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Pre-command course extends to 2 weeks

Aug. 10, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson passes 35th Signal Brigade colors to Col. Robert L. Edmonson in June. Soon-to-be battalion and brigade commanders are now getting more prep time.
Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson passes 35th Signal Brigade colors to Col. Robert L. Edmonson in June. Soon-to-be battalion and brigade commanders are now getting more prep time. (Capt. Devon Thomas / Army)
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The Army is expanding its preparatory course for all soon-to-be battalion and brigade commanders and command sergeants major.

The first phase of the Pre-Command Course at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., now lasts two weeks instead of one, part of an overall Army focus on leader development and properly preparing leaders for command.

The first two-week PCC began Aug. 5 and will wrap up Aug. 16.

“The impact [these leaders] have on the soldiers in their formations is powerful. That’s why it’s important to get it right,” said Col. Thomas Hollis, director of the School for Command Preparation. “I tell them, ‘You’re about to inherit the honor and privilege and responsibility to command a unit and make that impression on those soldiers.’”

The School for Command Preparation, part of the Combined Arms Center, is responsible for the four phases of the Pre-Command Course. The first phase, known as the Art of Command, is for all incoming commanders and command sergeants major and their spouses. It takes place at Fort Leavenworth, and about 900 battalion leaders and 340 brigade leaders from all three components attend each year.

There typically are 11 iterations of the course each year, but that number likely will drop to 10 now that the course lasts two weeks.

In the second phase, tactical commanders undergo a one-week course at Fort Leavenworth, while other types of commanders attend courses elsewhere. For example, garrison commanders attend a course at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where Installation Management Command has its headquarters. Those preparing to lead basic training units go to Fort Jackson, S.C.

During the third phase, commanders go to their branch proponent, so a maneuver commander would attend the course at the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga.

The final phase, a weeklong course in Charlottesville, Va., is for commanders who have court-martial convening authority.

The decision to expand the first phase of the course to two weeks has been in the works for a while, Hollis said.

“We just weren’t able to get to the depth or breadth of discussions, so we presented that to the [Army Chief of Staff] and he concurred that we needed more time,” he said.

What students get

The two-week course allows Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno more time to share his vision and intent, and it lets participants spend more time in small group discussions, Hollis said. It also allows more senior leaders to participate in the program, he said.

During the two-week course, both commanding generals of Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command will participate and spend time with the soon-to-be commanders. Before, the students were briefed by only one of the generals, who alternated the months they came to the course. The commander of Army Materiel Command also will participate in the course, Hollis said.

The expanded course also includes discussions on topics such as cyber, the Army profession, customs and traditions, and self-development.

“This is our test of what is the right fit, what are the right classes, courses and requirements to put in here,” Hollis said. “It’s not a pilot of whether two weeks is the right time. We’ve acknowledged we need the time. Now it’s making sure we can empower the leaders.”

Once the first phase is running, the School for Command Preparation will look at the other phases of the course, Hollis said.

“You have to make sure all of those educations build upon one another and are nested,” he said. “We’re going to take a look and make sure they’re relevant for an Army that’s going through transition.”

Not everyone is suited for command, Hollis said.

“Officers and command sergeants major are not assigned to command, they’re selected for command,” he said. “We, as an Army, must make sure we find the right people who can accept those challenges and excel in those challenges. Have we always gotten it right? Maybe not, but I think we’ve done a fairly good job, and this course assists in doing just that.”

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