The U.S. Army Combined Arms Center’s Army University resumed its resident professional military education offerings, July 2020, hosting multiple courses for General Officers taking command, future battalion and brigade command teams, and military planners at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Army senior leaders designated several resident courses that Army University hosts as critical to the Army’s mission and readiness. CAC responded by developing plans to host the courses while limiting the risk of the spread of COVID-19.
“We are looking at the long game. We are not waiting for COVID-19 to go away. We are putting the right procedures in place, so we can protect the force that will train and operate under a COVID-19 environment,” said Gen. James McConville, Chief of Staff of the Army, in a media interview about Army plans to continue training.
Army University’s Pre-Command Course was designated a priority because it prepares Active and Reserve Component Soldiers slated to assume battalion and brigade command, and command sergeants major positions. July’s PCC course hosted Army’s University’s largest population of 400 students, since the graduation of the Command and General Staff Officers’ Course for Majors in June.
PCC was their first test-bed to demonstrate their ability to safely host resident courses with substantial class sizes.
CAC, Army University’s higher headquarters, coordinated a multi-pronged approach to put numerous measures in place to ensure students could travel to Fort Leavenworth and participate in the courses safely.
“This effort has been a collaboration between the Combined Arms Center, School for Command Prep, Garrison, IHG and many others,” said Col. Garrick Cramer, commander of Munson Army Health Center.
As a first measure, PCC's student body was split in two, with 200 students attending each week. Fort Leavenworth’s Munson Army Health Center tested PCC students when they arrived to the installation as an extra measure. Army University also implemented in-class social distancing, and contact-tracing and sanitizing response procedures. Fort Leavenworth Garrison and IHG designated living spaces for quarantine and isolation in case of suspected infections.
Army University also held the Army Strategic Education Program-Course at the same time as PCC. ASEP-C is a developmental course for one or two-star General Officers assuming command assignments. They also received their instruction in conference rooms with social distance enabled spaces. The senior officers could even be seen putting on face coverings when they left their class rooms like other students.
Similarly, Army University began another iteration of its Advance Military Studies Program at the end of June. About one-hundred forty students started the graduate-level education program, which is designed to develop military planners who can aid senior leaders understand operational environments and develop solutions to operational problems.
Hosting these courses accelerated CAC’s adaption of its operations to COVID. Lessons learned from the courses will help shape the success of CAC’s next major task – hosting its largest and longest student population of CGSOC students, set to begin in September.
“Currently, 854 CGSOC students are expected to arrive on Fort Leavenworth in the coming weeks,” said Col. Harry Hung, Fort Leavenworth’s Garrison Commander
CAC’s leadership suggested they’ll maintain their vigilant approach to reducing the risk of COVID spread, while continuing their mission to develop leaders attending their courses.
“There is a reason why Fort Leavenworth is still at (Health Protection Condition) Charlie and we have never gone below that,” said CAC Chief of Staff Col. Thomas Bolen. “We have not loosened our standards, and the expectation is that those who live and work here don’t relax their standards either.”
“Much like a combat zone, becoming complacent in a pandemic could have catastrophic implications,” said Col. Matthew Fandre, command surgeon for the Combined Arms Center.
CAC’s adaption to COVID will allow it to continue to play a principal role for the Army in leader development, professional military education, doctrine and training development, among other critical functions.