JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. – For Army cadets deciding which branch to choose, access to accurate, up-to-date information is critical for success.
The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command launched the Virtual Branch Outreach platform in 2020 as a response to COVID-19 restrictions on in-person branch selection events, but it evolved into an interactive platform that provides guidance for cadets at the start of their Army careers.
“When COVID happened, and we could not bring everyone together for Cadet Summer Training, we needed a way to orient cadets to branches. So, we created, in six weeks, a rudimentary VBO on an existing web platform,” said John Bessler, division chief, officer accessions, Accessions Directorate. “TRADOC recognized the value of having that virtual platform available 24/7, on demand.”
Since the launch of VBO, TRADOC, in partnership with Gabriel Enterprises, incorporated user feedback to expand the platform and meet cadets’ needs.
“There’s been a lot of content improvements for VBO as a platform as well as for the live sessions,” said Yuliya Manyakina, User Experience Researcher, Gabriel Enterprises. “We’ve really been working with branches to make the sessions shorter and more interactive, really focusing on questions that cadets have.”
VBO is comprised of “booths” managed by branches that contain resources, videos, and livestream recordings. Cadets can download and save branch briefs, branching timelines and other tools. Each booth is staffed by a host, who can answer cadets’ questions in real time.
VBO is the authoritative source on the internet for branching-related topics, as the information comes directly from branch experts. Branches update their content regularly to ensure all information is correct and current.
“You can learn from the program itself, including what are the different branches and where you can be stationed. There’s a lot of different ways you can use the platform to get smart on the pluses of military service,” Bessler said.
VBO also hosts livestream events, the next series is scheduled for Oct. 3-7. Events will be from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. A full schedule can be viewed at https://vbo.army.mil/.
“The events are really a great way for cadets to identify their talent profile, get to know the branches and interact with other cadets in real time,” Manyakina said. “Because they’re live, cadets can ask officers in the branches questions.”
Cadets in any year can benefit from the wide range of events and resources VBO has to offer.
“If you’re a cadet, you might assume that a certain branch would align with your talent. I would say to go to VBO and test those assumptions,” Manyakina said. “Join a session, learn more about a branch, and you may be surprised by what you find out.”
VBO is accessible from all devices and anyone can make an account to view resources and livestreams. Visit https://vbo.army.mil/ to learn more.