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BOLC gets green light for officer education

BOLC gets green light for officer education

Source: Lisa Alley for ARNEWS

The four installations named to conduct the second phase of BOLC are:

Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Knox, Ky.; and Fort Sill, Okla.

BOLC - part of a comprehensive initiative to transform the Officer Education System - will be for officers both in the active and reserve components, along with selected special branch officers, officials said. They said officers will attend BOLC as their initial-entry training.

BOLC's goal is to "develop competent and confident leaders imbued with a Warrior Ethos who, regardless of branch, are grounded in fieldcraft and are skilled in leading Soldiers, training subordinates and employing and maintaining equipment," according to the BOLC Charter Task Force.

OES is being transformed so that it better supports the goals of increased readiness, greater relevance of the force and a more Joint and expeditionary Army, officials said.

"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.

"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."

BOLC has three phases and is designed to ensure a tough, standardized, small-unit leadership experience that flows progressively from each phase. BOLC's Phase I is the precommissioning phase, according to Byrnes, and includes training conducted at the U.S. Military Academy, Reserve Officer Training Corps and officer candidate schools. In BOLC I, each officer candidate and cadet will be steeped in the Army's values and traditions and will possess clear knowledge of what it means to be an officer.

"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's Phase 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, officials said. Forts Benning, Bliss, Knox and Sill will host officers training in 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."

BOLC II classes will be organized into companies with five 40-student platoons and will have a mix of officers from the different components, branches, commissioning sources and genders. The platoon is the focal point during the course as each student is challenged in a series of situational leadership exercises based on contemporary operating environment scenarios, officials said.

During this "hands-on" phase, BOLC II's curriculum will include physical-fitness training, foot marches, combatives training, advanced land-navigation training, rifle marksmanship, weapons training, practical exercises in leadership, nuclear, biological and chemical operations, use of night-vision equipment and several confidence courses featuring difficult obstacles that challenge students to overcome personal fears. Officers will graduate from BOLC II with greater confidence, a greater appreciation for the branches of the combined arms, and a clearer picture of their own personal strengths and weaknesses, officials said.

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 will be taught at the appropriate TRADOC schoolhouse or training center and range from six to 14 weeks. The training is being revamped to make greater use of experiential training to enhance the quality and effectiveness of the branch-specific course, officials said.

Upon graduation from BOLC III, officers will proceed to their first unit or attend more assignment-oriented training.

"All this will be introduced to the Army in fourth quarter '06,"

Byrnes said. "The pilots [for BOLC II] begin fourth quarter '05 at Fort Benning. They'll continue to expand pilots again in second quarter '06, with the formal program for lieutenants going in place in fourth quarter 2006."

Byrnes is the Army leader responsible for BOLC, as TRADOC is the Army's executive agent for BOLC's implementation. TRADOC developed BOLC to replace the branches' officer basic courses based on Army Training and Leader Development Panel findings released in May 2001.

Pilot courses have been going on since Fiscal Year 2001-02, and TRADOC moved the transition from OBC to BOLC closer in FY04 by revising programs of instruction from those initial pilot courses. TRADOC will conduct the final single-site BOLC II pilot with 200 officers at Fort Benning in the fourth quarter of FY05 and update POIs again, if needed, officials said.

Multi-site BOLC II pilots will follow with 200 officers at each BOLC II site (Forts Benning, Bliss, Knox and Sill) in the second quarter of FY06, officials said. They said multi-site BOLC III pilots will be conducted in the second and third quarters of FY06.

As Byrnes said, full implementation of BOLC will begin in the fourth quarter of FY06.

U.S. Army Cadet Command is the proponent for BOLC I and II. Cadet Command is part of U.S. Army Accessions Command, which is TRADOC's major subordinate command serving as the functional proponent for initial military training.

Branch commandants are the proponents for the branch-specific BOLC III.

BOLC training is designed to be sequential and progressive, and most officers will attend the three phases in logical sequence, officials said. But they added that In some cases, particularly with special branch officers, it may be necessary to attend BOLC II after BOLC III.

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