NCO education conference debuts new partnerships, options
May 27, 2010
FORT MONROE, Va. (May 25, 2010) - Leaders from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and education partners provided updates during the College of the American Soldier Conference May 19 and 20 on Fort Monroe, Va.
The conference announced the expansion of CAS and addressed emerging civilian education initiatives for Army noncommissioned officers.
In November 2007, leaders from the TRADOC Institute for NCO Professional Development met with representatives from ten universities, colleges and the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges. Their goal was to help NCOs use credits earned through military education toward earning a civilian degree.
"We have to capitalize on civilian education from the recruiter level," said John Sparks, director of the INCOPD. "It's not about how education will benefit you after Army life, it's about gaining the sort of education you need to become a better member of our Army."
The CAS conference highlighted new initiatives to allow soldiers to begin their degree program with the Warrior Leaders Course and tailor the degree program to the Military Occupational Specialty.
Shannon K. Lutman, director, Directorate of Training, Doctrine and Education, U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, said Soldiers can reap educational benefits regardless of their location throughout their career with self-paced courses and distance learning.
"CAS and specifically the enlisted degree program benefits Soldiers by providing a maximization of credits avoided for PME, including structured self-development allowing soldiers to complete a degree despite the high operational tempo," Lutman said.
Soldiers enrolled in the CAS will still attend formal education like any other traditional degree. They will be required to attend class with other students, but will receive greater benefit for their military training and experience. The goal is to provide a first-class education through both military education and civilian colleges. A higher level of education benefits both the Army and the Soldiers.
INCOPD's goal is to provide options for NCOs, Sparks said. If an NCO is already enrolled in a program that benefits his needs and personal goals he can continue in the program. All Soldiers will continue to have all of the options provided by the SOC and SOC Army Degree (SOCAD) network.
The CAS will include partner colleges and universities, to include Excelsior College and Thomas Edison State College, to develop enlisted degree programs that continuously develop and enhance a Soldier's education level, cognitive ability and leadership potential throughout his or her career. Overall, the GoArmyEd website lists 27 colleges and universities whose degrees participate in the Career NCO Degrees Program for CAS.
Cynthia Bruce, director, Military Evaluations, American Council on Education, said military courses are routinely evaluated for college credit. Eligible courses must have a minimum of 45 hours to be reviewed for accreditation.
The conference highlighted the CAS vision to develop "Soldiers who are motivated to stay while preparing for the future; an enduring training and education partnership between Army trainers and civilian educators focused on expanding existing civilian education support for our soldiers and leaders; an optimum balance of training and education that accelerates the development of adaptive, multi-skilled NCO leaders for 21st Century challenges."
Sparks said traditional military roles are becoming more complex and Soldiers must learn how to think, not what to think, have the ability to see strategic and cultural contexts, and develop effective writing and reading skills to enhance their operational environment.
"Junior officers with two-and-a half, three years in the Army who were in high school three years ago are now responsible for 30 to 50 people," Sparks said. Meanwhile, young NCOs are in conflict zones responsible for interfacing and communicating with local community leaders.
"We want to train and educate our soldiers to be critical thinkers," Sparks said. The Army can train for certainty, but needs to educate its members for uncertainty. Soldiers need to be prepared to operate on unfamiliar problems in unfamiliar contexts.
"We're moving into a world in which we don't know where the next conflict will be, what the next technology will be or what the next weapon system will be," Sparks said. The CAS will help Soldiers develop divergent thinking skills by enabling them to develop unknown solutions to unfamiliar problems in unpredictable situations.
In turn, Soldiers will be intellectually agile and expected to become comfortable operating with risk and autonomy. Much of this autonomy is possible with current, available technology.
"Today if I ask a classroom full of young Soldiers a question and try to stump them, they'll pull a mobile device from their pockets and get the answer in two seconds," Sparks said. This analogy is representative of the world our new recruits come from, so our education opportunities and programs need to fit their needs.
"I believe CAS will streamline the degree completion process enabling Soldiers to accomplish their academic goals and objectives with a more clearly defined path," Lutman said.
The CAS education initiatives include a career NCO degree program not tied to enrollment in an MOS specialty degree; an enlisted degree program for first-term enlistees; an advanced NCO degrees program for students enrolled at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy; ACE reviews of the Army Correspondence Course Program; in-progress reviews of military instruction programs, and a for-credit college orientation course.
For example, the Advanced Degrees Program would feature a Masters in Educational Leadership for the military instructors at USASMA, and a Masters of Arts in Strategic Security Studies for psychological operations senior NCOs.
The INCOPD is also exploring methods to award promotion points for civilian professional credentials, and the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School is developing a global security studies program for bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees.
"I am highly impressed with the work Mr. Sparks and the Institute of NCO Professional Development has accomplished to facilitate the civilian education process for enlisted Soldiers," Lutman said.