How the Army decides who takes on the vital role of battalion command, which often can determine whether that officer will ever become a colonel or general, could see some major upgrades as early as next year.
Thatâ€™s because this past summer the Army Talent Management Task Force ran a pilot program that would go beyond the standard board review and add a host of additional qualities the Army would evaluate before selecting battalion commanders at an officerâ€™s mid-career point.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville hinted at it in remarks at the annual Maneuver Warfighter Conference at Fort Benning, Georgia.
He called it a different way of picking leaders known as the Battalion Commander Assessment Program.
And McConville has his reasons.
Noting that only a few minutes, if that, are spent reviewing the pile of records for each candidate, he saw that as inadequate for what might be the most career-defining job for an officer.
â€œWe spend more time on an enlisted Ranger than we do on a battalion commander,â€ McConville said. â€œWhich I would argue is the most important position for the enterprise.â€
Sign up for the Army Times Daily News Roundup Don’t miss the top Army stories, delivered each afternoon
Enter a valid email address (please select a country) United States United Kingdom Afghanistan Albania Algeria American Samoa Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, The Democratic Republic of The Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote D’ivoire Croatia Cuba Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guam Guatemala Guinea Guinea-bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and Mcdonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hong Kong Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Marshall Islands Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Micronesia, Federated States of Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands Netherlands Antilles New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Northern Mariana Islands Norway Oman Pakistan Palau Palestinian Territory, Occupied Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Puerto Rico Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Helena Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and The Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia and Montenegro Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and The South Sandwich Islands Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan, Province of China Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States United States Minor Outlying Islands Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela Viet Nam Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe
Thanks for signing up!
By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Army Times Daily News Roundup.
The soldier in charge of both that pilot program and for recent recommendations forwarded to the chief for his decision on whether to approve the BCAP, Maj. Gen. J.P. McGee, sat down with Army Times recently to discuss the program.
Currently, a panel of 25 senior Army leaders looks at a stack of nearly 1,000 candidates for battalion command each year, he said. That means theyâ€™re spending just over a minute before assigning a score. That score and others from the board are aggregated and that then determines where the officer falls on the â€œorder of meritâ€ list.
â€œIs that the very best way for us to be able to pick battalion commanders in the Army?â€ McGee said.
The pilot BCAP program, if approved by the chief, wonâ€™t do away with the board, it will only add to it, he said.
And if initial results prove similar, it could mean big changes for some candidates. When the new factors were added in, some of those saw their placings move up or down by as many as eight positions on the order of merit list.
McGee echoed the importance of the BN commander selection, calling it â€œone of the most discerning cuts we make.â€
If approved, more than 800 candidates in the coming year could see this type of assessment.
For one week in June and another week in July, the talent management staff took 23 battalion commander candidates who had been put on the alternate list from the most recent selection. They were a combination of infantry and armor officers.
Once those were chosen, before they arrived to begin the two-day process, the task force identified peers and subordinates and sent them a short survey for feedback on the candidate.
In the past, the candidate could select which peers or subordinates would provide comments.
Then the candidates had to pass a height and weight measurement, an Army Physical Fitness Test, a graduate skills online writing test, read and write an argumentative essay on a topic the task force chose, a questionnaire-based psychological screening and a one-hour interview with a behavioral psychologist and complete the leader reaction course.
They also took an undisclosed cognitive/non-cognitive test that helps the Army identify individuals with talents associated with strategic potential, McGee said.
After those days of assessments, a panel of six general officers conducted a â€œblind board.â€
They were given anonymous descriptors of the candidateâ€™s performance, with tiered markers rather than scores of how they performed on most of the assessments. Then the candidates entered the room on the other side of a board and were asked a series of questions.
The general officers then made a pass/fail vote on the candidate.
McGee said both the participants and general officers told the task force the methods were a better way of choosing commanders.
The two-star expanded on some of the thinking between the traditional evaluation vs. an assessment.
By their nature, evaluations can be subjective, which isnâ€™t all bad.
McGee noted that when he was a brigade commander with 101st Airborne Division, he conducted senior rater evaluations, putting his company commanders in rank order.
â€œI surely did mine differently than the second or third brigade commander,â€ he said.
But the assessment adds some uniformity to the information. An APFT is an APFT and reviewers clearly understand that score, for example.
What an assessment can do for the larger effort is help the Army train its future leaders in what they want them to be good at when they reach their mid-career point.
McGee pointed to the APFT and the transition to the Army Combat Fitness Test. That is prioritizing new efforts that go beyond what was formerly the standard.
â€œFor those of us whoâ€™ve been in the Army for some time like I have, weâ€™re very comfortable doing two minutes of pushups, two minutes of sit-ups and a two-mile run,â€ he said.
But soldiers have to retrain themselves for the ACFT because thatâ€™s the new priority.
Similarly, if young officers see that to become a battalion commander, the Army expects them to be able to communicate verbally and to write well, then theyâ€™ll start working on those aspects, too.
â€˜Culture of assessmentsâ€™
And thatâ€™s part of a larger push to build a â€œculture of assessmentsâ€ that would be with an officer from pre-commissioning to retirement.
For instance, assessments help determine cadet branching to best match their skills with jobs theyâ€™d be successful at. And this past year the captains course began requiring students to take the Graduate Record Examination to help the Army see who might have success at higher-level schools later in their career.
But the work thatâ€™s being done to evolve assessments in the service is not all aimed at the Armyâ€™s goals. The candidates will get something too, he said.
â€œI think theyâ€™ll get a level of confidence that theyâ€™ve been through a system and process that is rigorous, that theyâ€™ve been measured and looked at and they have been deemed the right person to put in command from all kinds of objective viewpoints,â€ he said.