SOS transforms education of CGOs

  • Published
  • By Dr. Matthew Stafford
  • Chief academic officer
On Jan. 9, Squadron Officer College opened its doors to a new Squadron Officer School, extended by three weeks.

Last June, Air Force senior leaders gathered at the CORONA-Top conference and, among other decisions, chose to revise the manner in which company-grade officers are developed for future leadership opportunities.

Recognizing the changing needs of the Air Force and substantial advancements in commissioning source programs, they eliminated the Air and Space Basic Course and bolstered the highly successful leadership-development program put in place at SOS in 2009-2010 by extending SOS by three weeks. In recognition of the school's success, the generals set a goal of 100 percent attendance for Line-of-the-Air-Force officers. The generals' decision marked a commitment to and a substantial investment in the professional development of tomorrow's Air Force leaders.

Squadron Officer College set about the task of rebuilding the SOS program by revising the curriculum. The leadership-development core of the old program remains but was expanded to better address the needs of junior officers. At the same time, the curriculum was broadened to better address topics specific to Air Force, joint and multinational operations as well as hot-button topics that directly affect U.S. success in today's complex international security environment.

The new course will provide an educational experience that continues to meet all the learning requirements expected by higher headquarters while providing a collaborative-learning environment. The curriculum was designed using a "building-block" approach typical of those employed in the very best leadership-development programs.

Within that construct, however, it addresses the five major learning areas described by the Air University for inclusion in all professional military education opportunities, including leadership studies, the profession of arms, communications studies, international security studies and warfare.

By increasing the course's duration, SOC addressed each of these areas in greater detail. The new program also will explore a broader range of topics in support of the five areas and introduce a variety of new learning and leadership-practice opportunities including experiential activities that reinforce leadership and an understanding of military doctrine and a combined-operations program with students from the Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy.

Students also will complete a variety of assignments and activities to enhance critical thinking and communications capabilities while helping them learn from one another about the breadth of operations and activities that defines today's Air Force. All of these lessons and activities have been developed to ensure SOS graduates are provided hands-on experiences in leadership and team building commensurate with their needs as they transition to flight- and squadron-level leadership positions and prepare for greater challenges.

The graduate-level, collaborative-learning approach employed since 2009 has been retained, but with an expanded coaching and mentoring role for the SOS faculty. Through individual mentoring and combined faculty- and peer-reviews, students are inspired, encouraged and empowered to set and achieve their personal development goals both within the program and throughout their careers.

SOC embraced both the challenges and opportunities inherent in the CORONA-Top decision. In response, the faculty has forged an eight-week developmental experience that offers an approach to leadership development that SOS graduates can continue to employ throughout their professional careers and beyond.

SOC's leaders, staff and, in particular, the SOS faculty are eager and ready to deliver this new SOS experience to about 800 captains, said Col. Terry McCaffrey, SOC commander.

"These are highly educated and motivated military professionals," he said. "They have a right to expect top-notch developmental opportunities that will both challenge and prepare them for a successful career in our Air Force. My staff and I are poised to exceed their expectations."