October 1, 2011  

Distance learning

I agree with the major, in part, that money can be saved by requiring all officers, regardless of component, to complete ILE by means other than the resident course. However, Bonham is unclear about which distance learning course he is talking about. There are currently two alternatives a Guard, Reserve or Active Guard Reserve officer may take to complete ILE via “distance learning.”

Option one is yet another “PowerPoint karaoke” class the Army has recently embraced. This is a very poor substitute for the sharing of recent lessons learned from peers fresh from a combat theater. Option two is a year-long course with three phases. Guard and Reserve officers take an intensive two-week annual training (AT) period for phase one, where collegial planning is used to convey how to “think outside the box.” Phase two consists of one weekend per month (inactive duty training, or IDT) meeting with peers to continue to work on strategic-level problems involving joint and combined arms. Finally, the officers return for phase three for a two-week intense final application, working on a complex tactical problem in the Balkans. All of this staff work and peer interaction creates a synergy (i.e., the group is more than the sum of its parts) that would not be possible interacting with just your computer screen.

If Bonham is merely suggesting officers need to get a ticket punched in order to make lieutenant colonel, then by all means, save money and have them knock out the training online. However, if we want officers who can work with all types of staffs and truly be creative thinkers with more than one right answer, the money would be well spent on the three-phase AT/IDT/AT-type training that most Guard and Reserve officers complete.

Lt. Col. Scott Wiesehan

Army Reserve

Manhattan, Kan.