Army looks to refine initial officer training
July 31, 2009
FORT LEWIS, Wash. -- Initial officer training will see changes later this year as part of the Army's ongoing effort to improve force generation and make better use of personnel and training resources.
The commander of U.S. Army Accessions Command and Training and Doctrine Command's deputy commanding general for initial military training, Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, observed an example of that efficiency in late July at this Pacific Northwest installation.
The Leader Development and Assessment Course, known as LDAC, trained more than 5,700 ROTC cadets this summer, most of whom will be starting their senior years in college this fall. Cadet Command streamlined the 29 days of training by "double stacking," or moving regiments through the training schedule two at a time, shortening LDAC's duration from last year's 79 days down to 49 days, from June 13 to July 31.
"Double stacking gets our cadets immersed in a field environment longer," Freakley said. "It gets them through in a shorter time period, which allows Fort Lewis as a strategic deployment platform to have more time available to get more units out."
By the end of the year, all three of the installation's Stryker brigade combat teams will have deployed since summer.
TRADOC and Accessions Command anticipate announcing a new officer training model for 2010 before the end of this year.
"Getting second lieutenants to units in a more timely fashion is critical and we believe changes we're studying will positively affect that," said Col. Frank Ippolito, former LDAC commander and now Accessions Command's director of officer accessions coordination. "Operational tempo, resource allocations at training posts, eliminating redundancies in training -- all of these factors are driving this study."
LDAC's crucial change this year, according to Col. Paul Wood, commander of the course and Cadet Command's 8th Brigade, was doubling the number of regiments training at once.
"The changes shorten the time on station of thousands for training cadre and support staff -- saving the Army money and saving those affected a number of days in the process," he said. "This requires more rigorous logistical support and a more tightly packed training schedule, but it has proven to be supportable."
Cadet Command will commission approximately 4,600 second lieutenants in fiscal year 2009 with a projected 5,100 next fiscal year.
"Army end-strength is driving our trainee population higher," Wood said. "As greater numbers of Army cadets move toward commissioning, the capacity of LDAC to train and assess cadets must increase.
"The L in LDAC is about leadership; we've increased the rigor of leader-oriented training and assessment this year, to everyone's benefit."
Training tasks were dropped and others added to make the most of the 29 training days. Cadets spent more time in situational training exercises leading patrols. Basic rifle marksmanship was dropped because, as Freakley responded to a cadet's question at Fort Lewis, "You're going to get more of that than you want when you get to your first unit. It's a perishable skill. It doesn't help if you get it here then report back to your senior year and not be able to keep using it."
Since Cadet Command is one of Freakley's subordinate commands, his visit to LDAC, Wood said, "is to share the vision of the Army, the direction of the Army and the expectations, and talk with cadets to see if we are really providing the right training."
Freakley urged the cadets to be adaptable and agile as leaders, telling them there are no "cookbook solutions" to the challenges they will face as Army leaders.
"One of us could possibly be in his place some day, so to hear him talk to us and tell us ways in which we can make it to that level was very beneficial," said Hampton (Va.) University cadet Cashmere Rhynes.
Western Kentucky University cadet William Roach was part of a group that had question-and-answer time with Freakley.
"Him being here shows that the Army is taking notice that this training is genuine," Roach said. "I didn't think the increased volume of soldiers impaired the training at all. It's a pretty rigorous process as far as getting down and evaluating the base level leadership."
(Additional reporting by Spc. Aaron Carpenter and Pfc. Melonie Foster-Mays, 28th Public Affairs Detachment)