A professional among professionals: a Czech soldier's view into the upper echelons of U.S. Army career education (Part 4)

 16. 05. 2024      category: Army of the Czech Republic
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Education is the foundation of everyone's skills and abilities, and being a military professional means a lifetime of working on your knowledge, skills and abilities. If you grew up in the environment of the units of the 4th Brigade, Rapid Deployment "Defense of the Nation" (4th Brn), it makes sense that its motto "where others fall short" becomes part of your DNA and you take the challenge of being sent to the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA) to obtain a high quality education as a task where you must not fail. Notwithstanding the fact that we have been sending Army Warrant Officers to this school since 2004, you will find only up to ten graduates of this prestigious school in the current ranks of the Army, and I personally am the third Chief Warrant Officer of the 4th Armoured Division to be given the opportunity to study at this school. In the previous episodes I have described the so-called pre-course or the zero part of the training course, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Department and in this last episode I will introduce you the final part of the school - 5th Department of Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental and Multinational Operations and the completion of the entire study.

Foto: nprap. Michal Baka | AČR
Picture: Master Warrant Officer Michal Baka | Czech Army

Department of Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental and Multinational Operations – Desert Storm and Purple Pen

The last subject and the final part of the school did not lose any momentum and thanks to the harder approach of the instructors one quickly understood that even here one must not slack off and nothing will fall into your lap for free. Coincidentally, my instructor was Mr. Hunt, the husband of my instructors from DPS and SGM Buschow, who completed the last pair of my instructors. I should point out that all of my instructors were experienced at the operational and strategic levels, were Chief Warrant Officers, and their contribution to my personal improvement was enormous.

Foto: Společné foto z Department of Joint Interagency Intergovernmental Military Operations | nprap. Michal Baka
Picture: Common photo from Department of Joint Interagency Intergovernmental Military Operations | Michal Baka

This subject was actually parallel to the DAO, however, it was more directed towards cooperation in the conduct of operations between agencies, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and in the international environment. Lessons were geared towards understanding the structure of Special Forces, the Marine Corps and their expeditionary forces, the Air Force, as well as embassy structures and the system of work of government and non-government organizations that you can work with to accomplish missions. The training also focused on cooperative planning, which involved similar planning algorithms to the DAO, but with some differences in materials and outputs. Of course, there was then an oral exam and essays, which in this course carried a "Purple Pen" award if you wrote a 100% essay and all the instructors in this department subsequently rated your paper as the best paper in all the classes in the department (out of about 120 papers). 

My first attempt was an essay on Command and Control in Joint Operations, and unfortunately minor grammatical errors kept me from a chance at the Purple pen, so with a final grade of 97, I was actually disappointed. Although it was an otherwise very good A+ grade, the 4th Brn mentality is so ingrained in my heart and head that I had to scrap my next and final chance at getting 100% and a Purple pen. 

I put my best effort and knowledge from my entire year at school into my final term paper on Operational Arts. In the essay on Operation Desert Storm, unlike my classmates, I then chose an unconventional way of using Special Forces to attack the Scud missiles and ultimately turned their tactical failure into a strategic victory and the final success of the entire operation. This unconventional theme, enriched by my thoughts and reasoning, ultimately accomplished my stated goal of obtaining the Purple Pen.

Foto: Přebírání ocenění Purple Pen za nejlepší práci v DJIIMO | nprap. Michal Baka
Picture: Receiving the Purple Pen award for the best work in DJIIMO | Michal Baka

It may sound like self-aggrandizement now, however, it is not exactly customary for this award to be given to someone who is not a native speaker, and for me personally it was mainly about presenting the fact that a member of the Army in the rank of warrant officer is a full partner to all our allies and can perform tasks to the highest standard. Obviously, getting the Purple Pen gave me a positive kick. My subsequent preparation for the oral examination was without the slightest understatement, so that the final grade of 100% was just another part of the overall excellent grade from this department. 

The last part of the department was devoted to planning briefings, their processing, including contingency changes, which was to prepare us for the various options (not only) in processing a joint operation at the international operational-strategic level. Thanks to my previous studies and overall class work, I had the opportunity to conduct one such briefing, which was a very good test of my knowledge and skills from throughout my studies, as I applied my knowledge of DFM, DAO, DCL and DPS in addition to the actual stuff. My overall grade that semester was 98.80% and my focus was already on completing two year papers, defending one of them and successfully completing the entire study.

Year papers and the other side of studying

My year-long papers were built as one project and built on each other. Their goal was to first describe the positive aspects of the GWOT for gaining experience in squad and platoon level leaders and then to use this knowledge to transform the training, education, and development of these individuals in the Army system, focusing on the institutional, operational, and self-development phases of this development. The final thesis, including the defense, was held in front of the parent class instructors, and the final grade for this section of 98.80% was more of a re-evaluation of all my work, knowledge, and insights throughout the year, rather than a reflection of the work of the final days of the program. I really enjoyed the closing ceremony and felt proud that what seemed unrealistic at the beginning, I was able to accomplish and achieve in the end. On the stage with me was another colleague from the Czech Army, with whom we managed to get both our flags among the top ten foreign students and show everyone that NCOs from the Czech Army deserve respect and recognition.

Foto: Diplom NCO Leadership Center of  Excellence Sergeants Major Academy | nprap. Michal Baka
Picture: NCO Leadership Center of  Excellence Sergeants Major Academy Diploma | Michal Baka

During our studies there was not quite enough time for extracurricular activities, but representing the school in the base soccer league (where our class was successful), participating in crossfit competitions, or spending time with close friends and students from England, Brazil, Holland, Italy, Germany, Norway and Slovakia was another great aspect of studying at USASMA. I am very grateful for the friendships that this school builds and also for being given this opportunity by my superiors in the first place. I believe that I will apply the knowledge and skills I have gained this way in the future, and thanks to this experience I will be a valid member of the Silver Corps of the Czech Army. 

I take the overview, experience and skills I have gained through this study as a valuable basis for transforming my thinking from the tactical to the operational and strategic level and as a good foundation for conceptual work on future projects and in my next service assignment. While I will continue to have the heart of a warrior and the head of an unyielding ram, knowing that what makes a soldier is physical readiness, perfect marksmanship, and a mind-set where failure is not the solution or the answer, I also know through the study abroad described above, that real warfighting capability is born at the table as a vision, doctrine, or concept, and it is only through quality education and a full understanding of all Army processes that these visions and concepts are subsequently transformed into the assault rifle, SOP, or ammunition stock that the warfighter sees in the field.

 Author: nprap. Michal Baka

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