Army Announces Initiative to Transform Officer Education System
The Army is moving from pilot programs for the Basic Officer Leadership Course to fully implementing BOLC by July 2006 at four installations, senior Army officials recently said.
Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Bliss, Texas, Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Sill, Okla., are the four installations where BOLC’s second phase will be offered. The BOLC – part of a comprehensive initiative to transform the Officer Education System – will include officers in the active and reserve components, along with selected Special Branch officers. Officers will attend the BOLC as their initial-entry training.
The Officer Educational System is transforming to better support the goals of increased readiness, greater relevance of the force, and the Joint and expeditionary nature of the Army.
“Leader development – while educating them to think broadly – must prepare them for the complexities on the battlefields they’ll see when they join their first units,” said Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s commanding general, during an Oct. 27, 2004, presentation at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting in Washington.
“We’re fighting a small-unit war. It’s being fought by staff sergeants, sergeants first class, lieutenants and captains every day,” Byrnes said. “They’re the ones out on patrol; they’re the ones who are in this extremely complex environment where things change from the minute they leave their compound until they return that evening. They may never get to accomplish the objective they had set for the day because things happen en route. We’ve got to make sure our leaders are prepared for those complexities and changes and have a framework to refer to, a handrail to grab on to, and an understanding of foundational concepts.”
The BOLC has three phases and is designed to ensure a tough, standardized, small-unit leadership experience flowing progressively through each phase, according to Byrnes. The BOLC’s Phase I is the pre-commissioning phase, — including training conducted at the U.S. Military Academy, Reserve Officer Training Corps and officer candidate schools.
“We’ve established the standards in all three commissioning sources – the standards for instruction [officers] receive before commissioning,” Byrnes said. To that end, USMA, ROTC and the OCSs are revising their curricula to train future officers in basic Soldier and leader tasks performed by all lieutenants, using the same standards and programs of instruction regardless of the commissioning source.
After lieutenants are commissioned, they go to BOLC II, the initial-entry field-leadership phase. BOLC II is a rigorous six-week, branch-immaterial course in small-unit leadership and tactics designed to challenge officers physically and mentally. Forts Benning, Bliss, Knox and Sill will host this phase.
“Eighty percent of BOLC II will be conducted in a field environment,” Byrnes said. “All officers will receive common instruction before going off to their branch technical courses. This is a major shift.”
Immediately following BOLC II, officers will go to BOLC III, the branch technical phase, to learn the specialized skills, doctrine, tactics and techniques of their assigned branch. Since BOLC III is branch-specific, these courses are taught at the appropriate TRADOC schoolhouse or training center and range from six to 14 weeks. The old style of training is being revamped to make greater use of experiential training, which will enhance the quality and effectiveness of the branch-specific course.
Upon graduating from BOLC III, officers will proceed to their first unit or attend more assignment-oriented training.