The School of Advanced Military Studies was created 37 years ago to produce critical, creative thinkers and agile, adaptive leaders for the Army, sister services, interagency partners, and allies. Graduates of SAMS have made major contributions in every crisis and conflict our nation has faced. Today’s COVID crisis is no different. The pandemic struck the nation as current students were beginning the final course, “Anticipating the Future” and preparing to execute the final planning exercise of the year.
As the severity of the crisis increased, several organizations and senior headquarters asked SAMS for planning support. The faculty and students have answered the call demonstrating the adaptability and agility SAMS is known for. Currently, select students and faculty are supporting collaborative planning efforts with the Office of the Chief for Public Affairs, US Northern Command, Army Material Command, Army Training and Doctrine Command, Installation Management Command, the Army University, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Each team is working to frame the problem, challenges, and opportunities associated with the COVID crisis. IMCOM and AMC teams have worked on installation support requirements to deal with summer surge backlogs and quickly realized the residual impact on Army readiness, manning, and professional military education. Their relationships with fellow classmates working in ArmyU & TRADOC Operational Plans Teams (OPT) enabled a collaboration and shared understanding of the relationships and timing of decisions between separate headquarters. Teams working with NORTHCOM and FEMA are exploring the “over the horizon” events that could occur as a response to implementation of the COVID campaign. Finally, the public affairs group is working on a methodology to operationalize the information campaign to share the Army’s COVID response story, while reducing misinformation and adversarial disinformation. Students and faculty value the opportunity to hone their skills and education in real time events with the potential to immediately impact the local community, the Army and the nation.
SAMS recognized the need for adaptability and seamlessly moved to remote telework and distance learning following the scheduled spring break in early March. The school deftly implemented both Black Board and Microsoft Teams losing no class time or delays in student learning. Leveraging our distance learning capabilities, students from SAMS’ resident programs have now tied in with the FEMA Region VII Defense Coordinating Element for their capstone exercise.
SAMS student seminars are aligned with specific FEMA “life line” working groups to assist DCE members as they study impacts, identify triggers and propose solutions to enable effective decision-making. Individual FEMA lifeline working groups include—Safety and Security, Food/Water/Shelter, Health and Medical, Energy, Communications, Transportation, and Hazardous Materials. Student OPTs will focus primarily on the Region VII area—Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska—while considering the national implications and potential application of solutions generated.
Following the capstone exercise, students will finish the academic year with virtually administered Oral Comprehensive Exams. Graduates will move to the operational force and assume planning and organizational leadership roles to assist senior commanders in driving the operations process to achieve favorable strategic, operational and tactical outcomes. This year’s graduates are well prepared having been tried and tested in current and potentially ongoing challenges. Although the isolation restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have been a challenge, SAMS students and faculty have adapted and achieved results. This is in keeping with the many graduates that have gone before and continue to contribute today.