Fort Eustis, Va. - One of the most important decisions an Army Cadet will make is the selection of what branch they want to serve in as a Second Lieutenant. To enhance the branch education process, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command developed Virtual Branch Outreach.
Through its partnership with Gabriel Enterprises, an industry leader in developing virtual event and training technologies, TRADOC developed a user-centric virtual learning environment that is collaborative, immersive, intuitive, and brings the branch selection process into the 21st Century.
VBO is a public facing virtual environment designed to provide branching education and assistance to Senior Reserve Officers' Training Corps Cadets and Cadets from the United States Military Academy at West Point. As Cadets consider what branches they want to assess into, they must consider many questions, including location options, daily life in the branch, and compatibility of the Cadet’s talent profile to branch requirements. Cadets must also consider if they want to serve in the Active Component, Army National Guard, or Army Reserve. These questions are critical in assessing Cadets into the right branch, maximizing their leadership potential while assisting with Army retention goals.
“VBO, as a response to the COVID environment last year, has accelerated Officer Branching education and brought it into the digital age,” says Mr. John Bessler, Officer Accessions Division Chief and Interim TRADOC Accessions Director. “Rather than limited engagements during Cadet Summer Training at Fort Knox or during 'Branch Week' at WestPoint, cadets become empowered to browse, interact, connect, discuss, and take charge of their branching research to make what is arguably one of the most important decisions of their lives to date.”
Though branches and sources of commission play an active role, VBO puts cadets in the driver’s seat. With VBO, cadets can identify their talent profile, schedule interviews, and ask questions to inform their branching decisions. It works with the Talent Based Branching model that emphasizes placing the right leader in the right occupational specialty based on talent and propensity to succeed within the branch. Though the tool is available to the public, Branching Cadets can take the experience further by registering for an account, which grants secure access to chat features, live webinars, branch meetings, and convention style live virtual events that bring all branches together at one time for scheduled webinars, keynote speakers, and peer networking.
In the past, branch education took place during CST or “Branch Week”, which are limited, especially for SROTC Cadets who only have a few hours to visit branches. It is also costly and time consuming for branches and staff. As the Army navigates fiscal constraint and adjusts to the new normal of a post-pandemic environment, VBO is an opportunity to reduce costs while increasing cadet exposure to branch education and interaction. It's done conveniently from home or through any smart phone or mobile device, keeping cadets safe and socially distanced. It will save hundreds of thousands of dollars for the branches as they scale back in-person events in favor of the virtual platform while also putting valuable time back into the training strip during CST. Finally, it standardizes branch education opportunity across both Sources of Commission and across all branches.
VBO is now live with live virtual events expected to begin in the near future. For more information visit, https://vbo.army.mil.