Missouri National Guard’s officer candidate school in top 5 percent
By: Matthew J. Wilson/Missouri National Guard Public Affairs
Posted: Saturday, August 29, 2009 7:20 pm
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (June 3, 2009) — The Missouri National Guard Officer Candidate School conducted by the 2nd Battalion, 140th Regiment Missouri Regional Training Institute at Fort Leonard Wood recently earned the Army’s highest level of accreditation.
The institute received a 96 percent during its March inspection to earn “Learning Institute of Excellence” status.
“Attaining an Institute of Excellence accreditation rating is extremely impressive and not very common,” said Maj. Jeffrey Crane, the 140th Regiment Missouri Regional Training Institute training officer. “Only 5 percent of organizations attain that rating, so, in itself, it tells you the level of expertise amongst the platoon trainers and instructors, as well as the full-time staff who coordinates and operates the officer candidate school program. A lot of dedication, hard work, initiative and motivation go into producing that kind of accreditation.”
Capt. Joel Maxwell, a school instructor, was brought in to focus on getting the school prepared for its evaluation as a liaison.
“It was pretty incredible to get it,” Maxwell said of the excellent rating. “That was the goal from the outset, but it was also understood that it would be extremely difficult to reach that.”
A portion of the accreditation states, “It is clear that the staff of the Missouri Regional Institute has worked very hard in preparation for this accreditation. The coordination and cooperation with the Kansas Regional Training Institute is also evident and clearly contributed to the success.”
Officer candidate schools are normally evaluated once every three years and are scored as Candidate for Accreditation (0-59 percent), Conditional Accreditation (60-79 percent), Full Accreditation (80-94 percent) or Learning Institute of Excellence (95-100 percent).
Scoring is based on how well the school meets the standards set by the officer candidate school proponent at Fort Benning, Ga., which also conducted the evaluation.
“The theory is that what they are doing at federal officer candidate school at Fort Benning is what is also happening at the reserve component — that they are being trained the same in every way across the board,” said Sgt. 1st Class Katey Harris, officer candidate school course manager.
Although many attempt to get through the rigorous training, the school has produced about 12 officers through its traditional program each of the last three years.
“We provide outstanding instruction which in turn gives incoming officer candidates a great opportunity to be successful officers in the future,” Crane said.
Accreditation is based on success in a variety of areas.
“They look at not only our student and cadre records, but they also look at how we train the soldiers,” Harris said. “They observe classes given and any training that they are doing. They also interview the cadre and the students.”
The Kansas Regional Training Institute ran the Missouri Regional Training Institute through an assessment in November 2008 to help prepare it for the evaluation.
“They took a look at everything they could see that was wrong or possibly had problems,” Harris said. “Of course, all of those errors had to be corrected with a lot of late nights and a lot of extra time.”
Harris said the assessment was a good learning experience for the cadre.
“A lot of times you think you’re doing the right thing, you think that you are going along with the program of instruction, and maybe your interpretation is not what their interpretation is,” she said.
Maxwell said one of the major changes was getting standard operating procedures in writing and having all students and cadre familiar with them, “instead of making up a document that nobody reads, but one that reflects the ground truth of what’s going on with the program.”
There were also several new accreditation standards added for this year.
“We moved real quickly on getting them in place,” Maxwell said. “That really assisted us in our performance, as well.”
Meeting all of those standards at a high level, Maxwell said, was accomplished through teamwork.
“The pride I take is there are so many people that had to come together and work together to make this happen,” he said. “I was really proud of the organization not to be territorial about different issues and being able to work together as a team. It wouldn’t have been possible if everyone took personal responsibility for working on their own and not being a team.”
One of the areas where the school went above and beyond was in leadership development as part of the coursework is training Soldiers to think on their feet.
“The institution’s climate, culture and curriculum foster the development of leaders of character and presence, leaders with intellect and leaders who lead, develop and get results,” Harris surmised.
To continue to be successful, the officer candidate school needs continued support from Missouri National Guard officers, Harris said.
“We’ve had a lot of problems the last year or so getting cadre,” Harris said. “The senior commands don’t want to give up their best and brightest, which we understand. But we would like the best and brightest to be training out future leaders. It’s getting to the point that the only officers that want to come here are from active duty.”
Part of the problem, Harris believes, is that most units are busy focusing on deployments.
“We’ve got brand new second lieutenants that we’ve commissioned out of here that go straight to a new unit and are maybe put into the position of the detachment commander,” she said. “We’re sending lieutenants off, less than a year from commissioning, as deployed platoon leaders.”
Harris said first lieutenants and captains are preferred for cadre, but they can use second lieutenants, as well.
Qualified instructors need to have completed their basic officer leadership course and the Army basic instructor course. Then they’ll need to pass a battalion certification board.
To be a platoon trainer, the equivalent of a training, advising and counseling officer, officers need to attend a platoon trainer qualification course and a tactics course. They’ll also need to be physically fit enough to do everything they’ll ask of the officer candidates.
Any officers interested in instructing at the officer candidate school may contact Harris at (573) 329-9008, ext. 4807, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.