Transformed CGO PME for New Era

  • Published
  • By Dr. Matthew Stafford
  • Chief Academic Officer, Squadron Officer College
On Jan. 9, Squadron Officer College opened its doors to a new Squadron Officer School. Last June, Air Force senior leaders gathered at the CORONA-Top conference and among other decisions, chose to completely 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 decided to eliminate the Air and Space Basic Course and bolster the highly successful leadership-development program put in place at SOS in 2009-2010 by extending SOS by three weeks. In addition, in recognition of the School's success, the generals set a goal of 100% 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.

In response to the decision, SOC immediately set about the task of rebuilding the SOS program by revising the entire curriculum. The leadership-development core of the old program was retained, but 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 engaging educational experience that continues to meet all of the higher headquarters-levied learning requirements while providing the collaborative-learning environment that has proven so successful throughout the school's history. The curriculum has been 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 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 duration of the course, SOC was able to address each of these areas in more detail than in the past. The new program will also explore a broader range of topics in support of these 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 Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Academy.

Students will also complete a variety of assignments and activities that 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 that SOS' graduates have been provided hands-on experiences in leadership and teambuilding commensurate with their needs as they transition to flight- and squadron-level leadership positions and prepare for even greater challenges in the future.

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 has enthusiastically embraced both the challenges and opportunities inherent in the CORONA-Top decision. In response, the faculty has forged an eight-week developmental experience that is exciting, engaging and 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 committed members of the SOS faculty are eager and ready to deliver this new SOS experience to approximately 800 captains arriving for the Jan. 9 class.

"These are highly educated and motivated military professionals," said Col. Terry McCaffrey, SOC commander. "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."