Of course, this concept is nothing new. What’s interesting, though, is that unlike previous eras in our history where efficiency was a top goal, this period seems to be marked not by technological solutions, but by human creativity and ingenuity.
Here’s a case in point:
The Marine Corps, like the other military services, is operating on a reduced budget. Simultaneously, leadership directives have demanded a higher standard of training for the Corps’ noncommissioned officers (NCOs), and specifically the small unit leaders, in order to keep pace with the hard-won skills and abilities gained over the last decade of combat. Indeed, in the modern day mission environment, NCO small unit leaders require the mental agility, adaptability, and rapid high-stakes decision making that were traditionally reserved for lieutenants who received significantly more education and training in leader decision making.
How do we get our NCOs – picture a 23-year-old with a high school diploma and five years of military experience – trained and prepared to make the complex tactical, moral, and ethical decisions required of them, but with less time and fewer resources than we had even last year? That is one of many Marine Corps challenges. Recently, The Basic School, or TBS, has weighed in and may have part of the answer.
TBS is one of the preeminent educational institutions in the Marine Corps. Its six-month Basic Officer Course (BOC) educates every incoming officer in the areas of leadership, Warfighting, and decision making, and prepares them for the role of platoon commander. This course has always been staffed with a small group of around 15 NCOs who provide administrative and logistical support to the instructors. They are the ones who make sure the training ranges are coordinated and stocked, the projectors are working, and facilities are set and maintained for learning to occur.
In a stroke of creative genius, TBS leadership has suggested an experimental program to transform the role of the NCO support staff while at TBS. These Marines will rotate through roles as Company staff who advise lieutenants on operating within the unit structure, students who audit the BOC along with the lieutenants, and for the cream of the crop, platform instructors charged with teaching, for example, a weapon system.
The program is designed to eventually churn out 90 powerhouse NCOs per year who have developed not only the mental agility and decision making skills to function at the high levels required of today’s squad leaders, but also the ability to spread their knowledge throughout the NCO force, thereby raising the standard of excellence Marine Corps wide.
CPG has the honor of teaming with TBS to assess the impact of this experimental program on NCO decision making and levels of mastery. Analysis will commence with the FY14 courses.
Jenni Phillips, COO and Senior Scientist, Cognitive Performance Group