FORT LEE, Va. -- In past years, the Army capitalized on Cadet Summer Training (CST), a large-scale, in-person and on-site training event at Fort Knox, Kentucky, to educate cadets about its various branches.
As the Army adapted to COVID restrictions, virtual branching orientation (VBO) became the primary forum for branch education and leader engagement. By capitalizing on the virtual stage, VBO expanded the ability to reach and maintain connections with a greater number of cadets. It also leveraged worldwide representation from the field and included the depth and breadth of Ordnance leaders’ input.
Brig. Gen. Michelle M.T. Letcher, the 42nd Chief of Ordnance, led the effort by virtually connecting with over 700 cadets and encouraging ongoing dialogue with sustainment leaders -- including herself.
“As talent-based branching evolves, I want to provide Ordnance leaders the opportunity to shape officer accessions by offering their perspective and experiences,” said Letcher.
VBO enabled the Ordnance branch to exchange more information with cadets than ever before, achieving unprecedented participation. The newly developed cadet branching website at https://goordnance.army.mil/od-cadet-branching/index.html showcases video testimonials and defines the talent priorities, knowledge, skills and behaviors (KSBs) desired in Ordnance officers.
Leader participation remained a priority throughout the officer branching process. Senior leaders agreed that the engagements were critical to the success of officer accessions.
"VBO created more than a digital file -- each cadet had a voice and a remarkable story linking their desires to not only be an Army officer, but also a professional Ordnance Soldier," said Lt. Col. David Thompson, former commander of the 832nd Ordnance Battalion, who served on the interview panel.
Officers, warrant officers, and NCOs across the operational force participated in virtual discussions, sharing their personal experiences, answering questions, and ultimately showcasing the diversity of Ordnance career paths and opportunities within materiel maintenance, ammunition, and explosive ordnance disposal.
The virtual platform supported a global reach. Ordnance leaders participated remotely from Afghanistan, Germany, Bosnia, and Korea in addition to CONUS locations. Cadets were able to engage directly with these leaders, who provided insight into the range of opportunities available to Ordnance officers.
The dialogue helped cadets explore which Ordnance career field aligned with their KSBs and personal goals.
"The virtual branch interaction was a great chance for us all to get a comfortable feel and idea of the Ordnance branch; my peers and I all felt the Q&As were engaging and really helpful in understanding the road ahead if we were to get selected," said Cadet Jacob Ziadeh, USMA Class of 2021.
Also new this year, every cadet had the opportunity to complete a virtual interview for branches in which they were interested. Over 525 cadets interviewed for 91A, Maintenance and Munitions Management, and over 175 interviewed for 89E, Explosive Ordnance Disposal.
The Ordnance branch leveraged the perspective of its officers, warrant officers and NCOs in the interview review process. The diversity of the interview panel contributed to a better understanding of the cadets’ diverse backgrounds, talents, and skills.
When asked about his VBO experience, Master Sgt. Jose A. Feliciano, an Ordnance senior career manager said, “I quickly realized how valuable it is to have a senior NCO’s perspective in the Ordnance officers’ selection process.”
In addition to the interviews, the cadets’ preferences, talent aptitude scores, personal statements, and cadre comments were also considered to identify the best talent matches for Ordnance. Just as cadets can prioritize their branch preferences, branches are now charged with selecting preferred cadets. This talent-based branching model is the foundation of officer talent management and aligns with the Army Talent Alignment Process (ATAP).
Compared to the annual CST event, VBO expanded access to a greater pool of talented cadets and increased prospective young leaders’ interest in the Ordnance Corps. Virtual communication not only maintained a focus on talent but enhanced it significantly.
The Ordnance Corps looks forward to the results of Year Group 2021 officer accessions. GO ORDNANCE!