By Col. Robert A. Law IIIJanuary 28, 2019
Urban legend in the halls of the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is that the year a student spends in the Command and General Staff Officer's Course (CGSOC) is the best year of that officer's life. Although that is open for debate, what that year does represent is arguably the most important and meaningful year of an officer's military career. CGSC prepares a sustainment officer to be a division and corps staff officer, which will in turn prepare the officer to be a battalion and brigade commander. The year at CGSC really prepares the officer for the next 10 to 20 years of his or her career.
As Gen. Martin Dempsey, the 18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in his 2012 Joint Education White Paper, "Our military has traditionally relied on education in times of uncertainty to develop understanding of the future security environment, lead adaptation and ensure readiness to face future, unknown challenges." CGSC is leaning forward to prepare sustainment officers for large-scale combat operations against a near-peer threat. Gone are the days of CGSC teaching brigade-level operations in a counterinsurgency environment; the curriculum has been realigned to the division fight--the great nation fight.
ADVANCED OPERATIONS COURSE
CGSOC's capstone course is the Advanced Operations Course (AOC), and academic year 2019 was its first year with a revised curriculum. The new AOC is built around Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations. Five curriculum modules are aligned with the Army's four strategic roles that are outlined in FM 3-0, and two modules are associated with conducting large-scale ground combat operations. The course uses a team teaching concept that involves all departments at the college: Tactics, Logistics, Joint Operations, Leadership, and History.
Three changes mark an evolutionary shift in how CGSOC builds and executes AOC curriculum for 2019 and beyond. First, AOC aligns, integrates, and nests the large-scale combat operations doctrinal concepts that are outlined in FM 3-0 as the primary driver that supports learning objectives and outcomes. Additionally, the curriculum now uses a singular platform, the division, with which the students' lessons and practicums are aligned. This alignment supports credentialing the Army's basic branch field-grade officers to serve on general staffs and to lead and conduct large-scale combat operations in tactical units at the division level.
Second, rather than using a sequential series of practical exercises that shift the students to staff positions at various operational levels, the AOC curriculum focuses on the division staff planning level. This allows the students to maintain intellectual continuity and to experience a seamless flow of the scenario throughout the 16-week course. The curriculum includes five modules: Prepare (training and deployment); Joint Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration; Transition to the Offense; Offensive Operations; and Transition from Offense. These modules are sequentially aligned with the major themes contained in FM 3-0, including shape, prevent, conduct large-scale combat operations, and consolidate gains.
Third, the course's scenario has shifted to a decisive action training environment with a European focus. This allows the school to use a single exercise planning scenario and nest with a common scenario utilized across multiple NATO venues. CGSOC incorporates real-world country data and after action reports from active duty units into the scenario and student data. Students work with current doctrinal structures and task organizations overlaid on terrain and scenarios that are used by actual units for training.
COMMON CORE AND ELECTIVES
In addition to the revised AOC, CGSOC still has the Common Core and electives as part of the curriculum. The purpose of CGSOC Common Core is to educate and train field-grade leaders to serve as staff officers and commanders with the ability to build teams, lead organizations, and integrate unified land operations with joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational partners in complex and uncertain environments.
The Common Core consists of nine blocks of instruction: Foundations, Strategic Context of Operational Art, Unified Action, Apply U.S. Army Doctrine, Developing Organizations and Leaders, Managing Army Change, Rise of the Western Way of War, Operational Art and Planning, and the Common Core Comprehensive Exam.
There are four sustainment courses embedded inside the CGSOC Common Core curriculum. The Joint Functions-Sustainment Course introduces students to the joint function of logistics at the strategic level and discusses the Title 10 responsibilities of departments, organizations, and the services. The U.S. Army Sustainment Support to Unified Action Course enables students to comprehend the Army's sustainment capabilities that are necessary to integrate multiple services' logistics to generate combat power to support unified action. The Tactical Sustainment Course enables students to integrate the scope and complexity of the sustainment warfighting function at the tactical level by participating in classroom discussions about sustaining the brigade combat team. The Joint Logistics Planning Course introduces and reinforces joint logistics and joint logistics planning.
Finally, within the Common Core, the Department of Logistics and Resource Operations (DLRO) retains the responsibility for teaching the Managing Army Change Course to the Army's newest field-grade officers. Students learn how politically developed strategies evolve into general operating concepts. They begin to understand the interrelated issues involved in integrating the new capabilities into the force. Army officers are already managers of change, but exposing them to how the Army changes as an institution has lasting impacts.
CGSOC permits students to select elective courses to enable professional growth, prepare for future assignments, and fulfill personal interests. DLRO offers many sustainment electives that teach key sustainment positions, organizations, and functions and that range in focus from the tactical to strategic levels. Students can earn an additional skill identifiers, such as Operational Contract Support (3C) or Theater Sustainment Planners Program (P1), as well as certifications to be support operations officers, division transportation officers, and brigade S-1s. Through an array of independent study courses, sustainment basic branch officers can receive valuable career credentialing.
Within the Combined Arms Center, we point out that our military culture today is a byproduct of more than 15 years of persistent limited contingency operations. While we must continue to consider the counterinsurgency and stability problem set, we must also consider a future in which battalions, brigades, and our nation--and not just platoons--are at risk of attack from our near-peer competitors.
In response to changes that have occurred over the past two years, CGSC has adjusted its course to provide the Army with educated officers ready to shape, prevent, and prevail in large-scale ground combat and win in a complex and contested operational environment.
Col. Robert A. Law III is the director of DLRO at CGSC. He has a bachelor's degree from Villanova University, a master's degree from Kansas State University, and a master's degree from the Naval War College. Colonel Law is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officer Advanced Course, CGSC, and the Naval War College.
This article is an Army Sustainment product.