FORT KNOX, Ky. — As the Battalion Commander Assessment Program was Jan. 15, so generally will be the Colonels Command Assessment Program when it starts in September, say Army officials.
The new brigade-level talent management initiative, like the battalion-level program, is expected to thoroughly assess several colonels vying for strategic command and staff slots. To get an understanding of what the mid-career commissioned officers are expected to experience, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Joseph Martin walked through the process during an Aug. 11 visit to Fort Knox.
“What the Army [Talent Management Task Force] is looking for is that the Vice [Vice Chief of Staff of the Army] came, he saw, and he gave a thumbs up — just like he did for BCAP,” said Lt. Col. Kari McEwen, public affairs officer for the Army Talent Management Task Force in Washington, D.C.
The walk-thru began with several in-processing briefings at the Mayor’s Cell. Officials say candidates will go through the same orientation when they arrive beginning Sept. 11. Key to the in-processing will be a step-by-step COVID-19 screening.
“This is going to be the pre-screen of candidates as well as cadre members so we can identify folks that are symptomatic,” said one of the briefers. “We’ll have testing upon arrival. We’ll also have ample hand sanitizer and other personal protection equipment to allow folks to remain safe.”
Part of the mitigation plan includes dividing a class of candidates into three sub-groups to minimize transmission.
Classes will consist of no more than 64 candidates that will be divided into what officials call three sub-cohorts. Candidates will also be assigned a sponsor.
“The sponsors are going to be critical to make sure that candidates are taken care of, get to the assessment sites and are able to focus on the assessments,” said one briefer.
Martin and other senior leaders learned in more detail how the program will work. Officials managing the program touched on the history of talent management and what led the Army to the development of BCAP and CCAP.
“I’d really like you to take away that this is not something that the Army dreamed up three months ago when they were given the task,” said retired Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, who served as commandant of the Army War College before retiring in September 2014. “When I got to the War College in 2012, [then-Army Chief of Staff] Gen. Ray Odierno called me and gave me a task. It was based on a problem that he saw, and that problem was that the newly selected brigadier generals, when tossed inside the Beltway or the strategic environment, were hesitant — tentative; they lacked confidence.
“They were incredible operational warriors, but suddenly they were faced with challenges that required a different kind of thinking.”
That acknowledgement and the deep-dive studies that followed, according to Cucolo, resulted in the conception of data capturing efforts and regulation changes that have led to the formation of BCAP and CCAP.
During the CCAP process, candidates will be assessed on their strategic thinking skills and effective communications skills. The assessments will measure the colonels’ physical, cognitive and non-cognitive skills through written and verbal communications and an interview with behavioral psychologists.
As in BCAP, candidates sit down at the end of the process and participate in a double-blind panel interview with senior Army officers. During the interview, candidates will sit behind a curtain and answer questions from the panel members.
Afterward, panel members will score each candidate’s verbal communication based on the interview. Additionally, they will determine each candidate’s readiness for command based on all the assessments conducted at CCAP as well as peer and subordinate assessments sent in from Soldiers who have worked with and for the candidate. Operational psychologists who specialize in assessment and selection programs will be on-hand to provide guidance and understanding of the information.
The data gathered will provide an order of merit that U.S. Army Human Resources Command managers will use to determine the best primary and alternate selections for targeted command and key staff positions.
In attendance at the Aug. 11 walk-thru was Lt. Gen. Gary Brito, the U.S. Army’s new G-1. Having taken the job two weeks prior, he said he experienced BCAP as a pilot program at Fort Benning, Georgia, when he commanded the installation before taking the G-1 position and witnessed it at Fort Knox in January when candidates attended.
“Everybody’s searching for talent,” said Brito. “Both this and the BCAP that’s been conducted previously put us in a good position to assess and select the best talent we need for commanders in the United States Army. At the end of the day, what I think it will provide us is a leader who’s capable, physically fit, able to think, and hopefully not be toxic in any way.”
Martin said he liked what he saw after the walk-thru.
“They’re ready to go,” said Martin. “Just like BCAP, I’ve come here to validate the assessment, and I’ve got a high level of confidence that they’ve got the right things in place so we can execute to the same standards.”