Virtual training readies students for future service

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by Glen Doss, MAJOR – 

The air electric with excitement, the territorial leader returns the cadet’s snappy salute. “I am appointing you to the Wild Frontier Division as corps officer in charge in Santa Claus, Alaska!”

So began Crestmont College’s Virtual Corps training capstone course for the Associate of Arts degree program, and the “territorial leader” was Crestmont President/Principal Lt. Colonel Raymond Peacock. Following the mock “appointment service” on March 25, 2004, the cadets logged on to their computers for their first scenario assignments.

Brainchild of Major Steve Smith, dean of the School for Officer Training, the course helps cadets learn corps operations. “A criticism of officer training has been that while graduates are equipped for the essential duties of officership such as preaching and teaching, they are less prepared for day-to-day operations,” explained Smith. “I thought an online course could be designed to give cadets an experience in the daily management of a corps.”

Each cadet is assigned to a corps in one of three fictitious divisions, with Crestmont officers serving as “divisional leaders” and course instructors. Twice a week students find true-life scenarios waiting on their computers, and they must decide what action to take, fill out any necessary forms and send their response to the instructor, who provides written feedback. Three virtual “officers councils” allow THQ staff officers to address students on program, pastoral care and business topics.

The new course is popular with students.

“I like the spontaneous mix in our routine,” says Cadet Rubina Navarro. “My training of the past 19 months is tested, and it prepares me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for what is ahead.”

Captain Kevin Jackson, who worked with Smith to develop the course, says that instructors act as coaches rather than teachers. “It’s student-centered, allowing cadets to negotiate their own way through real-life scenarios.”

The course is an assessment tool, measuring where students are in their learning and how well Crestmont has prepared them, but it is also intended to facilitate the transition to officership.

“Although I’m convinced we already have a good product, it is still a pilot,” says Smith. “Our plan is to constantly check with the field to ensure our scenarios are current and relevant and to use feedback from students. We will continue to update and tweak the course to better meet the needs of the corps.”

To Cadet Susan Gibson, the course meets a vital need. “My friends in the field told me they didn’t feel quite prepared for all that happens in the corps when they first arrived. This course will help us be more confident in our abilities when it is time to make those critical decisions as corps officers.”

For more information, contact or (310) 544-6461.

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