Distance learning: understanding Intermediate Level Education: how it differs from the former command and general staff officer course
By now, all of us should know and understand that Intermediate Level Education (ILE) is the third tier of the Officer Education System, and it is linked directly to Army Transformation.
ILE will produce “field grade officers with a warrior ethos and warfighting focus, for leadership positions in Army, joint, Multi-National, and Interagency organizations executing full spectrum operations.” (1)
Quite a mouthful–but what does this mission statement mean to the Army, commanders, and field grade officers? What is this course really about? And how does it differ from the old Command and General Staff Officer Course (CGSOC)?
Noted military historian and author Sir Basil Liddell Hart once said, “Nothing is harder than putting a new idea into a military mind, except removing the old.”
This may account for some of the concern that has been expressed about ILE and where we are going with the education of our officer corps. Let’s first clear up exactly what ILE is and then offer our opinions as members of the faculty teaching ILE.
Three areas are inexorably linked and distinguish ILE from the former CGSOC: population, curriculum, and instructional method.
The most fundamental difference between ILE and the former CGSOC is in the Army’s commitment to providing the best possible ILE to all Army majors.
For CGSOC, the Army used a central selection process to pick the top 50 percent of the majors in each year group to attend the 10-month resident course at Fort Leavenworth. The rest could volunteer for a correspondence program to receive the education and to be competitive for promotion to lieutenant colonel.
Under this system, half of the majors did not get an opportunity to undergo a resident program to develop their technical, tactical, and leadership competencies and skills. Also, Information Operations Career Field, Institutional Support Career Field, Operational Support Career Field, and special branch majors–who only needed the common-core portion of the course–were held “hostage” for the remainder of the ten months.
With ILE, all majors in the Operations Career Field attend the 10-month resident course at Fort Leavenworth. They complete a 3-month common-core course followed by a 7-month Advanced Operations and Warfighting Course (AOWC) to further develop their abilities to conduct full spectrum operations in joint, multinational, and interagency environments; and to develop the requisite competencies to serve successfully as staff officers at division level and above.
Information Operations Career Field, Institutional Support Career Field, Operational Support Career Field, and special branch majors will also receive a resident ILE common-core course experience, but not at Fort Leavenworth. Teaching teams from Fort Leavenworth have already been sent to Fort Gordon and Fort Lee to instruct the ILE common-core course to some of these students.
Most Reserve Components (RC) majors will receive the ILE common-core course via The Army School System or an upgraded Advanced Distributed Learning program. As the student population attending the resident ILE common-core course and AOWC at Fort Leavenworth increases, the number of RC majors attending the Fort Leavenworth course will also increase.
This approach allows the maximum flexibility to the Army, commanders, and students while providing the best possible ILE to all majors.
A totally revamped curriculum is the second area that distinguishes ILE from the former CGSOC. The school’s competency map, linked directly to the Officer Evaluation Report (OER), codifies the skill set students must demonstrate to graduate ILE.
While this is a new concept for the school, the Army has had this OER for nearly six years, and field grade officers attending the ILE course should have been exposed to these competencies numerous times before their arrival at the Command and General Staff College (CGSC).
The focus of this skill set is on students learning how (versus what) to think, problem solving and decision-making. Students soon realize there are no “school solutions” to the problems they are presented. For many, this will prove frustrating as instructors make them work through the problems and principally critique the link between identification of the problem and the student’s solution.
As long as evolving doctrine is not violated and the basic principles of planning are demonstrated, guess what? You’re a go!
This is a tremendous step forward as we now develop field grade officers capable of thinking vice regurgitating answers. The 2001 Army Training and Leader Development Panel officer study identified, among other things, that the Army needs officers who are adaptable and capable of thinking in a fast-paced, constantly changing environment. This is the foundation for learning and, hence, for the curriculum in ILE.
The ILE curriculum consists of a 3-month “common core” course, the aim of which is to prepare field grade officers for service at division, corps, echelons above corps (EAC), land component command (LCC), and joint staffs. Graduates will–
 Understand full spectrum operations in today’s environment.
 Know how to think.
 Understand complex problem solving.
 Be able to balance focus between current and future operations.
 Understand staff principles and concepts.
 Know how to synchronize effects on the battlefield.
 Understand performance-oriented training and education.
The 7-month AOWC that follows is designed to develop Operations Career Field officers with a warfighting focus for battalion and brigade command who are capable of conducting full spectrum operations in joint, multinational, and interagency environments and who have the requisite competencies to serve successfully as division through EAC staff officers. Students complete the AOWC with a deeper understanding of full spectrum operations in the contemporary operating environment, including battlespace appreciation, component roles and responsibilities, shaping, decisive and enabling operations at the tactical level, asymmetric operations, and urban operations.
Four blocks of instruction comprise the 3-month ILE common core: Foundations of Critical Reasoning and Leader Assessment and Development, Strategic Fundamentals, Operational Fundamentals, and Tactical Fundamentals. Three parallel courses are integrated into the instruction: Leadership, History, and Force Management.
A series of exercises are used to evaluate the students’ mastery of the concepts taught during the ILE Common Core Course and AOWC. These exercises are conducted at section level; so 64 students do all the planning and execution, as well as man the opposing forces and white cell for each exercise. The scenario places them in a joint, combined, highly complex environment with numerous opportunities to identify and solve problems.
The benefit here is that instead of waiting for an end-of-year exercise, students plan and execute multiple operations and receive feedback in order to improve themselves during the 10 months.
AOWC replaces Term II and Term III classes offered in the former CGSOC. It is focused on educating officers as command-capable brigade and battalion level commanders with advanced competencies as staff leaders to serve at all levels up to EAC.
AOWC studies are divided into three blocks of instruction; each block includes an application exercise. Students will demonstrate mastery at LCC, division level, and brigade level operations. This is done on a competitive basis between student groups, providing the opportunity for students to both study and perform in the multiple command and staff roles, as well as in threat force roles. The driving theme is enabling and executing division and brigade fights.
AOWC retains an elective program from the former course to provide the students with opportunities to pursue additional, focused studies.
Team teaching is the third domain shift differentiating ILE from the former CGSOC. It represents the “way” in which the school will achieve its “end”–graduates with a warrior ethos who are grounded in warfighting doctrine and who have the technical, tactical, and leadership competencies and skills to be successful in their career field, branch, or functional area.
Each of the teaching teams is made up of 10 instructors with differing areas of expertise: 3 are experts in joint and combined operations, 3 are tactics experts, 1 is a leadership expert, 1 is a historian, and 2 are logisticians. The team is responsible for providing all instruction to their group of 64 students throughout the academic year and exercising oversight during the major exercises at the end of the common-core portion of the course and during each block of AOWC.
Each team member also coaches seven or eight students. In this role, they are responsible for mentoring the students, providing feedback, facilitating, counseling, observing, and assisting them with their professional and personal development.
The team-teaching method is a huge change from CGSOC in previous years. Students know the instructors and, more importantly, the instructors know the students and consequently are better prepared to provide meaningful developmental counseling. Keeping the students in small groups of 16 to 18 students allows for the best possible instructor-to-student ratio, and allows the team the opportunity to truly know and better develop the students.
So, what do we “old guys” think of ILE? It’s another significant step in the right direction for preparing majors to understand and solve problems in the highly complex operational environment they now face. No longer can they memorize General Defense Plan battle positions at the Fulda Gap and know who and where they will fight.
These field grade officers will be capable of thinking through the most difficult situation, adapting to changes in their operational environment, and ensuring the continued success and freedom of our nation.
We expect it will take time before our officer corps is comfortable with the notion of having no “school solution,” but as we have seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other hot spots throughout the world, there is no General Defense Plan, and our enemy is constantly changing, thinking, and adapting.
We have no alternative but to provide our nation with leaders who are capable of meeting these challenges–and ILE is another great step in fulfilling this imperative.
Some will continue to reason ILE is too resource-intensive, or too costly in other ways, or necessitates too many changes in the personnel system. Those and other arguments are quite compelling. But, from our foxhole, until we come up with a more cost-effective system to produce the quality officers our nation will depend upon in the foreseeable future, ILE is another step in the right direction.
(1.) CGSG Mission Statement. See https:// cgsc.leavenworth.army.mil/DAO/ile/ mission.asp.
This article was written by Retired Colenels Neal Bralley, Jim Danley, Dan French, Chuck Soby, and Paul Tiberi–all instructors at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, who will teach ILE this coming academic year. Although this article has been submitted to the Army News Service and the TRADOC News Service, it is also being printed in this issue of the Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin because ILE will affect all mid-career Army officers as well as selected officers of the Army Reserve, Army National Guard, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
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