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NEWS | Feb. 4, 2016

OASS: On the right track to train the total force

By Amy L. Haviland

FORT EUSTIS, Va. (Feb. 2, 2016) -- Senior leaders from across the Army gathered at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command headquarters Jan. 28 to determine the way ahead for how and where the Army will train Soldiers throughout active, Guard and Reserve components. 

For the second year, the One Army School System Symposium convened at Fort Eustis, Virginia, where stakeholders from across the force, including Headquarters, Department of the Army and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower & Reserve Affairs received updates on previous efforts and made decisions on the way ahead for the One Army School System, or OASS.

Created in 2012, the goal of OASS is to provide streamlined, quality training to all Soldiers -- regardless of component.

"It's really an effort to optimize our training capacity and ensure that we send Soldiers to the right school at the right location with the correct equipment," said Dave Paschal, TRADOC acting deputy, G-3/7 for training. 

Through OASS, the Army will also look at ways to reduce unused training slots throughout the force.

"If we took a look across the Army this past year, we had the capacity to train about 35,000 students in military occupational specialty training or professional military education courses," Paschal said during the symposium. "However, the requirement was actually about 17,000, so we almost have double the capacity of what we required."

In addition to reducing unused training sites, OASS will also look at ways for Soldiers to train closer to home station when feasible. 

Paschal shared the story of a Soldier from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, who was sent to a retraining class at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, when he could have attended a regional training institute site closer to his home station. Not only would this have saved money, but also something just as valuable: time.

"You look at the operations tempo of our Soldiers," Paschal said. "If they could stay at home and spend the evenings with their families, that's equally as important."

Although OASS may be beneficial to some Soldiers, the idea of all three components training together or one component attending a course taught by another causes concern for some, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Wills, interim command sergeant major for the U.S. Army Reserve.

"I think that the notion of the One Army School System initially set some folks out of their comfort zone, but not knowing what you don't know is alarming to anyone," Wills said. "As the year has passed, we've come a long way in selling the concept."

A concept, Wills said, that's critical to the future force: the ability to integrate all three components and streamline resources to more efficiently train as one team.

"To be a strategic force -- in today's resource-constrained environment -- it's critical that all three components train to the same standard, in the same like-environments," Wills said.

He added that while the name may be new, the concept of training together is not, using his own educational experience as an illustration.

"Although we treat this as a new concept, it's been around for many years," Wills said. "I have been active component and have gone to active-duty schools. I have been Army Reserve, and I've gone to active-duty schools, and I've gone to Guard schools, so I consider myself an example of the One Army School System as it has been in place."

Wills also provided some more recent examples of OASS, like the Regional Training Site Maintenance-Fort Hood, Texas, where Army Reserve instructors teach the same course that's offered by active-duty instructors at Fort Lee, Virginia.

"That's a success story where we've been training active-duty Soldiers in our Army Reserve classrooms for the last couple of years," he said. "This shows us how we are truly aligning some of the things we've already been doing, and at the same time, how we can continue to improve upon those opportunities."

To date, OASS has integrated 124 courses -- about 70 percent of the goal -- since 2012. 

"We've made quite a few strides," Paschal said, noting that many tasks from last year's symposium have been completed. "But we still have a ways to go."

Paschal said the important part is that each component understands what OASS is trying to accomplish.

"We want to provide quality training," he said. "It shouldn't matter what school Soldiers go to; they should be trained with the latest equipment and the correct program of instruction so they're prepared to do their job."