By Bonnie Heater
FORT GORDON, Ga. (The Signal, March 10, 2006) — The Army is setting some milestones in how it trains officers.
Prior to fiscal year 2005 all officers attended an Officers Basic Course (BOLC) differing in length from six to 19-weeks, depending upon their branch.
Army leadership decided its Officer Corps would be enhanced by adding a tactical training piece prior to going to their Officer Basic Course. This idea has been under development since 2002.
The Basic Officer Leadership Course is designed for all officers and consists of three phases. Phase I is pre-commissioning conducted at the officers university, college, West Point and at officers candidate schools. Phase II is the six-week tactical training conducted at Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Sill, Okla. Phase III is the officers branch specific technical training.
The first full class of BOLC II students graduated on Feb. 23 and reported to their respective BOLC Phase III schools over the next 10 days. Fort Gordon's 442nd Signal Battalion is conducting BOLC Phase III for the development of the Army's Signal Officers. Future Army Signal Officers began training on Monday.
"It's an historical event for the officer training program," said Lt. Col. Bobby Brown, 442nd Signal Battalion commander. "This is the first class to attend BOLC III. We are going to watch these officers very closely to determine what changes or adjustments will need to be made in the curriculum," he said. "We will validate this training program with this class. BOLC III will concentrate on the technical training of our officers."
BOLC III, which consists of 13 weeks, will reinforce leadership skills, military knowledge in logistics, tactics, patrolling, land navigation, and other general military and common core subjects taught in BOLC, Phases I and II, according to Brown.
As its primary goal BOLC III will emphasize Signal Corps-related technical subjects such as communications and computer equipment, systems and networks. It also covers Signal planning processes and procedures, and Signal Corps missions and functions.
In addition, it will focus on deploying the equipment found in Signal units at all levels of the Army Signal Corps, the duties and responsibilities a Signal staff officer will perform in a non-Signal unit, and the Signal and automation equipment found in those units, with emphasis on the military decision making process.
The five-day Signal Field Training Exercise, which is scheduled for May 22-26, will include both platoon leader and S6 challenges, according to Maj. Andrew Bliss, the training and academic counselor for the class.
The first class consists of 59 students. Five of the students are international officers from Latvia, Hungary, Poland, Swaziland, and Jordan.
One of the students, 2nd Lt. Antonina Celmina, from Latvia, is the first female international student to complete BOLC II and enter BOLC III training.
"My country offers only general education for infantry officers," said Celmina. "We don't have special training for signal officers. We use similar signal corps equipment as in the United States.
"In phase II of BOLC I learned a lot about weapons and small unit tactics," added Celmina.
"I think this training (BOLC III) will make me a better signal corps officer," she explained. "I will become more familiar with the equipment (used by signal officers)."
Once she completes BOLC III training, the Riggs Technical University graduate, will return to her country to work as a Land Force Signal Corps officer in the Force Brigade. Meanwhile she plans to use this time to improve her English, network with the other signal officers, especially her classmates, and learn as much about the Signal Corps career field as she can.
Three of her classmates expressed similar positive attitudes about the new course.
The way the Army has broken the course down will save us time in our training, according to 2nd Lt. Brian Fitch, a member of the Minnesota Army National Guard.
"The training is convenient and practical," says 2nd Lt. Ray Childress, a graduate of the ROTC program at the University of Houston, in Houston, Texas. "I just wish the FTX was two weeks long instead of five days."