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Completing the Chain: Mentorship Needed
in Officer Basic Courses

Based on the decisions of the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission, the Army combined officer training for the three Logistics Corps branches at the Army Logistics University (ALU) at Fort Lee, Virginia. Having the three logistics headquarters located at one post has increased the potential for producing truly multifunctional logisticians. However, this goal requires deviation from traditional U.S. military education practices.

With guidance from the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), course developers meld doctrine with personal experiences using the Adult Learning Model when creating curricula for the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course for company-grade officers and Intermediate
Level Education for field-grade officers. The amount of knowledge generated by the dialog among individuals within these courses is astounding. Knowing “death by PowerPoint” was the order of business, students used to dread attending officer advanced courses. But those courses have transformed into intellectual, scenario-based symposiums.

Students agree that they are better prepared for their next positions after using this learning model. Captains, majors, and lieutenant colonels gain confidence and improve their competence as leaders by learning Army doctrine and then discussing practical applications and potential shortcomings.

Adapting the Adult Learning Model for BOLC
The professional military knowledge shared among senior logisticians is not being shared with novice logistics officers. Second lieutenants attending the Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC) are exposed to the “death by PowerPoint” characteristic of past advanced officer courses. One could argue the
faults of using the Adult Learning Model to instruct inexperienced officers, but failing to integrate any personal experience into BOLC misses an opportunity to cultivate logistics in the profession of arms and engage in knowledge sharing.

The solution to reducing the knowledge deficit experienced in BOLC is to establish mentorship groups led by superior officers (majors and captains). This simple and near-zero-cost solution would dedicate small blocks of time, as little as 1 hour per week, to examining subjects that lieutenants yearn to know about for their first duty assignments.

Mentorship Program Advantages
Incorporating senior student-led mentorship groups into BOLC would have many benefits. Lieutenants would learn basic yet critical administrative principles that the current BOLC curriculum quickly skims over or ignores altogether because of time constraints.

The forum also would allow lieutenants to candidly communicate with experienced officers outside of the high-stress environment of the operational force. This type of mentorship would also provide junior leaders with a comprehensive understanding of the roles of senior leaders and an opportunity
to plan career progression.

Lastly, this type of forum would help improve leadership techniques among field-grade and senior company-grade officers by exposing them to the strengths and weaknesses of groups of new logistics officers. Mentors would be better prepared to manage expectations and tailor future training to strengthen junior officers in their units. Although this is not a panacea for toxic leadership, any pragmatic approach that wards off destructive and neglectful leadership traits is worth exploring.

The fact facing the three branches of the Logistics Corps is that lieutenants, whether assessed as Quartermaster, Ordnance, or Transportation officers, may serve in positions and roles not addressed in their respective branch’s BOLC curriculum. Distributing mentors from different fields of professional
and personal experience and expertise to lead small groups of BOLC students is a mechanism that ALU could use to broaden the education of these officers from the start.

By effectively increasing the knowledge base of our junior officers, we can better prepare them to assume any logistics role when they arrive at their first units. Professional development
and personal mentorship of officers has largely become something of a lost art as a result of the rigorous training requirements and deployment cycles over the last decade. Providing mentoring officers with officer professional development opportunities will allow them to hone their professional development skills and show junior officers “what right looks like” in the schoolhouse.

This small, budget-friendly investment can reap dividends for our force by sending the best prepared lieutenants and senior officers to their next duty assignments fully prepared and capable of accomplishing the mission together. By emphasizing such a program, the Logistics Corps will send a message that it is serious about the future of its leaders and ready to spearhead a necessary cultural change for the Army.

Captain Erik J. Anthes is assigned to the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kansas. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Central Missouri and is a graduate of the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course.

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