The Army's new battalion commander selection process is just like the NFL Scouting Combine, service chief says

news

Candidates attempt to traverse an obstacle at the Leader Reaction Course during the Battalion Commander Assessment Program January 23, 2020, at Fort Knox, Ky.

U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Daniel Schroeder, Army Talent Management Task Force

If you ask the Army chief, the new Battalion Commander Assessment Program (BCAP) is comparable to the National Football League Combine — and so far, things are going swimmingly.


"You have all different people coming in, where maybe you have a Heisman Trophy winner who's got a great history, and then you have someone coming from some state school that nobody's heard of," Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville explained on Thursday in true New England sports fan fashion. "And they show up here, you know, as the scouts look at the Heisman Trophy winner, that person's credentials may be a little stronger.

"But when they get on the field here, and they go through the process, there's an evening out that happens. We know the knowledge and skills and behaviors that we want in our battalion commanders," he added. "And they go through a rigorous process that demonstrates whether they have those or not."

McConville and Maj. Gen. JP McGee, the head of the Army Talent Management Task Force, told reporters on Thursday that BCAP is allowing leadership to get a more "holistic" view of the around 800 lieutenant colonels and majors who were selected to go through the first implementation of the new program.

McConville, who has made talent management one of his top priorities since taking over as chief last fall, said that starting a new process was crucial because he views the battalion commander as "the most consequential position" in command.

"We want the absolute best leaders in place, because parents are going to send their sons and daughters to serve in the Army, and we want to make sure they are taken care of and treated with dignity and respect, and they have the opportunity to excel in the Army," he said. "And that's a function of leadership."

The first group of officers arrived for their five-day assessment on January 15th; the 18th and last group will arrive on Feb. 9th.

The assessment includes physical, cognitive, and non-cognitive testing. Officers go through a blind panel interview as well, sitting behind a screen and fielding questions from one major general, two brigadier generals, and two former brigade commanders. A sergeant major is also present, though their role is merely to advise the panel.

"They can neither see the person, nor see any identifying information about them," McGee said on Thursday. "In that process, the panel members have to judge them on their verbal communication skills without any of the sort of cues you would have when you're actually looking at somebody."

No pressure!

The officers are also psychologically evaluated; 35 operational psychologists — civilians or contractors with extensive assessment experience from the Army special operations community and who have degrees in that field — were brought in to help conduct interviews and determine who is and is not fit to take command.

"Their field of specialty, largely coming from the special operations community, is to run exactly what we're doing: operational assessments in terms of determining whether these are the right candidates, and they have the right skills matched to be able to put them into a position," McGee said.

McGee added that while reports from subordinates or peers are considered during the process, it's "very apparent" when an officer genuinely may have a problem, or when there are one or two people who have "an axe to grind." Overall, McGee said the "vast majority" of respondents have been positive about the officers going through BCAP.

At the end of the five-day program, the officers sit down for a 30-minute out-brief, during which they receive overall feedback from the assessment, including things that the panel noticed or would suggest to the officer to help them continue their own personal development.

The final list of officers who are chosen to take command in fiscal year 2021 (those going into battalion command positions this summer have already been decided) won't be released until later this spring. Those who aren't placed on the "primary list," meaning the immediate group of officers who are fit to take command, will go onto an alternate list. Those officers could be pulled up to take command in the event that something comes up with the primary officer, such as an injury that prohibits them from continuing in that role.

Ultimately, the program is meant to catch concerns that potential leaders may have early on. As McConville explained, battalion commanders have a good chance at becoming colonels and moving up higher through the ranks. With the BCAP, Army leadership hopes to ensure that those rising into senior positions are the right ones for the job.

"From where I sit, command is a privilege," McConville said. "It's a great privilege to lead America's best, and we have a sacred obligation to get absolutely the best, most committed leaders that we have in charge of these great Americans, who have raised their right hand to serve."

Retired Lt. Gen. Charles "Chuck" Pitman Sr. (DoD photo)

The decorated U.S. Marine Corps pilot who risked his life and military career to help New Orleans police halt the Howard Johnson's hotel sniper attack that shattered the quiet of a Sunday morning and claimed seven lives in 1973 died Feb. 13 following a lengthy battle with cancer, according to his family.

Retired Lt. Gen. Charles "Chuck" Pitman Sr., whose heroics against Mark Essex that day earned him the eternal gratitude of city leaders and first responders, was 84.

Read More
A Syrian commando-in-training applies the safety on his rifle during basic rifle marksmanship training in Syria, July 20, 2019. (U.S. Army/Spc. Alec Dionne)

The U.S. government failed to effectively account for nearly $715.8 million in weapons and equipment allocated to Syrian partners as part of the multinational counter-ISIS fight, according to a new report from the Defense Department inspector general.

Read More

On Feb. 19, 1945, more than 70,000 U.S. Marines conducted an amphibious assault to take the Island of Iwo Jima from fortified Japanese forces. Over the next 36 days nearly 7,000 Marines would be killed during the battle, which is regarded as one of the bloodiest of World War II, as they faced hidden enemy artillery, machine guns, vast bunker systems and underground tunnels. Of the 82 Marines who earned the Medal of Honor during all of World War II, 22 medals were earned for actions on Iwo Jima.

Now, 75 years later, 28 Marines and Sailors who fought on Iwo Jima gathered to remember the battle at the 75th and final commemoration sunset ceremony Feb. 15, 2020, at the Pacific Views Event Center on Camp Pendleton, California.

Read More
REUTERS/Scott Audette/File Photo

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), has long been seen as an apologist for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, whom she met during a secret trip to Damascus in January 2017.

Most recently, a video was posted on Twitter shows Gabbard evading a question about whether Assad is a war criminal.

Since Gabbard is the only actively serving member of the military who is running for president — she is a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard — Task & Purpose sought to clarify whether she believes Assad has used chlorine gas and chemical weapons to kill his own people.

Read More
Barrett's bolt-action Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) system (Courtesy photo)

The Army is almost doubling its purchase of new bolt-action Precision Sniper Rifles as its primary anti-personnel sniper system of choice, according to budget documents.

Read More