Pilot program provides a new option for Army officers’ professional military education

Brig. Gen. Aaron Walter, commander of the 100th Training Division-Leader Development, visits the officers attending the Command and General Staff College Phase Two 4x4 Course at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, June 10, 2019. The 4x4 course is a pilot program that allows Army officers to complete the second of three phases in person during four weekends instead of the previous option of eight weekend classes or through distant learning. (Sgt. 1st Class Emily Anderson/80th Training Command (Reserve))

Army field grade officers now have a new, shorter option for completing their Command and General Staff Officer Course phase two.

“We are taking a portion of a course that is essentially planned for eight weekends over an eight month period, and we’re compressing it down to four weekends in four months,” said Lt. Col. Sean Truax, a CGSOC instructor assigned to the 10th Battalion Headquarters, 97th Training Brigade, 100th Training Division (Leader Development).

Truax serves as the team leader for the CGSC phase two 4×4 class, a pilot program that started this year. He explained that, instead of eight weekend classes for phase two, he and his team of instructors teach the same amount of instruction in four four-day weekends – Friday through Monday. Hence, the name 4×4. Sixteen Active Duty, Army Reserve, and National Guard majors with a range of military occupational specialties completed the final weekend of phase two instruction here June 7-10.

“Anytime you can get outside of your own bubble and learn from other people wearing this uniform who have had a completely different path to get to where they are in their careers is valuable to appreciate overall,” said Maj. David Swan, a National Guardsman assigned to the 301st Troop Command, Tennessee National Guard.

“We all only have our own perspective to draw from,” Swan added. “Whenever you can get a class with 15 other people who are majors but have had a completely different career path, there’s a lot to be learned from that.”

The CGSOC requires students to complete three phases through one of three primary ways: the resident course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; one of four satellite campuses at Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Fort Lee, Virginia; Fort Gordon, Georgia; or Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; or through distance learning.

“The three common core phases could stretch over two years,” Truax said. “Now with this additional option, it’s realistic to say it can be done in less than a year.”

“This just gives officers more options to get the course done, which is a benefit for them professionally,” Truax added. “It’s also a benefit for their unit because they don’t lose a person on their staff for as long.”

Although the second phase is shorter, students can rest assured they will receive the same level of training and instruction as the longer course or the distance learning option.

“We want current and potential students to understand we haven’t cut any corners with this course,” Truax said. “When the 4×4 course was announced, we were told ‘put your schedule together for how you’re going to run it.’”

“We were not given any guidance that we could cut anything out,” he added. “We did some shuffling around of some of our deliverables, like the papers and some of the classes within the weekends to accommodate the uniqueness of what we’re doing, but we didn’t drop anything.”

In addition to the compressed schedule to help students complete the course faster, Truax applauds the hard-working instructors, because it is about everyone from the students to the schoolhouse putting forth the effort to ensure a successful course.

“The instructor teams who are teaching this course are committed to the students’ success,” said Truax. “We want our students to have the best possible senior leaders.”

The 4×4 pilot program instructors are assigned to the 97th Training Brigade, which falls under the command and control of the 100th TD, headquartered at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The 100th TD supports the 80th Training Command’s mission of more than 2,700 instructors providing essential training to Army Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard Soldiers.