In the fall of 2011, the leadership of the U.S. Special Operations Command threw out a challenge-to create the best educated force in the world.
In a remarkably short time, the Joint Special Operations University Enlisted Academy has matched leadership's challenge and has the data to prove it. The JSOU-EA met the challenge by ramping up its programs from one course to four courses in a career education program. The final course to be launched under the initiative, The Enterprise Management Course, focuses on E-7 SOF operators and enablers.
Reviewing survey data from the first three iterations of the course, the instructors uncovered a surprising fact. Ninety-two percent of graduates reported they had either completed their degrees or were now enrolled in a bachelor's completion program. This is a noteworthy leap from 34 percent with bachelor’s degrees prior to starting the course.
This leap in college completion and enrollment is made possible by three lines of operation: The instructors, articulation agreements and academic advising.
The instructors teach at the mid-baccalaureate level and mentor the students each step of the way. The four instructors are all prior SOF operators and hold degrees at the master's or doctoral level. They fulfill former Command Sergeant Major Chris Faris' vision of providing lessons that are "early to need," meaning the course lessons precede real world application. For example, students learn about campaign phasing and strategy before they are assigned to a Theater Special Operations Command. The level of instruction gives students confidence they can complete a bachelors program.
Agreements stipulate 12 to 15 transferable college credits through three partnering institutions: Norwich University, University of Charleston - West Virginia and Excelsior College. With these credits, and those recommended through Joint Service Transcripts or the Community College of the Air Force, students are discovering they are just 30-36 college credits (10-12 courses) from graduating with a meaningful degree, even if they’ve had no previous college education.
Figuring out college credit and degree programs are where JSOU's Academic Advisor, Katie Carson comes in. Carson ensures all students are aware of their options, she contacts students who have not completed a degree and provides them with choices.
"Most students have no idea how close they are to earning their degrees. After we complete the evaluation process, most are able to transfer around 75 credit hours before we even begin discussing credit for the Enterprise Management Course," Carson said. "The admission process can be intimidating for someone who has never attended a university. However, once we have done our jobs, the student has a very bright light at the end of the tunnel moving toward his or her degree."
The Enterprise Management course’s major lessons include: Critical thinking, leadership, strategy, irregular warfare, negotiations, campaign phasing, Department of State history and culture, change management and Preservation of the Force and Families. The Course runs five times a year and can accept up to 100 students per iteration. The course is designed for E-7s, and E-6s who have completed the Joint Fundamentals Course, as well as E-8s and E-9s. Those interested in attending can register through the JSOU public site at https://jsoupublic.socom.mil/Pages/Courses.aspx.
Feedback for the course has been very positive and according to one graduate, “This course was very well executed; the lessons were pertinent to SOF leaders, I enjoyed the interaction with other students and it provided a wide field of view on topics relevant to US SOF, regardless of Service Component."
While only time will tell if JSOU’s Enlisted Academy will maintain the 92 percent higher education enrollment rate, they stand ready to assist in making sure USSOCOM has the best educated force in the world.