Army Officer Education System Transformation New Basic Officer Leadership Course will change the way the Army and Air Defense Artillery trains newly commissioned ADA lieutenants
Air Defense Artillery, January-March 2005
by Capt. Robert L. McCormick
Surprisingly enough, the Army Officer Education System has seen little change since the end of the Cold War, but it needs to change if it is to meet the needs of a fighting force caught in the throes of Army Transformation at the same time it is waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan. A 2001-2002 report submitted to the Army by the Army Training and Leader Development Panel-Officer Study concluded that the Officer Education System does not provide company grade officers (second lieutenants, first lieutenants and captains) the necessary skill sets for success in full-spectrum operations. The panel recommended that the Army change its Officer Education System for lieutenants from a two-phase design-pre-commissioning training followed by a branch-specific officer basic course-to a three-phased training approach.
Based upon that recommendation and in conjunction with Officer Education System Transformation, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) adopted the three-phase concept and created a model for a new Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC). As a result, initial officer training, as we know it today, will transform from the old two-phase paradigm of commissioning lieutenants and sending them to branch-specific officer basic courses to three phases: BOLC I, II and III.
The BOLC I phase of future officer leadership development will begin, just as pre-commissioning training does today, at the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School, U.S. Military Academy and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) campuses, but newly commissioned graduates will not be channeled, as they are today, directly into branch-specific officer basic courses. Instead, newly commissioned lieutenants will attend a BOLC initial entry course at one of four central locations. The initial entry course will provide basic small-unit combat training to all lieutenants, affording them a shared experience.
The BOLC II phase will implement Army Training and Leader Development Panel recommendations, such as providing a common training experience at the small unit level and producing an Army-specific officer-every soldier a rifleman first mentality-rather than a branch specific officer. The BOLC II phase will also encompass lessons learned from the Global War on Terrorism, the Warrior Ethos, 40 Warrior Tasks and the Nine Battle Drills. The BOLC II end goal is to produce a lieutenant who is trained in warrior tasks and warrior battle drills, who is self-aware and adaptable, who will not accept defeat and will never quit, and who will demonstrate the characteristics of an Army leader while living the Army values and embodying the Warrior Ethos.
The BOLC II phase will be a seven-week course that incorporates the common training experience mandated in the Army Training and Leader Development Panel recommendations. It will be conducted at four Training and Doctrine Command school sites: Fort Sill, Okla., Fort Bliss, Texas, Fort Knox, Ky. and Fort Benning, Ga. BOLC II tasks will teach lieutenants how to shoot, communicate, render medical aid, perform advanced land navigation, execute the 40 Warrior Tasks and conduct the Nine Battle drills while participating in rigorous physical training.
"BOLC II will have a pilot course this year and will be introduced by the fourth quarter of 2006," said Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes, TRADOC commander. "It is a six-week plus five days in-processing common-core instruction for all officers on combat leadership. Eighty percent of it will be conducted in a field environment. All officers will receive common instruction before going of to their branch technical courses. [This is a] major shift."
Each BOLC II site and class will receive an even mixture of ROTC, Officer Candidate School and West Point graduates. In addition, all branches and service components (active Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard, specialty branches and allied students) will be equally divided at each of the four sites, based on the numbers commissioned from each branch and service. The goal is to foster commonality of training across the junior officer ranks.
A BOLC II pilot course will be conducted at Fort Benning in the summer of 2005. More than 200 students from all branches will attend.
Following the second phase of BOLC, each proponent school (Military Intelligence, Air Defense Artillery, Armor, Field Artillery etc.) will provide BOLC III training on platoon-level, branch-specific technical and tactical skills, culminating in the award of a branch-specific military occupational specialty (MOS). The BOLC III phase will consist of branch-specific technical and tactical training conducted at each branch proponent school. Course length will vary by branch from five weeks, two days to 13 weeks, four days and will focus on preparing lieutenants for success as future platoon leaders.
Branch proponent commandants will control and implement the third phase of BOLC. As the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery School commandant, Maj. Gen. Michael A. Vane, the Fort Bliss commanding general, is the approving authority for Air and Missile Defense (AMD) BOLC III. Fort Bliss will receive 10 of the BOLC II pilot course graduates to participate in an AMD BOLC III pilot course during the summer of 2005, prior to full implementation in fiscal year 2006.
"AMD BOLC II training will provide the Air Defense Artillery School with junior officers prepared to prevail in the contemporary environment and deal with the combat realities we face today in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Vane. "BOLC III training will furnish ADA unit commanders with crossed-trained lieutenants capable of quickly achieving high levels of proficiency whether they are assigned to lead Patriot Soldiers or Avenger Soldiers, or Soldiers who will operate future systems soon to be added to the ADA arsenal."
Although some current classroom instruction will be retained, many classes currently taught in ADA Officer Basic will be omitted from AMD BOLC III instruction, and the overall design will change considerably. While the ADA Officer Basic Course lasts 20 weeks, AMD BOLC III will have a single program of instruction focused on AMD battalion operations that will last 13 weeks and four days.
Every lieutenant attending AMD BOLC III will be assigned Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 14A, Air and Missile Defense Officer (AMDO), upon graduation. This single MOS will replace MOS 14B, Short-Range Air Defense Artillery, for maneuver air defense officers and MOS 14E, Patriot Missile Air Defense Artillery, for Patriot officers. This MOS design responds to the demands of the contemporary operational environment and AMD force restructuring initiatives that will create composite AMD battalions employing both Patriot and Avenger weapon systems.
Air and Missile Defense BOLC III classroom instruction will focus on communication, counseling, problem solving and training management skills in the contemporary operational environment. The AMD system training will consist of instruction on the handheld Global Positioning System, communications, Avenger/Stinger and Sentinel, and joint operations wit the main focus on Patriots. Lieutenats who complete the course are Table IV qualified on the Patriot system and ready for unit certification. Within 30 days of their arrival at their unit, they should be mission capable and ready to deploy.
The culminating event for AMD BOLC III will be a one-week situational training exercise that will incorporate contemporary operational environment lessons learned and will give the lieutenants a chance to demonstrate their adaptability and leadership styles. During the situational training exercise, lieutenants will operate from a forward operating base and will conduct a myriad of contemporary operational environment tasks, including- but not limited to-negotiations, traffic control point, convoy operations, and providing air defense using Patriot, Avenger, and Sentinel systems. For the first time, BOLC III will provide new ADA lieutenants an opportunity to a field environment.
Air and Missile Defense BOLC III will be implemented Army-wide starting in the fourth quarter of 2006. This timeframe allows each branch to conduct a pilot course to test the new design before full implementation. Although there are obstacles that must be overcome before BOLC can be implemented, the BOLC concept will ensure that junior officer training stays relevant and meets the needs of its officers and the Army, today and into the future. The Air Defense Artillery School stands ready to ensure that newly commissioned ADA lieutenants receive the best possible training before leading ADA Soldiers onto 21st Century battlefields.
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