FORT KNOX, Ky. –
Students in the U.S. Army Recruiting and Retention College’s Station Commander Course virtually reported April 20 for the school’s first-ever distance learning course.
The course kicks off the RRC’s efforts to continue training and education, despite the Department of Defense’s stop movement order during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The RRC will begin a virtual version of the Company Commander and First Sergeant Course on April 27, and it also expects to begin the Guidance Counselor Course via distance learning soon. Staff will then evaluate which of the other courses taught at the college could be conducted virtually and still meet the goals and intent of the curricula.
“Based on guidance from the Training and Doctrine commander to Army leaders, we had to take a look at how we could transition to distance learning, continue to develop leaders and have the biggest impact on the force in the shortest time possible,” said Dr. Wes Smith, dean of the college.
The RRC expects to train about 200 students during the stop movement, which is now extended through June 30.
The challenges for the staff were how to prioritize the resident courses that were required for the rapid transition, identify training platforms, develop expert teams and mitigate shortfalls to ensure a successful transition to distance learning.
“The hardest challenge we faced was the separation of the teams all working together digitally and having to fight connection issues through the various communication tools that we were using,” said 1st Sgt. Michael Downin, who serves as the deputy commandant of the Noncommissioned Officers’ Academy at the RRC. “In the end we have a lot of good subject matter experts and developers who came together and ensured we had a good quality product to train the force.”
Downin acknowledges that training the Army’s ambassadors in the world of recruiting often comes down to the importance of face-to-face interaction.
“Our recruiters, station commanders and recruiting leaders lean on this face-to-face interaction during the resident courses,” Downin said. “The bonds of friendship and networking that are so important for recruiters’ successes in the field won’t be as easily made through distance learning.”
Downin is confident the students will adapt and overcome, using various video chat capabilities and social media platforms to connect and share experiences.
The RRC will continue to add distance learning courses as needed or required through the COVID-19 pandemic, though the dean expects to resume resident courses when defense and Army leaders feel it is safe.
“At this time there is no plan to continue to teach resident courses through distance learning after the (stop movement is lifted),” Smith said. “However, we are going to maintain this capability should this situation come about again.”