Understanding Intermediate-Level Education
By now, most Army officers know that the term “Intermediate-Level Education” (ILE) refers to the third tier of the Officer Education System and is linked directly to Army Transformation. Under ILE, officers will attend schooling and subsequently receive assignments based on the needs of their respective career field, branch, and functional area. ILE will increase the quality of educational opportunities available to majors and better prepare them for their next 10 years of Army service, enhance the Army’s capability to conduct full-spectrum operations, “re-green” all officers on Army warfighting doctrine, and provide lifelong learning opportunities aimed at developing self-aware and adaptive officers.

ILE includes completion of the common-core curriculum and the required career field, branch, and functional area training and education. According to its mission statement, ILE will prepare “field grade officers with a warrior ethos and warfighting focus for leadership in Army, joint, multinational, and interagency organizations executing full spectrum operations.”

That’s quite a mouthful, but what does it mean to commanders and field-grade officers? What is ILE really about, and how does it differ from the old, or legacy, Command and General Staff Officer Course (CGSOC) conducted by the Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas?
Pilots for ILE began in fiscal year 2002, and full implementation is projected for fiscal year 2005. Three linked areas inexorably distinguish ILE, or the new CGSOC, from the legacy course: student population, curriculum, and instructional method.

Student Population

The primary difference between ILE and the legacy CGSOC is that the Army is committed to providing the best possible intermediate-level education to all majors.

For the legacy course, the Army used a central selection process to select the top 50 percent of the majors in each year group. These majors then attended the 10-month resident course at Fort Leavenworth. The rest completed a nonresident education program to receive their field-grade education and thereby become competitive for promotion to lieutenant colonel.

Under this system, half the Army’s majors did not get an opportunity to attend a resident program to develop their technical, tactical, and leadership competencies and skills. Majors in the Information Operations, Institutional Support, and Operational Support career fields, along with special branch majors who only needed the common-core portion of the course for Military Education Level IV and joint professional military education I, chose CGSOC professional development electives for the remainder of the 10 months.

In the ILE program, all majors in the Operations career field will attend the 10-month resident course at CGSC—a 3-month common-core course followed by a 7-month Advanced Operations and Warfighting Course (AOWC). The goal of the education is to improve the officers’ abilities to conduct full-spectrum operations in joint, interagency, and multinational environments and develop the competencies required to serve successfully as staff officers at division level and above.

Majors in the Information Operations, Institutional Support, and Operational Support career fields and special branch majors also will receive a resident ILE common-core course at various locations. Teaching teams from Fort Leavenworth will take the instruction to locations near large populations of officers in career fields other than Operations. In fact, the Army has already piloted three iterations of the ILE common-core course using the course location concept and Fort Leavenworth instructors. These pilots provided the ILE core curriculum to over 165 officers at the Army Signal School at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and the Army Logistics Management College at Fort Lee, Virginia.

Most Reserve component majors will receive the ILE common-core course through The Army School System or an advanced distributed learning program that will replace the correspondence course. As the number of students attending the resident ILE common core course and the AOWC at Fort Leavenworth increases, so will the number of Reserve component majors attending those courses. This approach will give the students, their commanders, and the Army maximum flexibility while providing the best possible ILE to all majors.


A totally revamped curriculum is the second area that distinguishes ILE from the legacy CGSOC. The 3-month common-core ILE replaces Term I of the legacy CGSOC. It will prepare field-grade officers to serve on division, corps, echelons-above-corps, land component command, and joint staffs. Graduates will understand full-spectrum operations in today’s environment, know how to think, understand complex problem-solving, be able to balance their focus between current and future operations, understand staff principles and concepts, know how to synchronize effects on the battlefield, and understand performance-oriented training and education.
The school’s competency map, linked directly to the Officer Evaluation Report (OER), codifies the skill set students must demonstrate to graduate from the ILE program. While this is a new concept at CGSC, the Army has used this OER for nearly 6 years, so field-grade officers attending the ILE course probably have been exposed to this skill set many times before they arrive at CGSC.

The focus of this skill set is on educating students in how (versus what) to think, to solve problems, and to make decisions. Classroom time is devoted to the application level of learning. Students soon realize there are no “school solutions” to the problems they are presented. Instructors help them work through the problems and critique the link between identification of the problem and the students’ solutions. As long as evolving doctrine is not violated and the basic principles of planning are demonstrated, the answers are accepted.
This concept is a tremendous step forward in developing field-grade officers who are capable of thinking rather than just memorizing answers. The 2001 Army Training and Leader Development Panel Officer Study identified the need for Army officers who are adaptable and capable of thinking in a fast-paced, constantly changing environment. This is the foundation of the ILE curriculum.

Four blocks of instruction comprise the ILE common-core course: Foundations of Critical Reasoning and Leader Assessment and Development, Strategic Fundamentals, Operational Fundamentals, and Tactical Fundamentals. Three parallel courses are integrated into the instruction: Leadership, History, and Force Management.

The 7-month AOWC replaces Terms II and III of the legacy CGSOC. Its curriculum is designed to develop Operations career field officers with a warfighting focus for battalion and brigade command and division through echelons-above-corps staff officer positions. Students will leave the AOWC with a deeper understanding of full-spectrum operations in the contemporary operating environment, including battlespace appreciation, component roles and responsibilities, decisive and enabling operations at the tactical level, asymmetric operations, and urban operations.

A series of exercises are used to evaluate the students’ mastery of the concepts taught during both the common-core course and the AOWC. These exercises are conducted at the section level, so the students in each section do all of the planning and execution, as well as man the opposing forces and white cell for each exercise. The exercises place the students in a joint, combined, highly complex environment with numerous opportunities to identify problems and solve them. The advantage of this process is that, instead of waiting for one end-of-year exercise, students plan and execute multiple operations and receive feedback that helps them improve during the entire 10 months.

AOWC studies are divided into three blocks of instruction. Each block includes an application exercise, during which students must demonstrate mastery at the land component command, division, and brigade levels through competition between student groups. This competition gives the students an opportunity to study and perform in multiple command and staff roles and in threat force roles. The driving theme is enabling and executing division and brigade fights.

AOWC retains an elective program from the legacy course so the students can pursue additional focused studies.

Instructional Method

Team teaching is the third domain shift that distinguishes ILE from the legacy CGSOC. It is through team teaching that CGSC will achieve its goal—graduates with a warrior ethos who are grounded in warfighting doctrine and who have the technical, tactical, and leadership competencies and skills to be successful in their career field, branch, or functional area.

Each teaching team is made up of experts in joint and combined operations, tactics, leadership, history, and logistics. The team is responsible for providing all instruction to its section throughout the academic year and for exercising oversight during the major exercises at the end of the common-core portion of the ILE course and during each block of AOWC.

The team-teaching method is a major change from the small-group instruction method used in the legacy CGSOC. Members of the teaching teams coach seven or eight students each. They observe and mentor the students, provide them feedback, counsel them, and assist them with their professional and personal development. Students get to know the instructors, and, more importantly, the instructors get to know the students. Therefore, the instructors are better prepared to provide meaningful developmental counseling to the students.

There are approximately 1,152 students in the Fort Leavenworth ILE program this year. They are divided into 16 sections that are further broken down into student groups of 16 to 18 students. The size of student groups is tied directly to civilian studies that show that adult learning is best achieved in small groups of 12 to 16 students. Limiting the size of the student groups permits the best possible student learning and allows the instructor teams the opportunity to know and develop the students better.

ILE instructors believe the program is a significant step toward preparing majors to understand and solve problems in the highly complex operational environment they now face. Those asked believe that ILE-trained field-grade officers will be capable of thinking through the most difficult situations, adapting to changes in their operational environment, and ensuring the continued success and freedom of our Nation.

The staff of Army Logistician thanks Colonels, USA (Ret.), Neal Bralley, Jim Danley, Dan French, Chuck Soby, and Paul Tiberi, who are contract instructors supporting the Intermediate-Level Education program at the Army Command and General Staff College, for their contributions to this article.