Part III: Tactical Officers (the Eisenhower Program)

Q:  How important is the impact of a company Tactical Officer on overall cadet development?

A:    Very.  A Tactical Officer (TAC) is the primary cadet developer and the legal commander of a cadet company (approximately 125 cadets).  A Tactical Officer is, without a doubt, one of the most important positions at the Academy in terms of shaping and influencing the cadet developmental experience.  TACs assist cadets in balancing the requirements of physical, military, and academic development.  TACs mentor the cadet chain of command to establish high unit standards essential to a cohesive company environment.  They inspire cadets to develop effective leadership styles through role-modeling, counseling, and training.  A Tactical Officer also presents formal and informal instruction to the company, implements special development programs for individual cadets as needed, and is responsible for all company administration.  As such, they have incredible influence over their cadet’s development towards becoming a leader of character who is dedicated to a lifetime of service to our nation.
Some current Tactical Officers’ comments about their experiences:
I treasure being able to work with these incredibly gifted soldiers (cadets).  They truly are America’s best and brightest.  They amaze me daily with their insight, enthusiasm, and pure leadership ability.

It is great to focus on individual and team development – helping cadets become better people and leaders.
Sharing my Army and deployment experiences in a variety of formats (one-on-one, classroom, OPDs, and field training) is very fulfilling in developing future leaders.
The greatest gift a leader can give is the opportunity, mentorship, and training to create other leaders. Tactical Officers are in the business of doing just that.  Cadets believe in doing what is right, we are here to show them what right looks like. I continue to learn what soldiers and future leaders are capable of when they are given the chance to lead and explore new possibilities.

Q:  Can you give me more detail on the 12-month Masters Degree Program?

 A: The Eisenhower Program (aka “ELDP”) is a comprehensive, full-time, graduate-level educational experience specifically designed to prepare Army officers for service as Company Tactical Officers at the U.S. Military Academy.  The program contributes more broadly to officer professional development by intellectually preparing officers for higher-level leadership and command positions in the Army.  The academic program begins each June and participants graduate the following May with Master of Arts degree in Social-Organizational Psychology (Leader Development) from Columbia University.  The program is co-taught and co-administered by the BS&L and Teachers College (Columbia) faculties. The civilian faculty from Columbia travels to USMA to teach the core of the program, but they also teach some of the courses on the New York City campus.  Selected senior members from BS&L and Department of History serve as Adjunct Faculty for the program.  There are also specific USMA based courses that serve as the bridge between the Columbia curriculum and USMA Tactical Officer requirements.  ELDP participants find the program to be challenging and very much in-line with the preparation they need to lead as TACs.  Most also enjoy having the time to reflect and focus on their individual intellectual and leader development.  Officers in the program are generally exempted from all additional duties beyond their educational experience. 

 Q: What courses will I take during the ELDP?

 A:  The Teachers College, Columbia University degree program includes Human Resource Management, Leadership, Leadership Development, Group Dynamics, Organizational Culture and Socialization, Organizational Change, Preparation for Individual Counseling, Preparation for Coaching, Adult Development, Organizational Psychology, Psychological Aspects of Organizations, Conflict Resolution, and Military History.

Q:  What does a Tactical Officer do during the summers?

 A:  During the summer, you typically serve as a Cadet Basic Training (CBT) or Cadet Field Training (CFT) company TAC.   During this time, TACs fulfill the same roles as in the academic year, but with more of a focus on military skills.  The cadet cadre consists of upperclassmen in leadership positions.  New Cadets (rising freshmen) attend CBT, and rising “yearlings” (Third Class Cadets / sophomores) attend CFT.  The summers are physically challenging, fast-paced, and focused on military skills training.
CBT has a dual role of turning New Cadets (approximately 1,300 each year) into members of the United States Corps of Cadets and training them in many of the soldier-skills expected of future platoon leaders.  Tactical Officers and Tactical Non-commissioned Officers oversee all training, from drill and ceremony to basic rifle marksmanship.  
CFT, on the other hand, places more focus on pre-commissioning skills.  It has a distinct “deployed to the field” atmosphere.  All rising cadet-sophomores are trained on such subjects as leading physical training, extensive land navigation, synchronizing indirect fires, conducting performance counseling, and executing confidence courses.  The cadet companies also spend a week at Fort Knox, KY, conducting Mounted Maneuver Training as an introduction to heavy combined arms operation.  Another two weeks at CFT are dedicated to a JRTC-like training event in which the cadets conduct dismounted force on force and live-fire operations from squad to company level in a patrolling environment.

Q:  Is being a Tactical Officer like having a second command?

 A:  Yes - in many ways it is similar to a typical TDA command.  The ORB job title is listed as “TACTICAL OFFICER/COMPANY COMMANDER” since you are legally responsible for 125 cadet soldiers who will be future army leaders.  You have an amazing opportunity to make a long-term positive impact on the Army through your actions and values.  Each Tactical Officer has a full-time NCO counterpart (1SG equivalent), and they work as a command team developing the cadets in their company.

Q:  Who would be my official supervisor as a Tactical Officer?

 A:  Your supervisor would be one of the four Regimental Tactical Officers (RTO).  RTOs are typically lieutenant colonels who have come from, or designated for, Battalion Command in an operational unit.  The four RTOs supervise the 32 cadet companies by dividing them into four equal regiments.  The Brigade Tactical Officer serves as each tactical officer’s senior rater. 


Q:  How difficult is the Columbia MA degree program?

 A:  Very.  The Eisenhower Program is rigorous but rewarding, consisting of 45-credit hours of graduate-school level requirements in a 12-month program.  Captains find the program to be challenging, both in terms of the workload and the intellectual rigor required.  Historically, most captains do very well, though some captains have had difficulty completing the requirements.  Be aware that it is possible to fail to graduate from Columbia University (though we’ve maintained historically high graduation rates).

Q:  If I apply to ELDP, do I also have to apply to Columbia University?

A:  Yes – but!  Officers who are accepted into ELDP will apply through the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership to the Social-Organizational Psychology Program at Columbia.  As we have a modified application form, you do not need to contact their staff.  If you are selected by USCC, we will contact you and send the applicable paperwork for submission (modified application, resume, personal statement, official GRE scores, and official transcripts).  So it is a process we will guide you through.