Schools, Postgraduate Service

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Schools, Postgraduate Service. Each of the armed services has its own system of postgraduate service schools for the indoctrination, training, and education of officers. Although each system is different, particularly at the lower levels, all military postgraduate schools fall into one of five main categories: service schools, staff colleges, senior service colleges, joint colleges, and specialist training schools. Service schools prepare newly commissioned officers for duties in operational units and aboard ship and senior company‐grade officers for small unit command and staffwork. Staff colleges prepare selected midcareer officers for command and staff postings at intermediate echelons. Senior service colleges prepare selected senior field‐grade officers for the highest command and staff positions. Joint service colleges teach joint operations and seek to improve interservice cooperation. Specialist training schools impart technical knowledge and manual skills.

U.S. Army.

The army was the first of the services to recognize a need for postgraduate officer education. In April 1824, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun established the Artillery School of Practice at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, to disseminate knowledge of elementary tactics and administration. By 1880, the Artillery School, under the influence of Emory Upton, had become the model for the service schools later established for each of the army's branches (Infantry, Transportation Corps, etc.). Since 1973, the army service schools have been controlled by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

In 1881, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman established the School of Application for Infantry and Cavalry. In its early years the service school at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, prepared lieutenants for company‐level duties and was often derided as “the army's kindergarten.” The Leavenworth school was transformed between 1890 and 1910 by Arthur L. Wagner, Eben Swift, John F. Morrison, and other officers convinced of the need for an officer corps educated in both theory and practice and imbued with a sense of responsibility, reliability, intellectual acuity, and teamwork. These military educators introduced the systematic study of strategy, tactics, and military use of history, as well as a broad range of other professional subjects using the so‐called applicatory method, which called for active student involvement in the learning process by way of participation in the individual or group solution of strategic, tactical, and logistical problems using maps, indoor war games, or outdoor exercises known as tactical rides.

Beginning in 1887, a second year of study was provided for the best graduates of the School of Application. The second‐year program evolved into the Army Staff College. Renamed the Army Command and General Staff College in 1928, the Leavenworth school thrived in the period between the two world wars and is often credited with being the principal educational influence on the men who led U.S. forces to victory in World War II. In the early 1980s, two new levels of instruction were added to the traditional staff college curriculum. The new Combined Arms and Services Staff School was established to prepare senior company‐grade officers for service in battalion‐ and brigade‐level staff positions, and a new School of Advanced Military Studies was created to provide a second year of advanced study for selected Command and General Staff College graduates.

The poor coordination of army forces in the 1898 Spanish‐American War prompted Secretary of War Elihu Root to act on the ideas expressed by Emory Upton some twenty years before and to establish the Army War College in Washington, D.C., in November 1901. Until 1917, the Army War College was a not entirely successful adjunct of the newly created General Staff. Closed during World War I, the college reopened in 1919 with a regular curriculum stressing strategy, the command and management of large units, and military history. From 1919 to 1940, the Army War College formed the professional officers who held the most senior army commands in World War II. Classes were again suspended in 1940, but the army's senior service college was reestablished at Fort Leavenworth in 1950 and moved to Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, the following year. Since 1950, the Army War College curriculum has focused on the study of national military policy and has become a center for strategic studies, the development of ground warfare doctrine, and international peacekeeping.

U.S. Navy.

For many years, the navy relied on experience at sea as the principal means of officer development. However, the immense changes in naval technology and naval doctrine in the post–Civil War era prompted the establishment of the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, in October 1884 to provide “an advanced course of professional study for naval officers.” The creation and early development of the Naval War College—the first of the senior service colleges—was due primarily to the efforts of Rear Adm. Stephen B. Luce. As president of the college from 1884 to 1886, Luce was responsible for bringing Alfred T. Mahan, the great theorist of seapower, to the faculty in 1885. In 1890, William H. Little introduced the applicatory method, and the Naval War College subsequently became a center for the development of war games and naval tactics and strategy. Today, the navy has its own fully developed system of service schools and specialist training institutions, and the navy's own staff college—the College of Naval Command and Staff—is co‐located with the Naval War College at Newport. The navy also has a unique high‐level technical school, the Naval Postgraduate School, established in California, February 1913, to provide advanced instruction in naval ordnance and engineering subjects.

U.S. Marine Corps.

A School of Application for newly commissioned Marine Corps lieutenants was opened in Washington, D.C., in May 1891, and in 1910 an Advance Base School was established at New London, Connecticut. However, before World War I, formal postgraduate education at these service schools took second place to expeditionary service abroad for most Marine Corps officers. In 1920, the Marine Corps School was established at Quantico, Virginia. Recently redesignated the Marine Corps University, it consists of an array of service and specialty schools and the Marine Command and Staff College. There is no Marine Corps senior service college; instead, Marine Corps officers attend the war colleges of the other services or one of the senior joint service colleges such as the National War College.

U.S. Air Force.

Since 1947, the air force also has developed its own system of postgraduate professional education. Today, the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, oversees the service school–level Squadron Officers School, the Air Command and Staff College, and the Air War College, as well as a number of specialist schools and the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright‐Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, which conducts specialized educational programs, mostly of a technical nature.

Interservice Education.

There are also a number of joint service colleges that bring together officers of all services to study joint operations and improve interservice cooperation. Since January 1976, these joint institutions have been part of the National Defense University. The two joint senior service colleges, the National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, are both located at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. The National War College was created in 1946 to perpetuate the effective interservice cooperation developed during World War II. Its curriculum is similar to that of the other senior service colleges, but with greater emphasis on joint matters. The Army Industrial College, created in 1924, became a joint activity after World War II and was renamed the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. It focuses on mobilization and military‐industrial preparedness. Since 1981, the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, established in 1946, has also been part of the National Defense University. Its six‐month course concentrates on the functions and capabilities of the various services and on joint operations.

There is a wide variety of specialist training schools, many of which train students from more than one service. Some are designed to teach specific individual skills, such as flying or parachuting; others prepare officers for specific types of warfare, such as amphibious or nuclear operations, or teach technical subjects, such as communications and computer technology. In addition, a number of joint postgraduate schools provide instruction in such fields as languages, medicine, intelligence, and resource management.

Recent Trends.

Each year a limited number of officers from each of the services is selected to attend the military schools of other nations. A few American students also attend the six‐month course at the NATO Defense College in Rome, considered the equivalent of a U.S. senior service college. Officers can be selected to attend graduate degree programs or short courses at civilian universities. Training with industry is yet another alternative, especially for those in technical fields.

In recent years, postgraduate service schools have been greatly influenced by two trends. The first, and most influential, has been the growing demand for greater interservice cooperation, or “jointness,” which has resulted in a greater emphasis on attendance at the joint colleges and on the study of joint operations at the various postgraduate institutions. The second important trend has been the growing interest in computer‐assisted simulations. War games have a long history in American military education, and recent advances in computer technology have permitted the construction of complex, multifaceted games. Today, computer‐assisted simulations are used for officer training at every level of the integrated, progressive system of postgraduate military education in the United States.
[See also Academies, Service; ROTC; Schools, Private Military.]


John W. Masland and and Laurence I. Radway , Soldiers and Scholars: Military Education and National Policy, 1957.
James C. Shelburne and and Kenneth J. Groves , Education in the Armed Forces, 1965.
Lawrence J. Korb, ed., The System for Educating Military Officers in the U.S., 1976.
Martin van Creveld , The Training of Officers: From Military Professionalism to Irrelevance, 1990.

Charles R. Shrader