WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 30, 2007) - The Advanced Civil School Program is offering graduate school opportunities to junior and soon-to-be officers to enhance critical skills throughout the Army.

The two-pronged program targets pre-commissioning cadets attending the U.S. Military Academy or Reserve Officer Training Corps, and currently serving company-grade officers with less than eight years of service.

"One of our focuses is to broaden the experiences of our officers through civilian education. If I can take an infantry officer and inculcate him with a grad program that broadens his outlook on the world, I've got a better infantry officer," said Col. Mark Patterson, program director.

After drawing 270 cadet applications last academic year, 371 cadets have applied so far this year.

The program allows USMA and ROTC cadets in their senior years to apply, though they won't attend grad school until after selection for captain, or between their sixth and 11th years of service after commissioning. When they attend graduate school depends on where the officers are with respect to their assignment cycles.

While the Army historically sends about 412 active-duty officers a year to school, most of these are to support functional areas and to provide instructors to West Point. Through the Advanced Civil School Program, the Army is now sending an additional 200 officers who have six years of Army experience to graduate school. Most of the 200 allocations, Patterson said, are delegated down to brigade commanders who can identify the best candidates.

"Many master's degree programs value the experiences that company-grade officers have to offer to the classroom," Patterson said. "Take a civilian executive officer and mix an Army officer in and you're cross-pollinating the knowledge that each brings to the academic environment.

"We're developing these officers to broaden their experience, to get them to think a little bit differently, see how the rest of the world thinks and then put them back into the military," he added.

In addition to developing its officers, the Army hopes the program will help retain them. While retention of Army officers is well above the historical average, Patterson said, it's not enough to keep up with transformation and modernization.

"In order to grow the Army on the accelerated growth that we're seeing in core structure and the acceleration in the brigade combat teams, we need to retain more of our best and brightest," he said.

All applicants must agree to an increased active-duty obligation before selection. Those selected may attend a U.S. accredited graduate school of their choice in key disciplines that support the officer skill set, such as cultural awareness, regional knowledge, foreign languages, governance, diplomacy and social sciences. Discipline lists will be updated annually to ensure the Army keeps pace with the needs of the force and emerging fields of study.

Interested officers should speak to their commanders and contact their assignment officers at Human Resources Command. For more information, visit https://www.hrc.army.mil/site/protect/Active/opfamacs/ACS14.htm.