Army captains get taste of AF life

by Kimberly L. Wright
Air University Public Affairs

3/2/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala.  -- Officers attending the Maneuver Captains Career Course at Fort Benning, Ga., including thirty-one Army captains, two Marine captains, an Israeli officer, and an Armenian officer, accompanied by two of their instructors, visited Squadron Officer School Feb. 16 to gain insight into the Air Force. The group got a glimpse of professional military education offered here, the breadth of career fields and a better sense of how the Air Force works in general.

Army Capt. Samuel Lyon of San Marcos, Tex., said the experience was "a pleasant surprise. ... The wide world of the Air Force was an eye-opening experience."

The group joined the Gryphons, an SOS squadron commanded by Lt. Col. Darin Booth, and distributed about five captains per SOS flight. They addressed leadership models and concepts, joint experiences with Army and Air Force counterparts, communication barriers between services as well as career aspects and cultural differences between the services.

The Army captains organized into three teams to tackle Project X, an obstacle course that tests the groups' teamwork and problem-solving skills.

Maj. Gen. Scott Hanson, commander of the Carl Spaatz Center for Officer Education and the Air War College, presented a Commander's Coin to one of the Marines for his outstanding contributions to the team while executing a Project X task.

The visit concluded with the Soldiers attending a meeting of the Order of Daedalians, an organization of military aviators, to listen to a World War II veteran and share experiences.

The Soldiers' trip to Maxwell is an introductory visit of what both Army and Air Force personnel hope is a long-term relationship.

Hanson explained to the Soldiers the partnership with Fort Benning germinated from a phone call from Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of Fort Benning's Maneuver Center of Excellence. During the conversation, both generals decided to pursue more joint ventures with a goal of capturing best practices from each service.

He told the Soldiers that when he first joined the service, the joint concept had not developed, but that has accelerated with recent joint expeditionary efforts.

"Jointness comes naturally for you all," he said. "I see great benefit in this relationship."

Col. Terrance McCaffrey, commander of Squadron Officer College and commandant of Squadron Officer School, said the installations' geographical proximity - only two and a half hours apart - helped make this joint experience possible. Joint meetings like these help address misconceptions the services have about each other before service members work together down range, said McCaffrey. "At least now you're talking from an actual data point." He said he hopes for improvement on the Air Force end, to "make Airman who better understand the joint fight."

To set the stage for the visit, teams of Maxwell and Fort Benning instructors conducted a fact-finding mission, visiting each other's institutions this past fall, said Capt. Shane Trego, deputy division chief of international security studies at SOS.
Plans currently include a visit from Maxwell SOS instructors to Fort Benning, tentatively scheduled for this month, as well as more regular visits and exchanges.

Soldiers said they appreciated the opportunity.

Having served alongside Air Force personnel, Lyon said he "had a pretty good impression" of the Air Force, but for some of his classmates, it helped dispel the flyboys myth - or the misconception that the Air Force is populated with only pilots.

Lyon said he appreciated the "interaction between two services." He thinks the exchange should continue and deepen. "It would be beneficial to see more of the training aspect, how similar career fields mesh," he said.

The outing similarly impressed Army Capt. Bryan Goulet of Manchester, Maine. "The conversation in the classroom wasn't scripted," he said. "Anyone can say anything, ask any question. It was a lot more interactive than I expected."

Having served two tours in Afghanistan, Goulet appreciated the need of the services to interface better. He thinks the services should "start looking at incorporating our training so it's not just something you read on a sheet, before things get bad on a mission."