Armor Basic Officer Course Training Outcomes

by CPT Matthew J. Quiggle
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The 2nd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, is responsible for providing the operational force with physically fit, mentally agile, technically and tactically proficient leaders who are prepared to lead platoon-level combined-arms operations. As the proponent organization for the Armor Basic Officer Leader Course, 2-16 Cav trains more than 700 Army, Marine Corps and international military officers per year in a challenging 19-week program of instruction. This article outlines the training program for ABOLC and defines the training outcomes for the course. This information assists commanders in targeting training opportunities for lieutenants assigned to 2-16 Cav, finding where gaps exist and building on the skill sets developed.

4 phases

ABOLC consists of four phases: foundations, gunnery, tactics and a capstone field-training exercise. The course phases are sequential. Each phase incorporates the Common-Core Task List tasks as directed by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command as well as branch-specific tasks.

During the foundations phase, training reinforces skills learned in BOLC-A. The training includes a diagnostic Army physical-fitness test, basic rifle marksmanship, advanced rifle marksmanship, a day/night land-navigation practical exercise and training on branch history, the profession of arms and supply and maintenance.

Once lieutenants complete the foundations phase, training shifts to gunnery and branch-specific skills. This intensive training phase encompasses reconnaissance platforms and tanks. Lieutenants receive training on organic weapon systems to include machineguns (M240, M2A1, MK-19), crew stations and responsibilities, maintenance and services, and pre-gunnery certification using the Advanced Gunnery Training System and Engagement Skills Trainer (Heavy). Each lieutenant completes Gunnery Table 1 in accordance with Field Manual 3-20.21 as a pre-requisite to live-fire gunnery. The capstone event of this phase is a two-day light cavalry (M2A1 and M240B) and tank live-fire on a modified Gunnery Table 6 under day and night conditions.

Instruction covering troop-leading procedures begins our tactics phase. During this phase, lieutenants receive additional branch-specific training on platoon-level armor and reconnaissance tasks, incorporating practical exercises on the terrain board and in close-combat tactical training. Lieutenants also conduct a reconnaissance-focused, 48-hour dismounted situational-training exercise and two five-day mounted STXs. (Each lieutenant will complete this STX exercise, once with a tank platoon and once with a reconnaissance platoon).

The final event of ABOLC is the capstone FTX, an eight-day force-on-force maneuver exercise. The FTX evaluates a lieutenant’s ability to plan operations, maneuver his platoon, react to contact and sustain his element during continuous operations. It is the final gate prior to graduation.

5 tasks

A graduate of ABOLC must demonstrate proficiency at five major tasks:

Firing and employing M1A1/M1A2 Systems Enhancement Program tanks. Lieutenants receive platform-specific technical instruction during pre-gunnery training, with 35 PoI hours allocated for instruction on the gunner, driver and tank commander’s station – and more instruction on maintenance. During gunnery, lieutenants expand their training to fire commands, crew drills and precision gunnery. As the course progresses through tactics phase, the Close-Combat Tactical Trainer reinforces employment of the M1 series tank. Finally, lieutenants are evaluated on the tactical employment of the M1A1/M1A2 SEP platoon during the STX and FTX, with evaluation criteria based on performance as an Armor crewman (gunner, driver, tank commander) and as a platoon leader.

Maneuvering a mounted/dismounted platoon. ABOLC graduates are trained as both reconnaissance- and tank-platoon leaders. Each graduate demonstrates proficiency at planning and executing missions in a variety of organizations and controlling platoon-level maneuver, regardless of the associated platform.

To achieve this objective, the 2-16 Cav cadre leverages traditional classroom instruction, terrain boards, virtual training, live training and gaming. Classroom instruction lays the foundations for understanding the principles of maneuver, basic platoon-movement formations, platoon battle drills and reconnaissance and armor tasks. The ABOLC PoI allots specific and distinct blocks of instruction for fundamentals of offense, fundamentals of defense, area reconnaissance, zone reconnaissance, route reconnaissance and security operations. Reinforcement of this training shows in the CCTT with four days of virtual operations. Lieutenants conduct a dismounted STX, which focuses on reconnaissance tasks and platoon dismounted maneuver. Further reinforcement of all these tasks is evident during live, mounted STXs.

Use TLPs to develop platoon-level operations orders. Critical to the development of an officer is his understanding of the TLP and how he applies this tool to develop an operational order. The 2-16 Cav allocates 12 PoI hours to classroom instruction on operations-order development nested within the TLPs’ framework. Moreover, each lieutenant has the opportunity to rehearse and refine this essential skill set throughout the course, developing and briefing OPORDs to his platoon trainer and peers during every phase of training.

In the course of tactics classroom training, CCTT practical exercises, and mounted and dismounted STXs, each lieutenant develops and briefs eight to 10 platoon OPORDs. During the capstone FTX, each lieutenant is evaluated on his ability to develop his plan and express his intent to his platoon in a time-constrained field environment.

Frequency-modulation communications and reporting. As Armor officers, it is essential that ABOLC graduates are able to effectively manage information and send clear, concise reports that “paint the picture” for their higher headquarters. ABOLC lieutenants are introduced to the Advanced System Improvement Program radio, Simple Key Loader and Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below communications during the gunnery phase of training.

During the tactics phase, lieutenants receive instruction on standard report formats (situational report, spot report, medical evacuation, etc.) that they will employ during the CCTT and STX practical exercises. During these practical exercises, lieutenants are expected to receive, filter and format FM and digital reports to be sent to the troop commander. As training progresses, lieutenants learn to balance the flow of information from within their platoon and enforce net discipline, resulting in a more confident officer who can control his platoon’s maneuver and battle-track from his platform while keeping the commander informed.

Critical thinking and decision-making. The 2-16 Cav has targeted training designed to enable junior officers to think critically in ambiguous situations and take decisive action. Chief among these training opportunities is the five-day advanced situational-awareness training, which offers a deeper understanding of how the brain recognizes and cues on changes to the environment, processes that information and then uses the information to predict the solution to complex problems.

Demonstrated proficiency at the five outcomes listed is the requirement for all ABOLC graduates. The course has expanded to integrate enablers such as close-combat aviation, close air support and indirect fires. Subject-matter experts on these systems (pilots, joint fires observers and artillerymen) provide classroom instruction on the planning, employment and integration of these enablers, and then lead virtual training in simulators. The addition of CCA, adds more depth to the battlefield and poses additional challenges for ABOLC lieutenants.

Training shortfalls

ABOLC graduates arriving at their first units of assignment are competent and confident officers able to lead platoons in combined-arms operations. However, some training shortfalls exist between the scope of the course and the needs of U.S. Army Forces Command units. By nature, these tend to be technical skill sets that require dedicated time and training to achieve a level of proficiency (among these is technical expertise in a variety of platforms).

The 2-16 Cav works alongside the Armor School and Fort Benning to ensure that lieutenants have the opportunity to attend the Bradley Leaders Course or the Stryker Leaders Course as follow-on schools to gain more insight into the maintenance and employment of these systems. Also, while lieutenants have limited instruction on the FBCB2, they rarely have the opportunity to employ the system to its full capacity and nest within the framework of a fully digitized company-/troop-level organization. As such, the squadron seeks to maximize lieutenant throughput into the 40-hour qualification course at Fort Benning.

To develop leadership attributes further, the squadron also maximizes the throughput of lieutenants into the Army Reconnaissance Course, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leader’s Course and Ranger School. This relationship has yielded excellent results, with the majority of officers graduating from one or more of these follow-on schools before reporting to their follow-on assignments.

Armor and Cavalry leaders throughout the Army rely on 2-16 Cav to provide physically fit, well-trained, adaptive and tactically competent leaders. The squadron views this mission as critical to the success of the Army and is constantly seeking ways to challenge lieutenants, incorporate emerging doctrine and provide the force with lieutenants who are ready to take over a platoon upon arrival at a new duty assignment.

To this end, commanders in the force can expect a graduate of ABOLC to be a standard-bearer, arriving fit and ready to hit the ground running. An ABOLC graduate has undergone intensive training while assigned to 2-16 Cav and has the foundation for success in any Armor or Cavalry organization. Targeted training opportunities and reinforcement of technical and tactical skills will assist units in developing platoon leaders and building the next generation of leaders for the mounted force.


CPT Matthew Quiggle is the S-3 at 2-16 Cavalry. Previous assignments include commander, Troop L, 2-16 Cavalry; commander, Troop A, 8-1 Cavalry, 5-2 Infantry Division (Stryker brigade combat team), Fort Lewis, WA, and Afghanistan; brigade plans officer, 5-2 Infantry Division, Fort Lewis; and executive officer and platoon leader, Troop A, 1-71 Cav, Fort Drum, NY, and Iraq. CPT Quiggle’s military education includes Scout Leader Course, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leader Course, Maneuver Captain’s Career Course and Armor Officer Basic Course. He holds a bachelor’s of science degree in Russian and French from the U.S. Military Academy.

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