The Advanced Military Studies Program is a graduate-level course of the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) designed for those interested in planning and design methodology. Typically, lieutenant colonels and majors attend the training after completing Command and General Staff College.
I am a product of this school, having graduated three years ago. As an officer interested in Army planning at all levels, I cannot say enough about how this course helped me see operations. However, as a logistics officer, I see a unique side and want to share a few lessons and recommendations for any non-maneuver officer considering applying to the school.
SAMS is a great school with numerous benefits. I cannot recommend attending enough, especially from the field! Leave the confines of the school, go to your unit, and complete required key developmental (KD) jobs before applying as a field select. There are several benefits to this course of action, the main being you will bring the knowledge gained from these KD jobs to your small group. The second is your utilization tour will occur above the division and corps level, allowing a look beyond tactical planning while also completing broadening assignments before promotion and Command Centralized Selection List boards. Utilization tour selection will be the single biggest decision you make other than the monograph topic: ask the right questions.
Interviewing prospective units is a two-way street. As an asset to the unit, you should be interested in more than the unit’s location. Several questions I wish I would have asked are:
How does your G-5, G-3, and chief of staff see non-maneuver planners?
Why does your unit want a logistics planner?
Who was your last logistics planner, and what efforts did they lead?
These questions would ensure I knew how the division viewed and exercised their non-maneuver planners—being viewed as only a logistics planner is a guaranteed way to be shuffled to the back corner of the G-5 vault or assigned to work with the G-4. Graduates from SAMS receive the same additional skills identifier with no branch designation. Fight to be viewed as a general planner and fight for projects that stretch your ability beyond your warfighting function (WfF). Expect to work harder, and you will be the link between the planners and your WfF primary staff officers. In my case, I was the link to the G-1, G-4, G-8, and division surgeon.
The link between the G-5 and WfF staff officers establishes the relationship early and, most importantly, ensures you understand how their input will affect your rating. Ask that there be a written agreement, or at least an email chain detailing who will have input into your rating. Doing great work for the G-1 and G-4 while all your fellow planners spend time with the G-5, G-3, and chief of staff will only end with you looking in from the outside as the G-5 ranks their majors. If you spend most of your time working for a different staff officer, make sure they advocate for you and help write your officer evaluation report.
This advice should not sway anyone from attending SAMS. It is meant only to provide insight from a sustainer who has seen the good and the bad of being a non-maneuver branch planner living in a world dominated by maneuverists. Applying for SAMS from the field allows you to control your career by assessing your needs after KD assignments. Ensuring you are seen as a planner and not a branch planner keeps you relevant in any situation and is noted by your senior rater. Establishing early expectations between key players in your utilization tour ensures more people are prepared to assist and that you do not put more energy into the relationship than they are willing to repay. Again, SAMS was a great year, and I wish you success in your upcoming assignments.
Maj. Jason Phillips currently serves as a support operation observer-coach/trainer for the 5-306th Brigade Support Battalion, 188th Infantry Brigade, Fort Stewart, Georgia. He has earned degrees from North Georgia College and State University, American Military University, Air Command and Staff College, and the School of Advanced Military Studies. He also has completed the Theater Sustainment Planners Course at Fort Lee, Virginia.
This article was published in the Winter 2022 issue of Army Sustainment.