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Thread: Writing a career risk?

  1. #41
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    I've applied for SAMS, and we are expected to be notified next Friday on whether we were accepted or not.

    The SAMS program has been expanded to over 110 students in the Summer class, and there is also a winter class of around 35 students.

    The feedback we were given from the SAMS instructors was that the biggest challenge getting into SAMS was the following:

    1. No combat experience - they have made this a discriminator now.
    2. Branch allowing you to attend - operational demands have priority over all schools, including SAMS, so if Branch tells you you ain't going, you ain't going.
    3. Bad interview

    If I get into the program, I can provide some feedback. I am light years more excited about SAMS than CGSC, mainly because CGSC has become an Army school where the POI has been reduced to a lower standard because, according to at least three of my instructors "everyone gets to graduate unless they committ a crime, plagarize or fail the Height/Weight and APFT twice."

    It's sad, because I don't think the POI is altogether bad - there certainly should be some revision from an intellectual and common sense perspective - but because many of my peers do not have the background necessary to get into details about a lot of the coursework (see my earlier comments about learning history, reading, professional development in other threads).

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob W. View Post

    SAMS cultivates a mystique about being uber hard, and there are probably leaders who don't think the average field grade could hack it. But come on, how hard is SAMS now, anyway? Back in ought-four, You could do PT in the a.m., attend class, read most of the afternoon in the library, and still have enough go-juice left to drink a few pints of Guinness at that crappy dive bar on 3rd street in the late afternoon. Is it way tougher now or something? It beats working.
    "Speak English! said the Eaglet. "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and what's more, I don't believe you do either!"

    The Eaglet from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

  2. #42
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    Default Concur about boring articles

    Schmedlap,

    I agree about your point about the dearth of decent articles in military journals; certainly my mandatory writing program did little to alleviate that. Most of my guys opted to post something on company command dot net, and most of what they wrote did not necc revolutionize military affairs, either.

    The main reason I made them submit articles was to enhance their skills at written communication and I believe that a public venue is one of the best ways to do this. As an XO, I was tired of reading the tripe they were sending through my office (I am an editor maybe, but not a damned ghost writer!), so the article thing let them know I was serious. I also kept the local economy going strong by buying red pens by the caseload, too.

    I did not review their articles before submissionor assign subjects, either, I just wanted them to write something, and not have it seem totally like a homework assignment (even though it was). Probably a good idea for the future, though, since some of them got by with a 300-400 word p ost.

    I laughed at some of the repsonses to my school experiences B.S.; the Ranger School one is classic. Hey, I did lose my patrol cap in Dahlonega in the mountains, and the RIs made me wear a sandbag on my head for about five days; I even had to sew cateyes on it. It was hotter than sh*t, I eventually cut it down and made it more hat-like, so I didn't look like some mutated giant gnome walking through the woods. . .

    That bar on 3rd street in Leavenworth rocks, too, I like the middleclassyness of it. I used to chew tobacco back then (in ought four-ought five) and they actually had a spitoon for me. I felt like Bill Doolin or something in that place, and for a guy originally from CT, that is pretty damn good.

  3. #43
    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Default Clarification...

    Bob W.

    Hmmm.... I don't believe I or anyone else used the term "hard" to describe the SAMS POI. Nor did I or anyone else state that it was above the intellectual capacity of any MAJ in the Army...

    I did say that it requires a skilled faculty (defined as skilled in the socratic method & with a mastery the curricula)... Unfortunately, a large portion of the CGSC facility does not fit the description and in my personal experience only a small portion are inclined to "step up their game". Couple that with the fact that CGSC can't fill all their faculty positions... I think it is far from a reasonable expectation that CGSC is capable of assembling the faculty (at current funding level) to emulate the SAMS experience for the larger ILE class...

    I also said that the SAMS "experience" also depends on the interaction of a pool of self-selecting students. By volunteering, they acknowledged that they want to be intellectually challenged. The are willing to read, think and write. The ILE population may have changed since when I walked the halls of Bell Hall, but I doubt it. I will gladly accept Ski's assessment of ILE student enthusiasm for rigorous academic work.

    You speak of a "mystique" about SAMS... If one exists, it only exists based on how others perceive the program... When senior Army leaders have a tough problem they reach for a SAMS grad because they have benefited from additional educational opportunities and they move from tough/interesting assignment to the next. If that is the mystique you speak of fine... its well earned.

    Is SAMS a Mensa society? No are there superior intellects out there who either opt out of participating or are denied by branch... absolutely, but if you think or opine that the program is over-blown and could easily be implemented universally... you are either information-challenged or disingenuous.

    Live well and row
    Hacksaw
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  4. #44
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    Default SAMS Comments

    Ski, good luck with SAMS, I hope you get in. I joke around a lot about SAMS, but I loved it, it was the best education experience I ever had, and I have relied on it heavily over the past few years. . .

    Hack,

    I tried to make a few points about SAMS/CGSC that I may have jacked up through my longwinded BS and lame humor attempts:

    1. The SAMS POI (when I went through 04-05) was organized by theory, doctrine, history, and exercises, with a few electives sprinkled in. I was physically in school during SAMS 30-50% less than CGSC the year previously, and I learned exponentially more. I would argue that taking a significant portion of the military's 0-4s out of the mix for 9-12 months (for long course ILE), is a significant investment on the part of the military (and by extension the taxpayers); all stakeholders in The Best Year of Your Life should get a significant return on that investment, and I would argue they did not when I was there in 03-04. Maybe it has changed dramatically since then, but I bet it hasn't (based on people like Ski's comments). Hack, I maintain my position that Army CGSC should be more SAMS-like, and the fact that many of the instructors at CGSC are substandard is a poor excuse. Hire better people, make the PhDs there teach and publish something on a regular basis, and hold mediocre civilian and uniforms accountable. It is amazing how fast people "step up" when their peers lose their jobs during a recession. Can you replicate SAMS for 1000 people; probably pretty tough. But the fact that Army Majors are being taught the lowest common denominator is a travesty and a waste of time and resources. The Army would probably be better off sending everyone to Grad School for a year instead of CGSC for the same amount of time.


    2. Yes, people volunteer for SAMS and expect to be intellectually challenged, as you say; but I would argue that if the Army gives a person a year off to go to school, that person should be intellectually challenged regardless, and come back to the force much sharper than when he/she left. If new Majors do not want or cannot handle a good education and academic rigor, do you really think they are going to excel as Battalion and Brigade 3s/XOs? People should be challenged during the year at CGSC and grow, but this largely doesn't happen. I concur with the overall comment of how everyone perceives CGSC now: Don't plagiarize, Don't be a heavy-drop, Don't get a DUI, and don't beat your spouse and you'll be a go. Well, CAS3 was a free lunch and sacred cow at one point, and they finally got rid of that drunkfest, too. And President Clinton enacted Welfare Reform 13 years ago, I guess it didn't get implemented at Leavenworth, What's the Matter With Kansas, anyway? Seriously, my point is that a great deal gets asked of majors in combat when they come back from into the force from Leavenworth. The fact that CGSC is on its best days a mediocre experience is a failure on the part of the Army's leadership, and shoulf d be addressed.

    3. When I was in KS, SAMS did cultivate a mystique, and it continues to exist in the Army, especially with future prospects for the program. The pep talk SAMS gave to my CGSC class in the blue bedroom talked about how challenging it is, how much we're going to read, etc; many junior officers think you are going to stay up all night reading obscure tomes and memorizing Clausewitz if they decide to go there, and it probably discourages some good people from attending. Any interaction with some of the smart but personality-deficient PhD's of the program throughout CGSC year were a little unpleasant as well (that's just life, I know, but it certainly didn't sell the program). That is why I talk light-heartedly about my experiences there most of the time as part of my schtick to sell the program to bright young O's. I try to knock that read-a-book-a-night crap down every chance I get, and highlight the fact that I somehow found the time to drink beer, chew tobacco, brew beer, shoot pheasants and ducks, have another kid, drink beer, etc., rather than make people think I was living in the library reading Jomini and contemplating jumping out a window or something. . .

    4. I am intimately familiar about that "reaching for a SAMS grad spiel", I am living the dream right now. Somebody reached for me a few months ago, sent me to an electron mine, and gave me a slide quota to meet every day, or they don't feed me. . .

    Bob W

  5. #45
    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Default In Re: Bob W

    I will respond in a more thoughtful way myself, when I have the time... but a few thoughts...

    I feel for you brother, but get used to being "grabbed" mostly its do important and rewarding stuff, sometimes its because a senior leader needs a SAMS "binkie" Hope what you are doing now is in the first rather than the second category

    I would just argue there is a difference between should and could... we can agree that instructors should want to be "their best self" each day, and that students should use the year to grow and stretch their noodle while enjoying the homefires and mom's body warmth... whether ILE could make this a reality is another story...

    Honestly, In a more perfect world I'd be teaching in DJIMO... I both want to do it, and I fit the profile I described in the earlier post... Problem is they can't pay me near what I get to do other work. I have two teenagers and a 4 mth old, money matters...

    I get it ILE should be the period of intellectual growth, in which professionals on a daily basis have lively debates about the merits of a particular theory or approach to solving an operational problem... the curricula ought to change on a monthly basis if only the contextual examples to animate the principle ideas the form the underpinnings of the curricula...

    You say fire instructors, 10% 25% 75%, and the others will fall in line??? Like I said they can fill the slots they have now, they don't pay particularly well, and they are somewhat constrained by joint instructions to maintain JPME certification

    I'm not trying to excuse the situation as much as bring a little realism to what is in the "doable" range of options.

    As for SAMS... back when it had real rigor.... seriously there is some who said that the program would suffer significantly if they expanded the class sizes and moved to two iterations per year... nonsense...

    You know, there would be great pain in doing so and a whole bunch of promotion exceptions would have been required, but it might have been best if they had closed ILE and CCC from 2004 - 2007 if it had resulted in a total revamp in approach to better mirror a "SAMS Approach". But it ain't happening now brother

    That was long winded for a quick response... was it churchill who said I'd have written a short note but didn't have the time... guilty

    Live well and row
    Hacksaw
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  6. #46
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Not qualified to enter the debate on SAMS but can enter

    a comment on general military education and training. Regardless of the target audience, the process of instruction is in my observation geared to a notch below the lowest common denominator in the course or class and that is geared to keeping the course alive by not having too high a reject rate and not making the staff or faculty look bad. That is not to say said staff and faculty are themselves the cause of this, most are hard working and try to do right -- it is a systemic and design failure

    Based on my own experience and in talking to a lot of folks of all ranks who've more recently than I attended everything from initial entry training in several services to the War Colleges -- plural -- and to include a couple of SAMs graduates, the armed forces continue to cram one hour of instruction into two to four hours or more.

    There should be a challenge involved and, for most, there is none. One should be able to not pass a course without fear of an execution or the next thing to it. The object of the course should be to impart knowledge or capability, all too often it's a career step and not much more. Sort of bothers me that the former Officer Advanced Course is now called the Career Course. Honesty in advertising? Dunno but I have my suspicions.

    I have to suspect that Bob W. is correct on this one...

  7. #47
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    Default I Concur, Hack

    Hack,

    I cannot argue against your points, you are more grounded in reality than I am when it comes to CGSC/SAMS. I was arguing for the way it should be, you were pointing out the way things actually are. For once I sound like the guy calling for a bailout!

    I would hope that the powers that be will continue to work towards the ideal of CGSC/ILE being a rigorous course that puts Majors back into the force who are better thinkers, not just well-rested and bored.

    All right, I won't deviate from, the writing topic any more than we already have!

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    Well, I was selected for SAMS and received notification yesterday...to say that I am on Cloud Nine would be an insult to Clouds 10, 11 and 12.
    "Speak English! said the Eaglet. "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and what's more, I don't believe you do either!"

    The Eaglet from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

  9. #49
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ski View Post
    Well, I was selected for SAMS and received notification yesterday...to say that I am on Cloud Nine would be an insult to Clouds 10, 11 and 12.
    Congratulations, Ski, and Merry Christmas!
    Example is better than precept.

  10. #50
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Seconded! Good job...

    I'm not sure 'seconded' is a totally legitimate word but you get the idea...

    Good to hear.

  11. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ski View Post
    Well, I was selected for SAMS and received notification yesterday...to say that I am on Cloud Nine would be an insult to Clouds 10, 11 and 12.
    Congrats! Have you considered doing something online that gives some insights into your study there? A daily blog? Occasional posts at SWJ on a particularly interesting discussion that arises in class (no attributions, of course), or something similar?

  12. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ski View Post
    Well, I was selected for SAMS and received notification yesterday...to say that I am on Cloud Nine would be an insult to Clouds 10, 11 and 12.
    Bravo Ski and well done! What a great Christmas present!
    He cloaked himself in a veil of impenetrable terminology.

  13. #53
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    Default encouraging

    Just to give everyone news of an encouraging sign. At the MI Captains Course, they have begun a seminar program with readings and discussions, and culminates with each officer writing an article for publication in the MI Professional Bulletin. The last issue, if you can track it down, is almost all CPT articles from the first semianr class.

    I was deemed worthy to join the program, but no idea what I'll research yet. On exodus now, so I'll have time to think about it.

    Happy holidays everybody.
    "What do you think this is, some kind of encounter group?"
    - Harry Callahan, The Enforcer.

  14. #54
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    Thanks to all for all the good wishes. I am literally walking on air. I am humbled and honored, and look forward to going through the program.

    Schmed - I'll see what is possible...
    "Speak English! said the Eaglet. "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and what's more, I don't believe you do either!"

    The Eaglet from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

  15. #55
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ski View Post
    Well, I was selected for SAMS and received notification yesterday...to say that I am on Cloud Nine would be an insult to Clouds 10, 11 and 12.
    Outstanding. SAMS monographs bridge the towering highs, to the embarrassing lows, so looking to see you on the "high" side!!!
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

  16. #56
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    Default Professional Writing

    It seems to me that writing is almost always beneficial. It helps you to further develop your ideas and specific voice. However, the hard part is figuring out if what you wrote is worth sharing, with friends, publishers, or others. Also, if writing is undertaken with the mindset that it will be peer-reviewed(which is to say mercilessly ripped apart), I think it will go very well. In my limited experience it seems that philosophical writing styles would naturally lend itself to military professional writing. That is, to make a sound and valid argument, and defend against every possible criticism.

    It also wouldn't hurt to read papers written by your superiors if possible, in order to avoid unnecessary overlap or conflict.

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