/controller, and the captains will observe the performance of the rotational unit at one of the combat training centers. The intent of this exposure is that the captain will have the opportunity to view a company similar to the one they’re scheduled to command. The CTC experience will serve as the capstone training opportunity for the captain before he/she assumes company command.”

The amount of time officers will spend at resident courses will be cut in half. That instruction now will be conducted via advanced distance learning and locally by the chain of command. The inclusion of local leadership is a significant change from the previous instruction model that depended solely upon resident-course training. Distance learning also puts responsibility for course completion on the individual officer. Each officer will manage his or her own discretionary time to better himself or herself professionally and to ensure he/she is qualified to serve in his/her next duty assignment as either a staff member or as a commander. Individuals slated for command also will participate in a CTC training experience associated with the type of unit they’ll command.

Other officer training

The Combined Arms Staff Course (figure below) consists of five weeks (three weeks’ ADL and two weeks’ resident instruction). All officers, regardless of branch, must complete the CASC common-core module consisting of two weeks’ ADL. The third week of ADL and the resident instruction is tailored to the officer’s next assignment.

CASC modules Overview of CASC modules, which consist of three weeks' ADL and two weeks' resident instruction.

Officers selected to fill a primary or special staff position will complete an additional staff functional module consisting of one week’s ADL. Officers selected for primary staff positions (S-1, S-2, assistant S-3/S-3 Air, S-4, S-5, battalion maintenance officer) will, after finishing CASC’s common core, complete a third week of ADL before assuming the staff position.

Officers being assigned to a special staff position will also attend a two-week phase of resident training before assuming the staff position. Officers being assigned to a special staff position (for example, fire-support officer, assistant brigade engineer or petroleum officer will – once CASC’s common-core ADL module is finished – complete a third week of ADL tailored to that staff position followed by two weeks’ resident technical training at their respective branch school/center.

The Combined Arms Battle Command Course (figure below) consists of 10 weeks’ training (four weeks of ADL and six weeks of resident instruction). Officers selected for company command must compete CABCC before assuming command. Each phase of CABCC must be completed sequentially prior to starting the next training phase.

CABCC modules Overview of CABCC modules, which consist of four weeks' ADL and six weeks' resident instruction.

CABCC consists of four weeks’ ADL instruction with two distinct focuses. The first two weeks of ADL – referred to as CABCC common core – will be developed by the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., according to TRADOC’s guidance and will contain all non-branch specific topics. The second two weeks of ADL – referred to as the Pre-Resident Company Commander’s Course – will be developed by individual branch schools/centers focused on specific branch skills and knowledge.

After completing all ADL, officers will attend resident training – referred to as the Company Commander’s Course – which is focused on company command. Upon completion of the Company Commander’s Course, all officers will complete a Train-the-Trainer Course consisting of two weeks’ resident training at one of the CTCs.

The Signal Regiment’s challenge

The Signal Center supports the overall concept of transforming OES. However, we have concerns about standardizing resident training for all branches – especially for captains.

The Signal officer requires “training time” to master technical skills associated with the complex IT systems in today’s operating environment. With the required integration of emerging digital systems (for example, Army Battle-Command System) and the increased demand for timely information, we can’t totally support shortening resident training for captains. While the Signal Center will leverage distance learning, the Signal officer must exhibit mastery of his or her craft during resident training. Also, the Signal officer must possess the technical skills and employment knowledge of fielded and future IT systems for planning and implementing a robust and reliable communications network. Signal officers are expected to perform and ensure the right information reaches the warfighter without fail.

While we understand the need for shorter training time, the Signal Regiment must be able to develop a training construct for our complex and unique requirements. Without this option, captains’ resident training in the Signal Regiment may not be complete. Simply put, the Signal officer requires more training time for integrating diverse IT systems that support all combat arms, combat support and combat-service support missions. We feel more time can be added while adhering to the concept and construct of TRADOC’s OES.

LTC Mosley commands the Signal Center’s officer-training battalion (442d Signal Battalion). Previous assignments include Signal staff officer on the Army staff (Pentagon); Signal staff officer in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence (Pentagon); S-3, 44th Signal Battalion, 7th Signal Brigade, Mannheim, Germany; branch chief, Current Operations Branch, 5th Signal Command, Heidelberg, Germany; and assistant S-3/company commander, 440th Signal Battalion, 22d Signal Brigade, Darmstadt, Germany. Mosley holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Appalachian State University and a master’s degree in information-systems management from Bowie State University.

Acronym QuickScan
ADL – advanced distance learning
AOT – assignment-oriented training
ATLDP – Army Training and Leader Development Panel
BOLC – Basic Officer Leader Course
CABCC – Combined Arms Battle Command Course
CASC – Combined Arms Staff Course
CTC – combat training center
FY – fiscal year
ISYSCON – integrated-systems control
IT – information technology
NCO – noncommissioned officer
OBC – officer basic course
OES – Officer Education System
OF – Objective Force
TRADOC – Training and Doctrine Command

dividing rule

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