JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. (Oct. 29, 2015) — One of the more exciting announcements in the military community this year was when the Army secretary established the Army University. As with any new initiative the event was surrounded with questions. Answers are arriving rapidly about the varied purposes of the new Army organization as the fledgling outfit springs to life.
Gen. David G. Perkins, commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, said the Army University is an umbrella organization similar to any state university system. Its main function is to bring together all Army schools, training and education facilities, research capability and libraries under one roof.
“This allows us to coordinate their efforts and cross-cue from one to the other,” Perkins said. “Very importantly, it allows us to now start accrediting and certifying Soldiers from the moment they enter basic training and give them academic and professional credit for what they’re doing [during their Army career]. We are working with G-1 [Personnel] and HRC [Human Resources Command] to start compiling a transcript on Solders from when they enter the Army.”
But this process is not as easy as it may appear from an outsider’s view. There are a multitude of military occupational specialties, or MOSs, and training programs. Quite a number of them currently have recommendations for college credit, but not all of them.
“It’s a very hard challenge,” said Brig. Gen. John S. Kem, provost of the Army University and deputy commandant of the Command and General Staff College. “Colleges are mostly regionally accredited. So, there is no easy way to do this. What Army University brings is the energy and a team of people to focus on this issue full time. It’s going to be a long journey. The reason being is: you want to pursue credit and certifications that are worth something. A credential that isn’t recognized as having real value, isn’t really a credential; it’s a piece of paper.”
Kem assumed responsibility as the first provost in ceremonies on Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Aug. 31. As provost, he oversees reorganizing the Army’s education enterprise into a university structure that will maximize educational opportunities for Soldiers by providing valid academic credit for the education and experience they receive while on active duty.
“It’s a very exciting time,” Kem said. “Throughout its history, going back to when George Washington was at Valley Forge, the Army has been an important place for training and education.”
However, the Army University is about more than just credentials and accreditation. It also allows Army organizations to better communicate with each other to make sure training is in sync and to share lessons learned with outside university systems.
“Army University synchronizes all of our activity in TRADOC so that one level of professional Army education easily leads into other; so, we know what the prerequisites and outcomes are at each level,” Perkins said.
“Even though we have some great learning programs [in] the Army, they haven’t always been synchronized together in a coherent fashion across the wide breadth of the Total Army,” Kem said. “How do you take 70-plus TRADOC schools that do a lot of great things and make them work better so we have better prepared Soldiers, more agile and adaptive leaders for the coming challenges? It’s a very complex world; so, the more integrated it is, the better it’s going to be.”
Another key mission of Army University is share lessons learned with state university systems while learning from those organizations in turn.
“We can learn from them and they can learn from us,” Kem said. “For example: our aviation mechanic training we do for NCOs [noncommissioned officers] might be better than what the civilian world has. If it is, we want them to recognize that when we go to accredit it. That brings in rigor and relevance to the United States Army. What if we compare theirs to ours and they do it better, we can learn from them. The synergy there will really help make our Soldiers better, not because of the credential, but because the learning is better.”
In the past, in some parts of the Army, there was a clear wedge or divide between training and education. This should rapidly change as Army University continues to stand up.
“The real educational outcome for us is to have people learn better,” Kem said. “We’ve had stovepipes in the Army that separate training and education, never the two shall meet. The reality is that there is no magic point in between those things; it’s a blend. In training, you still have to be able to think about how you’re going to use what you just learned. There are things that are more in the education realm, but there’s still some training, tasks, conditions and standards that are part of it. In the complex battlefield of today, under the Army Operating Concept [which describes how future Army forces will prevent conflict, shape security environments and win wars], we’re going to have Soldiers, squads, platoons, battalions that have to be able to take what they’ve learned and adapt.
“There is clearly a component of credentialing and getting college credits that’s part of our Army University efforts, but it’s not the ultimate purpose,” Kem said. “The primary purpose of professional military education is the value it brings to the Army in better Soldiers, better teamwork and better units.”
“The Army University is one of the ways we can get after the capability we are aiming for in the Army Operating Concept ‘Win in a Complex World,'” Perkins said. “We have to figure out: How do we innovate faster? How do we bring together a multifunctional solution to these complex problems? A lot of times the solutions are not just Army solutions, but they have an economic component, a political component, a coalition component. The Army University is allowing us to bring these other functions into out training and education program that are part of the complex world our Soldiers are going to operate in.”
By Stephen P. Kretsinger Sr., PQC contractor with the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center