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The Army is resurrecting the Project Warrior program to place its best captains at the combat training centers and schoolhouses.
The effort, directed by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, aims to grow “agile and adaptive” leaders and select “top 10 percent” captains who have the potential to become battalion and brigade commanders.
“Our current generation of company-grade officers is fully proficient at counterinsurgency operations. However, they lack experience conducting simultaneous offense, defense and stability operations against hybrid threats, which include conventional and irregular forces, terrorists and criminal elements,” Odierno wrote May 10 on the Army’s official blog. “With the [combat training centers] currently transforming to Decisive Action training against these types of threats, we need to once again take advantage of the experience and doctrinal expertise [observer/coach/trainers] gain while serving at the combat training centers.”
Selected officers will spend two years at one of the Army’s three maneuver combat training centers — the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., or the Joint Multinational Training Command in Germany — as OCTs.
They will then be assigned to their respective branch’s center of excellence to serve two years as small-group instructors in the captains’ career course.
“It’s been a long time overdue,” Brig. Gen. Michael Lundy, deputy commanding general of Combined Arms Center-Training, said of Project Warrior’s return. “It gets after picking our best and brightest captains.”
Project Warrior was introduced in 1989, but was put on hold in 2004 because of the demand for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now, the service is focusing on leader development, capturing and sharing the lessons learned during the past 12 years, and preparing for future contingencies.
“The [combat training centers] have always been our apex training venues,” Lundy said. “There was a vast amount of experience these [observer/coach/trainers] were building out there, but we weren’t translating those experiences back into the Army, and the Army realized we were missing a great opportunity.”
An OCT at Irwin or Polk could see as many as 10 maneuver brigades come through for training every year, Lundy said. OCTs in Germany may see two brigades a year and all of the multinational rotations, he said.
“Seeing [these units] go through these complex, challenging scenarios, they’re going to see a lot of creative thinking at every echelon,” Lundy said. “It’s really about 20 different problem sets [over two years], and they’re all going to be fairly unique in how commanders approach problem sets.”
Armed with the experience gained at the CTC, Project Warrior officers will then go to the schoolhouses to train up-and-coming captains, Lundy said. This ensures those experiences and lessons learned get passed back into the Army, he said.
Screenings start now
The new iteration of Project Warrior will begin in June, Lundy said.
Between June and December, the Army will gather names of eligible captains and start screening them, he said. The first Project Warrior captains will be placed at the CTCs in summer 2014, he said.
In addition, as many as six captains already serving at the CTCs could be placed at their respective centers of excellence this summer to be small group instructors, said Col. Michael Barbee, director of the Combat Training Center Directorate.
The goal is to have 66 Project Warrior captains at the CTCs and 66 at the centers of excellence by 2017, Lundy said. Those numbers equate to about 15 percent of the OCTs at the combat training centers and about 30 percent of the small group instructors at each of the centers of excellence, he said.
For Project Warrior, the Army is seeking the “top 10 percent of officers” with the potential to command at the battalion and brigade levels, Lundy said.
“We want our very best out at the CTCs observing, coaching and training units, and we want the very best of them coming back into the institution to prepare their up-and-coming peers,” he said.
Eligible captains should have already completed their company command time, Lundy said. “This fits into the leader development course for these officers,” he said.
The program is open to captains in the infantry, armor, field artillery, air defense, aviation, engineer, signal, military police, military intelligence, chemical, logistics and medical service branches, he said.
Prospective participants must be endorsed or nominated by their battalion or brigade commander, Lundy said.
“That’s where it is incumbent upon the leaders to get to know their subordinates well enough where they can make an assessment of their potential,” he said.
Applications are then reviewed at Human Resources Command. After their two years at a CTC, the captain will again be evaluated, this time by the colonel who runs the operations group at their location, to ensure they are qualified to become small group instructors.
“That commander has to endorse them to go ahead to the next phase at the center of excellence,” Barbee said.
At their center of excellence — the Maneuver Center of Excellence for infantry and armor officers, the Signal Center of Excellence or the Aviation Center of Excellence — the officers will lead small groups of students attending the captains’ career course.
“They really do serve not only as facilitators from an instructor perspective, but they’re there to coach and mentor,” Lundy said. “We expect them to be grounded in doctrine, be great leaders, understand how to develop leaders, how to train units, [and] how to develop effective training plans. All of those things they get to experience at the CTC program, they will bring into the center of excellence to help with the course instruction.”
Once the captains complete their four-year Project Warrior commitment, they should be approaching their first chance for promotion to major, Lundy said. And their selection for Project Warrior will be noted in their files, he said.
“With the experience they get, they’re going to be in high demand,” Lundy said. “I think there are going to be a lot of battalion and brigade commanders looking to bring a Project Warrior officer into their units.”
Captains selected for Project Warrior likely will be at an advantage as they progress in their careers, he said. “There’s recognition that they’re among the best, and I think the experience they will gain at the CTCs will vastly broaden their knowledge base,” he said.