Future Army leaders train today for ‘uncertain times’
As the U.S. Army continues to face challenges as it draws down and changes its missions in Iraq and Afghanistan – following the longest conflict the United States has fought with an all-volunteer force – America’s Army remains in the forefront of not only military operations, but also stabilization, humanitarian, peacekeeping, and nation-building efforts during very uncertain times – and with serious budget constraints.
In the introduction to his "Marching Orders – 38th Chief of Staff, U.S. Army," Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said that as America’s Force of Decisive Action and "as part of the Joint Force, the Army ensures mission accomplishment, guarantees national security interests, compels adversaries, prosecutes military campaigns and forges a positive difference.
"It is what the American people expect and what our freedom demands."
As an integral part of his priorities and vision, Odierno’s goal to meet the Army’s objectives is to "adapt leader development to meet our future security challenges in an increasingly uncertain and complex strategic environment."
The Army, constantly evolving in today’s world, must continue to seek, train, mentor and educate potential leaders who are able to operate in joint, interagency and multi-national environments and, further, be culturally astute and capable to use this awareness and understanding to conduct operations innovatively in an unknown future.
The bottom line is to build and sustain the Army through its leaders – officers and noncommissioned officers – as a "Profession of Arms" that has the right blend of diverse cultural capabilities to facilitate full-spectrum operations, as the nation and the armed forces face a period of constrained resources and a downsizing of the force.
This philosophy entails a constant and diligent review of the Army’s training programs.
Maj. Gen. Jefforey A. Smith, who was commissioned at The Ohio State University through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) as a second lieutenant of infantry, became the 10th commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command on April 6 of this year.
Now in its 26th year, Cadet Command is headquartered at Fort Knox, Ky., where it was relocated from its original home at Fort Monroe, Va., due to the Base Realignment and Closure Act.
The command’s senior ROTC program is located at 273 host institutions – with an additional 1,066 partnership schools of higher education affiliated with host schools, across America and in U.S. territories.
There are more than 32,000 cadets in the college-level program.
The Junior ROTC program, also under Cadet Command, has units on 1,731 high school campuses around the world.
There are over 314,000 high school students in this program.
Training future leaders
Cadet Command, as the leader in training and growing culturally-aware officers – the Army’s future leaders of the 21st century – must produce the number of quality second lieutenants necessary to meet the Army’s manning levels.
The command continues to produce nearly 70 percent of the Army’s officers who serve in the active component, the United States Army Reserve and the Army National Guard.
As the Army evolves and transitions to a fighting force – tempered by over 10 years of war and functioning in an uncertain environment – it must be led by officers who are trained and educated to "operate in ambiguous and unpredictable ways," Smith said.
Noting that over the years Cadet Command has produced "great leaders, great officers," many of whom have served with bravery and distinction while fighting the nation’s wars, Smith said, based on the Army’s new vision, his command is undergoing a "holistic review of our leader development program [to ensure] that we will continue to produce the best commissioned officers in the world."
Adding, "As we have learned through the past ten, eleven years of war, it requires that we produce leaders who know how to think, not what to think, at the junior officer level … within the environment we are operating in today. And, we must use the latest proven methods of learning science to accomplish this goal."
This approach is based on the premise that ROTC professors of military science and instructors on university and college campuses must be trained in transforming the command’s teaching methods and educational processes to the new "learning science" model.
Being examined, for example, is transforming some of the methods now employed by the command for next summer’s Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) held annually at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Known as "Operation Warrior Forge," this "premier training program" had more than 6,000 ROTC cadets participating this year in a learning exercise that establishes, evaluates and develops confidence in cadets’ leadership skills and abilities. (See related story, Page 12.)
"My observation," Smith said. "is we are doing too much ‘assessment’ at LDAC, and we need to get more into the leader development side."
Smith said Cadet Command is now reviewing its approach to this program and is developing a strategy to create new, realistic "training environments that are complex – hybrid in nature – and are ‘outcomes-based’ in its training and education methods. This will teach and train cadets by linking education and self-development."
Adding, "We want cadets to focus and learn to be ‘masters of their profession.’ We must be responsible for providing our cadets with the necessary tools for continuous learning and the pursuit to master the skills they need to develop and learn during the time we have them here at Cadet Command to become the Army’s future leaders."
Cadet Command is also looking at creating an environment where cadets can make mistakes, where they can fail, without affecting their ranking on the "Order of Merit List," where cadets are ranked nationally.
The ranking, based on academic and leadership factors – grade point average, performance at LDAC, physical fitness scores, and assessments made by their instructors – may have an impact on how the cadet is to serve in the Army.
"We have got to change our culture," Smith noted, "so it provides a more meaningful, innovative and challenging training environment … that is governed by outcomes not inputs."
Smith also acknowledged that the command will continue to make progress and be a leader "in the academic world in [the field of] technology."
Technological advances are tied closely to the ROTC curriculum and the types of quality cadets the program is recruiting and retaining.
For example, STEM – an Army-wide program – places emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and the command is emphasizing, in its recruiting efforts, searching for young men and women who have STEM in their backgrounds to become the Army’s future officers.
"There has been a tremendous amount of work done here in Cadet Command over the years," Smith said, "but as I look at the Army chief of staff’s and the Army Training and Doctrine Command’s vision, we are going to have to make changes in Cadet Command in the future."
The vision for Cadet Command, according to Smith, is to review the mission to ensure that "we train, educate and produce the best commissioned officers in the world, and motivate young people to be better citizens.
"What we are developing here [at Cadet Command] is a mechanism and environment where we can create true knowledge management and capabilities in this organization. To do this, we need to take our active and reserve component cadre members and reorient them with an aggressive training and development program that focuses on the new, proven methods of learning science."
Quality is the standard
With the mission to meet the Army’s need for junior officers of all components – active and reserve – Cadet Command exceeded its mission to commission 5,350 second lieutenants this year and expects to meet its mission again in 2013.
According to Smith, notwithstanding the direction downsizing is having on the Army, the restructuring of some combat formations and the normal "ebb and flow" of the service, "there will still be a high demand for junior officers."
Having said this, Smith acknowledged that the Cadet Command’s mandate is to recruit and retain the highest quality of young men and women for the ROTC program.
Over the years, the time-tested "Scholar – Athlete –Leader," criteria for recruiting quality cadets will continue in Cadet Command as "we search for these key characteristics in the high school and college students we are looking for to become cadets in our program," Smith said.
"The quality of students we are attracting now and will continue to attract in the future," Smith said, "is very, very important. We want to be a magnet for talent."
Adding, "What the Army needs and what it is going to require – given the uncertain environment that we are going to ask these young officers to operate in – is the level of intellectual skill, athletic abilities and leadership ability that has been required in the wars we have fought."
A dynamic program that trains and educates the Army’s future leaders to make them more proficient and culturally adept in that "increasingly uncertain and complex strategic environment," is CULP – the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency program.
Giving the Army’s future leaders first-hand experience in nation building, the program sends cadets to foreign counties where they are "totally immersed" in the culture and language of those countries. (See related story, Page 14.)
"We’ve sent nearly 1,400 cadets overseas to 40 different countries this year alone," Smith said.
Adding, "This program is critical for our leader development. It is a key training program for our cadets who get the opportunity to participate."
The cultural understanding and the language training is integrated both in college and university programs throughout the year and is also a key component of the cultural understanding and familiarization at the Leadership Development and Assessment Course.
"The CULP program accomplishes a couple of goals," Smith said. "One, we give cadets an exposure to what operating in the military is like overseas – everything from pre-deployment training to medical pre-screening and administrative screening. So they get a taste of what it takes to actually deploy overseas because we run them through the same kind of processes as you would a unit prior to deployment. And then they get to integrate into a country and understand [their new environment.]"
For example, when they go to Thailand, the cadets are given an orientation focusing on how military forces operate under the local authorities and under the ambassador of the country.
Cadets gain an educational experience in terms of the civilian-military relationships with state and defense departments in these countries.
They are "on the ground," getting invaluable experience whether it’s working with a humanitarian issue or a security-related issue. They also get on-ground experience with not only language familiarization and exposure, but also with cultural exposure.
"In many cases, it is a crucible experience for them. I think CULP makes a huge difference. And we’re going to continue to push for funding to expand this program and certainly keep it as one of our key training programs in the summer time," Smith said.
The Army’s Junior ROTC Program, also falling under the responsibility of Cadet Command, is flourishing.
Currently, there are over 314,000 high school students enrolled at 1,731 high schools around the world to include Germany, Japan, Korea, Guam, Puerto Rico and American Samoa.
Promoting good citizenship, JROTC develops leadership and citizen skills for the youth of America.
Re-emphasizing the need for technology in today’s world and in the learning environment, Smith said, "If you go down into the high schools, into our Junior ROTC program, you’ll see that we’ve got state-of-the-art teaching tools and learning tools in the Junior ROTC classrooms. Many [civilian] teachers at these high schools are going to their administrators requesting the same or similar technologies be made available to them in their curriculum."
Adding, "I think we are leading the way in terms of making use of today’s technology to underpin and heighten the quality of our education and training to include both cadets at the junior level and senior level, and also our cadre development in the way they prepare themselves and the way they deliver the curriculum.
"We want to continue to be a leader in the academic world in technology."
The bottom line: U.S. Army Cadet Command is training, producing and growing the nation’s future leaders through the ROTC program.