Expeditionary environment brings new experiences, challenges to Air Command and Staff College.
Oct. 5, 2010—Ten years ago, very few airmen going through the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Ala., had deployed for longer than a few weeks at a time. Now, nearly every major going through the program has been to Iraq or Afghanistan at least once in the last two years, ACSC Commandant Brig. Gen. Anthony Rock told the Daily Report in an interview.
The wealth of new experience means that instructors are constantly looking for new ways to reinvigorate the program. As expected, the focus at the school has shifted from the Cold War-era state-versus-state issues, to counterinsurgency, small wars, weak and failing states, and enabling partner capacity, said Rock. But keeping the faculty members on par with the new generation of expeditionary students also is a priority.
"The curriculum has to be a living thing that continues to evolve. While curriculum is the vehicle that continues to deliver that education, the faculty is very important," said Rock. In July 2010, six ACSC instructors traveled to the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany, to participate in an operational planning course. They led an international officer syndicate through a "complex operational planning exercise," said Rock. ACSC has been supporting the NATO school since 2006, he noted.
That same summer, the chairs of ACSC's Department of Warfare and the Joint Forces Department traveled to Addis Ababa, in the Horn of Africa, to teach a week-long course on operational design to the Ethiopian Defense Staff College. Participants included seven general officers and 35 colonels and lieutenant colonels from Ethiopia, Somaliland, and Sudan, Rock said. Those same instructors also traveled to Afghanistan where they received leadership training at Camp Julien and observed operations and provided planning advice to officials with NATO's Regional Center East.
Such developmental opportunities often lead to entirely new electives back at the school, such as the small wars and counterinsurgency course, which teaches students who will one day be operational commanders how to help the joint force commander plan and execute military operations in a counterinsurgency environment.
The ACSC faculty, though, is not exempt from the typical deployment cycle. Fourteen of the roughly 70 military instructors are currently deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Horn of Africa, said Rock. Typically manning hovers around 75 percent, Rock said, but with deployments it often drops as low as 50 percent. Still, the school has managed to maintain a student-to-instructor ratio between 4.3 to 1 and 4.1 to 1, slightly higher than the mandated 4 to 1 ratio.
And though deployments present a manning challenge, it also means new perspectives can be incorporated into the curriculum either through group discussions, guest speakers, or electives upon their return, he said.
For example, future students are likely to see a new emphasis on the Horn of Africa. That means language orientation that not only focuses on commonly spoken languages such as Arabic, French, Spanish, and Mandarin, but also Swahili.
"Who would have ever thought that Swahili would be one of the strategic languages?" said Rock. He added, "If you look at the growth of [US African Command], if you look at the 21st Century challenges that we face, Africa, I think personally, will be one of our focus areas."
That means questions such as how to best integrate African partners and build partner capacity are likely to be addressed in the curriculum. Much of that will be through training, exercises, educational exchanges, and airlift and mobility support, he said.
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