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F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U LY - A U G U S T 2 0 1 2
The Army as a Profession
The Army consciously works to
develop its future leaders through
training, experience and a formal-
ized, structured program of profes-
sional education, a process that takes
years. It follows this approach be-
cause it cannot hire professionals
away from the competition. Nor is
it possible to acquire the expert
knowledge and experience to lead
Americans in combat without actually spending time in
the Army. Advanced degrees or senior civilian experi-
ence are beneficial, but do not by themselves qualify in-
dividuals for leadership responsibilities.
State, too, must develop leaders from within who
have the right mix of experience and professional edu-
cation to successfully handle leadership roles and re-
sponsibilities in the organization. As the Army
discovered, this requires a continuing program of train-
ing and education across an entire career. Disjointed,
standalone, one-week courses on leadership at unpre-
dictable times in an FSO’s career barely begin to meet
that requirement.
The Army trains and educates more than half a mil-
lion individuals per year in an insti-
tutionalized, regular, course-based
process. Known as Professional
Military Education, this process is
an investment in preparing soldiers
for success at their next level of re-
sponsibility. It also confers an ap-
preciation for the responsibilities
they will face following subsequent
promotions. Schools and courses at
the beginning of soldiers’ careers
generally focus on
, to prepare them for
. As their time in service increases, their courses
are weighted more toward
, to prepare them
PME must be delivered at the right time to realize
the greatest value. The benefits are not recoverable if
courses are attended out of sequence, provided too late
in a soldier’s career or skipped. For example, an officer
needs to attend the Captains Career Course before com-
manding a company, not afterward. Once shaped by the
command experience, an officer cannot go back and
apply what he should have learned from the earlier ed-
ucational experience.
The Basic Officer Leader Course starts an officer on
By comparison,
the State Department’s
method for developing
professional diplomats is
episodic and ad hoc.
Army Officer Professional Training and Education Timeline
Years in Service
Army School
Course Length
Second Lieutenant Basic Officer
18½ weeks
All officers
Leader Course
Captains Career
24 weeks
All officers
Intermediate Level
1 academic year All officers
Education – Command
and General Staff College
School of Advanced
1 academic year Board selection
Military Studies
100 officers per year
Lieutenant Colonel School for Command
5-7 weeks
Officers selected for battalion
and higher command
About 480 per year
War College and
1 academic year Board selection
About 370 per year
This example of an Army officer’s professional development timeline during a typical career shows a recurring pattern of institu-
tional training/education followed by assignment to the operational force.