By MAUREEN ROSE
Gold Standard Acting Editor
Maj. Gen. Jeff Smith, the commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, will pass the flag to Brig. Gen. Peggy Combs in a change of command ceremony in Waybur Theater today at 10 a.m.
During his tenure, Smith has overseen the turbulence of change that has flooded over Fort Knox for the last five years, although his command time was considerably shorter. Nevertheless, much of the ripple effects of earlier bomb shells were still spreading and Smith—not a passive bystander—drove some of the alterations himself.
One of his major contributions is the co-location of Cadet Command’s training programs. While the Leader’s Training Course has always been conducted at Fort Knox, the Leader Development and Assessment Course has been executed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., for many years. But in the Army’s environment of fiscal constraint, that didn’t make sense and Smith made the case for change to the Secretary of the Army and hit a home run in the process.
“It made all the sense in the world,” Smith said. “(That move) enabled me to gain efficiencies and effectiveness on the two summer training courses…I can use the same cadre and just run committees and synchronize the effort if I have everybody in one location.”
Not only did moving the LDAC course to Knox make sense from a logistics standpoint, it saved money on several levels. Being centrally located in the U.S., the Kentucky location will reduce travel expenses for cadets and cadre.
“At the end of the day, it’s about a $9 million that we’re able to avoid by consolidating training,” he said.
Not only will all ROTC cadets see Fort Knox during their summer training—roughly 8,000 this summer alone—but a good number of their parents will visit for graduations. That’s another significant impact for and to the installation.
As the gap widens between those who serve and the general population, fewer and fewer Americans understand the Army. Smith said Cadet Command commissions 70 percent of the Army’s officers, so more and more Americans—the officers themselves as well as their family members—will draw their impressions of the Army from what they see at Fort Knox.
“First impressions are always lasting ones and my vision for Fort Knox and Army Cadet Command is for this to be a world class experience,” he said. “Being able to expose (visitors) to what a military installation is like, what a community that supports its military is like—they can take that back to their own states and towns and be advocates for the Army. There’s a tremendous potential here.”
While on Fort Knox, Smith said all the cadets and many of their family members will be able to visit the Gen. George S. Patton Museum of Leadership and hopefully learn lessons from its futuristic augmented reality exhibits. Those lessons will also accompany the cadets back to their college campuses.
“There’s a lot of goodness to that,” Smith said.
Not only has Smith managed to consolidate the cadets’ summer training, but he has fired an initiative that extends far beyond where the training will happen. His vision has been dubbed BOLD (for Basic Officer Leader Development) Transformation and is a fairly complex process that will address the training’s how, why and when.
“Learning sciences have changed,” Smith said and his proposals will take advantage of those changes, implementing as many techniques as possible to demand faster, sooner and more extensive learning from college cadets.
The BOLD Transfor-mation will also incorporate changes within the Army and prepare cadets for the operational environment of the future. The curriculum will be revised to arm the cadets with Soldier skills as well as academic skills to critically think through the nation’s challenges. With the drawdown in Afghanistan, Smith said battle-experienced warriors will become available as instructors to ROTC programs and ensure the training is realistic and effective.
All in all, Smith said,the quality of life at Fort Knox has seen improvements and the community support for Knox citizens is amazing.
“The community has a lot to be proud of; certainly the surrounding communities have been a big supporter of Fort Knox irrespective of what type of unit or what type of activity the Army has done here,” Smith said. “They have graciously extended their support and I want to personally thank them for continuing to be pretty agile in running this river with the Army as we downsize and readjust.”
He said community attendance at ceremonies is an indicator of support.
“The people around here bend over backwards—whether it’s 3 o’clock in the morning or 10 o’clock in the morning—to come out and support Soldiers whether they’re deploying or coming home.
“People don’t give of their time and resources unless it means something to them and I think that’s something the entire community and surrounding counties should be very proud of.”
Given the psychological toll that change often inflicts, Smith said many question the future of
Fort Knox. He’s not worried.
“The Army absolutely depends on Fort Knox,” he said. “It’s an installation with a rich history and it’s the human capital hub of the Army…and I think that’s going to endure over time.”