The U.S. Army Combined Arms Center hosted its first Army Strategic Education Program-Command course of the year with 11 flag officers from Active and Reserve Components and two from NATO ally countries, attending at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Jan. 25-29.
ASEP-C is a weeklong developmental course for one and two-star flag officers assigned to command positions. Students are screened for COVID risks and symptoms before each class.
Nearly half the attendees command tactical divisions, including four U.S. Army division commanders and two French and U.K. Army division commanders. A deputy-commanding general for the U.S. Army’s III Corps also attended.
The French and U.K. commanders’ attendance was a unique component of this cohort. Maj. Gen. Laurent Michon commands the French Army’s 3rd Division, Maj. Gen. Michael Elviss, the U.K. Army’s 3rd Division.
The senior leaders convened at a pivotal time, as the Army transitions its focus to fighting at division and corps levels, while building capability to conduct multi-domain operations in high-intensity conflict and large-scale combat operations.
The course had an ambitious agenda. It included weighty discussions on a range of topics such as current operational environments, Army modernization and capability development, Army and Joint doctrine, warfighting at corps level, sustainment and law of warfare.
The group heard from some of the Army’s most senior leaders about combat readiness and senior-level leadership and expectations, including Gen. James McConville, Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Michael Garrett, Forces Command commander and Gen. Paul Funk II, Training and Doctrine Command commander.
U.S. Army retired Gen. David McKiernan also shared insight about commandership and lessons for large-scale combat operations. He commanded 1st Cavalry Division, 1999-2001, the Combined Forces Land Component Command during the invasion of Iraq, 2002-2004, and was later the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, 2008-2009.
Michon and Elviss, offering an outside perspective, said they appreciated hearing from such senior leaders during the course.
“The extraordinary commitment of the four-star community from the Chief down, to come and talk to us, has been amazing. That time with senior leaders is fundamental,” said Elviss.
Michon also weighed in, saying it was “amazing to meet other commanding generals, to hear from the Chief [of Staff] of the Army, and have exchanges about leadership, current life, training and readiness of both armies.”
The two commanders said they also valued the discussions about warfighting.
“The course’s focus on the fight at division and corps levels was very important for me,” said Michon.
“I am the first French general to come to this course as a division commander. That’s an enormous opportunity.”
Elviss said, “it was fantastic to talk through all the elements of the offense, defense, transitional phases … with one and two star commanders, and commanders from the centers of excellence, who are all experts in their fields.”
Both commanders also said the peer-to-peer human exchange was the most important feature of the course.
“The best takeaways were the human exchanges about how we deal with the same problems to educate people, to train hard, to develop the leadership of subordinates, and to learn at every age and every step our military lives,” said Michon.
“[The class size] was small enough to exchange in an intense manner.”
Elviss said, “it’s been fantastic to be here as an Alliance partner.”
He said "[I enjoyed] the frank and fluid ideas conversations between peers in terms of sharing ideas and helping each other understand the evolution we’re all going through in twenty-first century all-arms maneuver.”
“It’s been long days, but we got a lot out of just a five-day course,” said Elviss.
The French and U.K. commanders and their divisions will also participate in a U.S. Army warfighter exercise in April, hosted by the combat training center, Mission Command Training Program. The exercise will feature III Corps (Fort Hood) as the high command, leading U.S., U.K. and French divisions against MCTP’s World Class OPFOR. Michon and Elviss’s attendance to ASEP-C will undoubtedly enhance their ability to conduct operations as a mission partner in the exercise and achieve their interoperability goals.