It’s been just over a year since Army University was created. What has been the biggest challenge in getting it off the ground?
Davenport: It’s bringing it all together. TRADOC on any given day has over 50,000 soldiers in training. And when you talk about school systems spread over various states trying to organize into one common organization, one common standard, one accrediting body, that’s going to take some time. The approach that they’ve taken has been very sequential, focusing on the POIs, focusing on the instructors, focusing on the transcript to record that training.
What short-term goals were you able to accomplish over the last year?
Davenport: We had over 14,000 Non-Commissioned Officers – sergeants – that had not been to the required level of professional military education required of the grade they were in. There are many reasons why they weren’t going to school, but it was not for lack of capacity – we had seats for them. There was just no reason for them to go to school. They could keep deferring it. The policy we now have in place is helping to get our NCOs to school. So that’s one.
The other one that I would say is the implementation of the writing assessment. It’s called the Criterion Writing Assessment, and it’s a web-based assessment that every soldier will take before entering professional military education. And it’s a simple drop-down menu. You get a subject, and you have up to 45 minutes to write as much as you want. And then once you upload it, within a few minutes it comes back and it tells you, ‘Your grammar is poor,’ ‘You need to work on your spelling,’ ‘You don’t understand the composition of a narrative – the body, the topic sentence.’ I’m trying to think of everything that was wrong with mine … And then you get a score. Then it gives you some things you can work on. And what we’re doing inside our professional military education is we’re actually now teaching writing – how to improve writing. Not just passive voice to meet Army regulations, but really how to write effectively.
Those are the two short-term gains that I’m the proudest of.
What are the long-term goals?
Davenport: Army University has six strategic ends: Create agile, adaptive and innovative soldiers, civilians and leaders; create intellectual overmatch of our potential adversaries; create operational agility; enhance Army professional military education; broaden joint professional military education; and create committed professionals… “Soldiers
What feedback are you getting from soldiers, particularly enlisted soldiers?
Davenport: Well, they love it. And they love that we’re investing in them. This is not just a check-the-box requirement, but we’re really investing in, again, quality POIs, they’re relevant, they have the right equipment to train on, simulating anything. We’re adding more rigor by making them explain concepts more than multiple choice tests. They like the competition in the classroom with the grade point averages. They’re all in.
What WILL the Army of 2020 look like as a result of Army University?
Davenport: First of all, I think it’s going to be regarded as the premier leadership institution that produces committed professionals who may serve for three years or 30 years. They’re agile, they’re adaptive, they’re creative, they’re innovative. They have an intellectual overmatch – the capacity to outthink their adversaries. It better prepares them for transition, and quite honestly, I think that after all that investment and their service to our great country that they’ll be committed professional soldiers for life, as we say. And that they will become an advocate for everything that we’re doing inside our Army.