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Technical perspective.

Officer Education System (OES) Redesign: A Technician's Point of View

The current Warrant Officer Education System (WOES), developed during the Cold War, is out of step with the demands of our technologically advanced and transforming Army and current operations. The asymmetric nature of the current operational environment is characterized by islands of conflict--there are no front lines. Warrant Officers (WOs) are now performing duties that historically they have not been trained to perform. The focus of this column is two fold:

* To point out the need for the integration of WOES into an overarching Officer Education System (OES), which educates the entire U.S. Army Officer Corps throughout its members' military careers.

* To emphasize the need for additional leadership and improved technical training for WOs.

I must point out that there have been no decisions made on the integration of WOES into OES. There are many options being studied and I am sure that our leadership will select the best option to the overall benefit of our Army. Last fall, the WO Training Branches of all fifteen branch proponents were asked to study the integration of the WOES into the OES. Their findings will be briefed to LTG William S. Wallace, Commander, Combined Arms Center (CAC) later this year. The study was prompted by one of the recommendations of the Army Training and Leader Development Panel (ATLDP). The main thrust of this recommendation was to create a shift in Army Culture in which the WO Corps is fully integrated into the Officer Corps--"One Officer Corps for One Army." It is important that the reader understand that by no means am I advocating an equal or single training plan for warrant and line officers. Our professional and educational needs are different.

Integrating WOES into OES

One of the education transformation concepts being studied is the full integration of officer and WO candidates into the Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC) Phases 1 and 2; they will attend BOLC Phase 2 together as lieutenants and WO1s. There is little difference between the basic officer leadership training offered to officer and WO candidates in BOLC Phase 1. Merging these cohorts early in their education and in a controlled training environment makes sense. One major benefit is that it will centralize officer producing schools under one education system with one standard, saving training time and resources. Another benefit is that it exposes lieutenants to WOs early in their careers. Because both cohorts will receive the same initial training; lieutenants, as they progress through the ranks, will learn to regard WOs as officers.

It is easier to merge the training of the warrant and line officer cohorts early in their careers as they share the same training and officer leadership development needs. This task becomes increasingly difficult as they progress through the education levels. After BOLC 1 and 2, lieutenants and WO1s disperse to pursue their respective leadership and technical tracks. For WOs, the need for specialized training tailored to their professional needs increases. This is certainly true of BOLC Phase 3, the "branch qualification" or Officer Basic Course (OBC), where it will be far more difficult to find common ground in order to integrate WOBC and OBC classes.

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Some school proponents might find it feasible to integrate some of the curriculum, while others will not be able to integrate at all. The U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Ft. Huachuca (USAIC&FH) led the way in the study to integrate some of the WOBC training into the OBC curriculum. Analysis conducted by CW5 Alfred Myles (Retired) and CW5 Donna Smith, Chief Warrant Officer Training, concluded that it would be feasible to integrate only a few classes such as Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB), the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP), and Fighting-Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (F-ISR). The groundwork done by these two officers was presented to other school proponents as an example of how to proceed with the integration.

Good intentions not withstanding, I must admit that this ATLDP recommendation has created considerable consternation within the officer ranks. It is a radical concept and if it happens, it will cause a fundamental shift in Army Officer culture. Both officer cohorts have always had segregated training. This is neither right nor wrong, just the way it has been. Whatever version of integrated OES is implemented which offers WOs shared training, will have a long lasting effect on the way that WOs are educated.

Need for Improved Leadership and Technical Training.

Having said that, the question comes to mind: Why do we want to merge WO training with the existing OES when the current WOES has worked thus far?

Change is inevitable and necessary. During the Cold War years, the pace of technological advances was slower than today. This condition allowed for long-term and stable equipment, doctrine, and education life cycles. In those days, for example, the cradle-to- grave life cycle for most Army equipment could reach 12 years. WOs, without formal education, could go from assignment to assignment and never encounter new equipment or procedures. This environment allowed the WO to become the technical expert at his job.

This is no longer the case. The end of the Cold War, the fast pace of technological advances, and current combat operations have forced rapid changes in our Army. We are faster, lighter, and more lethal that ever before. Because of the highly technical environment that pervades our transforming Army, WOs are now performing in positions they traditionally have not been trained for or where their training has become quickly dated. WOs are hard pressed to maintain a technical edge under an education system designed for a by-gone era.

Our Army culture has also been slow to keep pace. There is still no perceived pressing need for WOs to receive training in leadership (after the initial transition to WO training is completed), on the joint environment, or at advanced and strategic levels. WOs are still viewed and expected to be technicians but not leaders in a sense of influencing and leading change at senior levels. With few exceptions, their opinions are only sought on technical issues.

Furthermore, because there is no perceived need to emphasize leadership and strategic education for WOs, the Warrant Officer Advanced Course (for CW4s) is four weeks long as opposed to a nine month Command and General Staff course for majors. CW5s attend a two week course, while colonels and sergeants major have educational opportunities at the U.S. Army War College that may last up to one year.

Additionally there are no joint positions for WOs, so no need for joint education. I cannot say whether this is right or wrong, as I do not think we need the same education at those levels either; but WOs do need improved and relevant training to enable them to fully participate in a transforming Army.

So, does this means that the Army is going to totally merge OES and WOES? The answer is a resounding "No." The intent of any future OES redesign will not be to make WO education and training virtually the same as our line officer brethren. In that case, the requirement for WOs would cease to exist. Nor is it the intent to dilute the WO technical expertise capability, as it defines who we are. The intent is not to leave WO education and training methods mired in the past, but rather to take advantage of nested training opportunities in order to improve WO leadership and technical training. Current Army requirements mandate change in order to move into the future. The merger will strengthen our education system by augmenting technical training with key elements of leadership education. Sometimes this is best accomplished in an "integrated" classroom with our line officers and sometimes not. The WO Corps must become more proficient in its mission and prepare for our continuously evolving role in a rapidly changing Army. We can help achieve that through an "integrated" or "shared" training environment that will facilitate our learning.

"Remember the past but look to the future"

Chief Warrant Officer Five James J. Prewitt-Diaz U.S. Army Military Intelligence Corps
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Author:Prewitt-Diaz, James J.
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:1356
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