FORT KNOX, Kentucky (Dec. 7, 2015) -- Dec. 30 submission deadlines are fast approaching for a dozen Army fellowship opportunities managed by the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, or HRC.

"The purpose of the Broadening Opportunities Program, or BOP, is to provide a cohort of leaders, who will allow the Army to succeed at all levels, in all environments," said program manager, Joel Strout.

Some of the programs, he said, also provide intermediate level education and advanced operations course completion.

The fellowships and internships vary in number of selectees, proponents, application requirements and post-completion assignments, but all are designed to challenge Soldiers with an educational experience that is outside the normal Army training channels, he said.

"Any educational experience can be broadening, but you can tell the Army is serious about training to make sure the Service members are highly educated and trained, not only inside the box, but outside the box," Strout said.

While there is still time to submit packets to the BOP, Soldiers, who hesitate at this late stage, run the risk of missing a shot at developmental assignments that are among the Army's most prestigious, he said.

"As soon as the packet is complete ... they should submit it," Strout said. Each program has an accompanying military personnel message that explains eligibility requirements and details for how a Soldier should apply.

The 12 programs are among a total of 21 managed by HRC's Leader Development Division, Advanced Education Branch. They are each described in detail on the BOP website. Soldiers will need their common access card to log into the website.

About 10 of the programs result in an advanced degree for Soldiers, who complete them successfully, Strout said.

"These programs are successful due to leadership push to their top Service members," he said. "Being associated or being selected and successfully completing these programs, in my opinion, would give the Service member a leg up over their counterparts. Because their records are screened by numerous people, just to be a candidate and, as they say, the cream rises to the top."

The best advocates for the fellowships are the Soldiers, who participate in them, he said.

Lt. Col. John C. Williams, for instance, is participating in the Command and General Staff College, or CGSC, Interagency Key and Developmental/Post-Military Education Level 4 Fellowship Program.

"The experience truly encapsulates my 14 years of special operations forces military experience and special operations low-intensity conflict education," said Williams, who is presently attached to the Department of State and assigned as a strategic planner to the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications section, part of the Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

Lt. Col. Brian Hayes is also enrolled in the interagency fellowship program. He serves at the Department of Agriculture as a policy analyst.

"I can say with confidence that I am being broadened through my daily interactions with non-DOD departments and agencies," Hayes said. "Anyone interested in the CGSC interagency program should start the application process early to ensure a high-quality packet is assembled and submitted ahead of the deadline."

The program accepts up to 50 majors and lieutenant colonels, both active and Reserve, annually. Assignments steer officers to a broad range of federal agencies, where they collaborate on developing solutions for difficult national security challenges.

By contrast, the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies Fellowship accepts just one Soldier annually to broaden his or her knowledge of European security initiatives and U.S. security cooperation.

"This is a fantastic program and, other than serving as a deployed company commander, this is without a doubt the best assignment I've had in 27 years," said Maj. Joseph N. Gardner, the current Army G3/5/7 fellow at the center in Garmisch, Germany.

Fellows participate in a Eurasian Security Studies Seminar, complete a program of applied security studies course and produce an advanced research paper while studying with scholars and a dynamic mix of military, government and private sector leaders and professionals. Gardner studied with more than 100 fellows from nearly 50 countries and produced original research in the field of mission assurance with a focus on protecting critical infrastructure.

"Going into ILE [intermediate level education], I knew I wanted to compete for broadening opportunities with the Marshall Fellowship being at the top of my list. So with that in mind, I completed 10 electives, two more than required by the CGSC to complete ILE. The additional two were necessary to meet the curriculum prerequisite to obtain credit for broadening programs such as the Army strategist (6Z) track," he said.

Other programs focus on U.S. military and diplomatic missions in and around Washington, D.C.

For instance, the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Office of the Secretary of Defense/Army Staff Intern Program is a three-year program that selects about 20 officers annually. Each participant completes a master of policy management degree at Georgetown University, followed by additional core and elective courses. Upon earning their degrees, interns are integrated into the policy and operational activities of the nation's senior military staffs.

In their third year, interns are assigned to Army staff positions based upon individual strengths and skills acquired during the first two years. Those who complete the program are awarded a 6Z (strategic education and development) skill identifier.

"I believe the transition to field grade is the perfect time to expose Army officers to the inner workings of the Pentagon and I absolutely recommend it to officers in any branch, who aspire to be future battalion commanders," Maj. G. Wade Greenlee said.

After earning his master's, Greenlee served as a Korea policy officer on the Joint Staff and is completing his internship in the Army Staff G-8, where he is responsible for programming funds to modernize the Stryker family of vehicles. He said the internship provides a priceless view inside the workings of "Big Army."

"It may require more self-study to remain tactically and operationally competent, but the strategic exposure in the Pentagon is absolutely worth it," he said.

Interns said the educational and developmental opportunities abound both on the job and off.

"Take advantage of all that Georgetown has to offer, build your network early, and stay engaged throughout your years as a fellow," said Capt. Catalina Rosales, who is completing her third year, serving on the Army staff as a legislative liaison working in the House of Representatives. After completing her master's, Rosales worked directly for the special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for public affairs.

"This is by far the best job I have done in the Army," said Capt. Michael W. Taylor, now serving as country director for five East Asian countries in the International Armaments Cooperation Office for the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

"I didn't expect to be provided such a challenge as a junior officer reporting to my office," he said.

While the majority of broadening opportunities is geared toward officers, others are designed for warrants and noncommissioned officers, Strout said. One such example is the Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship.

"It is at Penn State, where they get a master's in adult education and then use those teaching skills at the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss," Strout said. About 20 noncommissioned officers are selected annually from both the active and Reserve components.

Among other fellowships presently soliciting applications, the Purdue University Military Research Initiative Scholarship will select three active-duty Service members to focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects with a focus on DOD research programs leading to a doctorate.

"They will consider master's, but the main focus is Ph.D.," Strout said.

For the best outcome, each Soldier should consider how a broadening fellowship would fit with her or his individual career aspirations, he said.

"One thing to remember is that you are an Army officer first and foremost, despite what your basic branch is," said Gardner, the Marshall Center fellow. "Your career is exactly that, your career, so you have to actively manage it. Think of it in terms of what will make you a better Army officer, who can serve the Army in any capacity anywhere in the world."

"Review the application and acceptance timeline to ensure that you know when to apply in your career," Taylor said. "It is a long process and you will still have time to grow in your current unit before you report. Once you start the internship, seek the classes and jobs that are outside of your comfort zone."

"Each Service member must look at where they are in their career and where they want to be, or what they want to achieve, in order to choose the right program," Strout said.

"Whether you are looking for a graduate degree, a challenge outside the norm or looking to the future after the military, we urge you to go to the website and review the available programs. Maybe one of them is right for you and your Family.

"I urge the Service member to sit down and talk to their Family before submitting an application, because it is going to take a Family effort to make any of these programs successful for the Service member. It is also an adventure for the entire Family," he said.

As the Dec. 30 deadline approaches, Strout said interested Soldiers should assemble and complete and submit their packets as soon as possible. He also said Soldiers may contact him directly with any questions and for a pre-submission review to identify and correct any deficiencies to avoid any last-minute surprises.