They can defend you in court, support you on the battlefield and offer spiritual guidance.
Aspiring commissioned officers have the degrees and experience to become Army lawyers, engineers and chaplains.
But to be Army leaders, they must understand those they serve.
The Direct Commission Course offered by Fort Benning’s 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, trains commissioned officers in military history, Army leadership, military customs and courtesies and basic combat tasks. All Judge Advocate General’s Corps officers Armywide go through the Fort Benning course, along with a sprinkling of Reserve and National Guardsmen in the military intelligence, ordnance and engineer fields.
“A lot of these Soldiers are brand new to the Army and they’ve already gone through college, out of pocket, and have four-year degrees,” said Maj. Joshua Vanetten, OIC for the course.
“Some (students) are prior service but most haven’t experienced what the Army has to offer by the end of the course, they should be able to walk out with a basic knowledge of how the Infantry conducts battle drills on the ground,” said Sgt. 1st Class Derek Stevens, the senior instructor and course NCOIC.
The six-week course teaches basic Soldier skills such as rifle marksmanship, land navigation, communications and patrol techniques. To graduate, Soldiers must pass a physical fitness test, qualify with the M4 rifle, locate five out of eight points on a land navigation course, complete an eight-mile road march and receive a satisfactory rating in a leadership position. In their first week of training Friday, DCC students were at Tactical Training Base Voyager for combat lifesaver/first responder training.
Generally, 90 percent of the students are JAG officers, having already attended a 10-week officer basic course at the University of Virginia campus to learn the intricacies of military law, the major said.
1st Lt. Stephen Gorman, of Ithaca, N.Y., is a Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps graduate of University of California – Los Angeles’ law school.
“I like what I’m doing right now and I think I’ll have fun being a JAG attorney.
I got interested after attending a six-week course at Fort Lewis while in college, thinking I’d go engineer or Infantry. But they weren’t the (right fit),” he said.
2nd Lt. Ray Swaney, a reservist with the 650th Transportation Company in Wilmington, N.C., is one of a handful of students in the current class who’s not becoming a JAG officer.
Swaney, a transportation officer, has served with his unit for a year. Unlike JAG officers, Swaney will attend his officer basic course upon graduation from DCC. He holds a degree in business management from Utah State University and teaches Marine Technology at Dixon High School in Holoy Ridge, N.C.
“I was noticing more gray hairs in my head, I knew the clock was ticking so I needed to go ahead and act otherwise it may have been something I regretted later on down the line,” said Swaney of joining the Army.
Swaney said the training is fine-tuning what unit members have been teaching him. “When I go back to my unit, I can be a better officer. I can lead my Soldiers. Rather than say ‘go do this’ and not even have any experience with (the task) myself, I will actually have the experience. When I get back, my unit will be in the field doing weapons qualification and I’ll be able to (participate) because these instructors are going to teach us how to shoot,” he said.
The students graduate March 18.
For more information on the direct commission program, visit www.goarmy.com.
First responder >>
The Direct Commission Course’s first responder training is led by George James, a physician associate, and a group of experienced medical professionals, many of whom are former combat medics and veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The 3-day course trains Soldiers in how to assess, treat and evacuate casualties in a combat environment. The course is broken into three sections: Care under fire, tactical field care and tactical evacuation. After two days of training, the Soldiers’ skills are tested on the combat trauma lanes set up in the woods on the perimeter of Tactical Training Base Voyager. In teams of four, the Soldiers run through various scenarios, from applying tourniquets to treating “sucking” chest wounds. Soldiers also learn to use a nasopharyngeal tube to open up the airway.
Though the students can’t be prepared for every possible scenario in such a short time, senior instructor Michael Cosmah, a retired master sergeant and veteran combat medic, said the goal is to give them “baseline experience” in the event they are faced with those types of casualties downrange.