PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- The Army's newest Senior Service College has begun accepting applications for its first class.

Applicants can apply to the Picatinny Arsenal Senior Service College Fellowship through March 29.

The Defense Acquisition University Senior Service College Fellowship (SSCF) is a 10-month, graduate-level program that prepares Army senior civilians for high-level Army acquisition and sustainment careers, explained Chris Grassano, Director of Talent Management and Director of the Picatinny Arsenal Senior Service College Fellowship.

The Picatinny Arsenal SSCF is the Army's fourth SSCF. There are also SSCF sites in Huntsville, Alabama; Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; and Warren, Michigan. All the sites participate via video telepresence, with instructors teaching from the various SSCF sites. There are breakout sessions within the sites, as well as online learning.

The SSCF's were established so that civilians could attend service college without having to relocate, and could attend classes from a local or regional location without the financial strain of moving their families or the burdens of being away from their families.

"While we have the regular Senior Service Colleges like the Eisenhower School (formerly the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF)) at Fort McNair, Virginia. About 10 years ago, the Army decided to launch the Senior Service College Fellowships," Grassano said.

"They recognized that it's a burden for civilians to leave their families for 10 months or move their families at their own expense, since it is not paid for like it is for the military. So it discourages civilians from attending because of the hardship."

In addition, the SSCF's are able to focus on specialty courses that are applicable to that location's mission.

"There's a core curriculum that's common across the Service Colleges, but then each site does a portion of their own thing and has their own flavor," Grassano said.

For instance, the Picatinny SSCF will have speakers and trips focused on armaments and ammunition, since that is the mission of the primary organizations on Picatinny. Other places such as the Detroit Arsenal SSCF can have unique aspects regarding vehicles, since that is the focus of many organizations in that community.

In addition to readings and analyzing case studies, students also take trips, such as visiting Capitol Hill, Combatant Commands and attending seminars.

"A lot of people, especially if they've stayed here at Picatinny, may work in one organization for a long time and don't have a broad view of what the Army or DOD is trying to do," Grassano said. "The curriculum allows students a much broader perspective of what's going on from a defense department perspective."

WHO SHOULD APPLY

Ideal applicants are GS-14 or GS-15 (or equivalent) civilians who want to advance their careers and serve the Army at a more senior level. Particularly, persons who have not had the opportunity for broadening experiences, such as working at the Pentagon or other organizations outside of Picatinny.

Grassano said the course is also for those who aspire to be a member of the Senior Executive Service or a deputy project manager (PM). "While Senior Service College is not mandatory to advance to these positions, it would weigh heavily on the boards who are selecting people for these positions. So if applicants don't have Senior Service College, then someone who will have it has the advantage," Grassano said.

The first Picatinny SSCF class, also called a cohort, will begin in July 2019. A Centralized Selection List board will select attendees and assign them to an SSCF, so no one at Picatinny will make the selections.

The board will select approximately 25 to 30 students to attend SSCF across all four sites. Each site will have from five to ten students.

"After an extensive review process, applicants will find out in April or May who gets selected. Then they'll get the materials ahead of time to begin studying for the college," Grassano said.

Once selected, the attendee's duty station will be Picatinny's Armament University.

"The students won't be tied to their old jobs so they can concentrate solely on their learning and growth," he said.

In addition to Army civilians, other government or industry-related employees in the local geographic region, such as reservists or Navy civilians, could apply to the SSCF, although the Army would not pay their tuition.

Such applicants would create a more diverse class, which Grassano believes is advantageous.

"Diversity is good because when you have discussions with your cohort, you get so many different perspectives. Most of the learning takes place from interaction with other people. You have instructors, but then when the students discuss topics amongst themselves, that is where the bulk of the learning occurs, from my perspective."

PROGRAM MANAGEMENT TRAINING-401

As proof of principle that the telepresence technology at the SSCF would work properly, the Picatinny SSCF held a Program Management Training-401 (PMT-401) course earlier this year. The 10-week course served as a training run for the upcoming 10-month SSCF.

"The PMT-401 course is an executive level course that prepares people to be PMs and deputy PMs at the 0-5 level," said Ben Corrigan, a recent PMT-401 graduate.

Corrigan is the Product Manager Combat Armaments and Protection Systems in the Joint Program Executive Office Armaments and Ammunition at Picatinny.

"Mostly, it is involved with problem-solving, and the majority of the focus is on stakeholder management and stakeholder communications, and how to be an effective communicator with the people you have to work with on a daily basis in program management," he said of the course.

Seven of the 10 weeks were taught via video telepresence at Picatinny. There were also three field trips, to Detroit, Huntsville and the District of Columbia.

"I'm a big proponent of VTC distance learning, so that part of it makes sense if you don't want to have to leave your house, leave your kids, leave your dog for 10 weeks," Corrigan said. "I only had to go TDY a couple of times, so it wasn't as painful."

Corrigan said the best part of the course was the peer feedback.

"As you were participating in conversations, peers would observe you and determine if you were being overly aggressive, if you were using effective listening skills, or if you were you talking past each other, not listening to the other person's point of view," he said. "You get feedback on that throughout the course, and try to improve though the course."

Graduates from the PMT-401 course taught at Picatinny in November were Corrigan, Paul Manz, Pete Errante, and George Herc.