Introduction As many of you will be aware, the new OP MI Managers Course was recently launched at Chicksands. Completely overhauled, it has been the subject of some controversy - "lowering of standards", "not like it used to be" etc. Removal of the week in the field caused particular consternation amongst the old and bold - in spite of the fact that being a rifleman / fire team commander / section commander is something that a) has been assessed on two cadres at JNCO and SNCO level already and b) arguably has very little to do with training someone as a Warrant Officer and a manager of soldiers. The CRSM explained that the original rationale behind the field phase was not the teaching of field skills; it was to take people out of their comfort zone and see them under a bit of pressure. So the decision was made to do this in other ways - ways which are far more relevant to the role of a WO in the modern Intelligence Corps. The pressure was imposed in terms of severe time constraints, prioritisation of work, making people deal with situations they have never encountered, probing interviews which put people "on the spot" etc. So, what's the verdict? Well, I'll give you my own perception, and hopefully some of the other attendees will contribute too; I was to discover, over various evenings in the Mess, that 25% of them have Arrse IDs as well as regimental numbers. Course Content The course is a combination of lectures and exercises. It has been carefully designed by the TDT and it shows - unlike many courses, there was hardly any unnecessary padding. Where there were subjects which some felt unnecessary, these were mostly on the course because they are a mandated part of the WO CLM Part 2 syllabus (e.g. fire safety). Some lessons could be improved with a different slant, but overall the direction is correct. Lesson subjects included things like discipline, AGAI 67, custody proceedings, grievance and complaints procedure, managing soldiers' personal development, CR writing (now Part 1 for JNCOs is being done at Section level again), coaching and mentoring, the new BCCS system, SAFE training system, writing RASPS / EASPS, legal matters, resource management, DPA and FOI Act etc. There were presentations from many key appointments - Director, SO1 FD, SO1 INT CORPS, MCM Div, SO2 HR etc. All the lectures had been deconflicted and there was very little repetition. These were invaluable in giving us the gospel on things like Versatile Engagement, FAS, manning issues etc. The mock promotion board run by MCM Div was one of the most popular elements of the course; most of us would have liked this experience earlier in our careers, perhaps on the SNCO course. The CRSM spent several hours with us, discussing the course and providing us with advice on how to be effective WOs. It was clear that this course is regarded as extremely important by the chain of command, and this was reflected in the time they invested in briefing us. Hopefully it was useful for them as well. There were a variety of assessed assignments, most of which were delivered in such a manner as to necessitate some serious time management and prioritisation. These ranged from conducting a No.2 Dress inspection (and then AGAIing a miscreant) to presenting a lengthy Mission Analysis project. Writing CRs and MYAs, dealing with complaints and positive CDT results, advising potential transferees - all these subjects were tested, and many more. On top of this was a detailed confirmatory interview covering the entire syllabus, including probing questions about the course of action one recommended in the Mission Analysis project. Whilst the course is necessarily classroom-based, PT is programmed in. We also did command tasks - both designing your own, and solving those set by other syndicates. It's not every day you get to combine shark-infested custard, lethal time bombs and tying planks together with bits of rope. Personally I would have preferred more PT - I think it sets you up nicely for the day - but programme constraints mean it's just not feasible. After hours of mental exercise in the classroom, it was nice to have such a well-equipped gym to get the heart pounding in the evenings as well. The other non-classroom activity is, of course, the Mess. We had a very sociable course, and I now know another 24 future WOs from across the breadth of the Corps. It's always the same: you go in "for one" with the best of intentions, and pour yourself out of the Mess at 3am. There was at least half of the course in the bar on any given night, usually more. The last night was a Regimental dinner (organised by the course) to which every RSM in the Corps was invited. That so many were able to make it was very pleasing and it was a suitable finale. The course members were from a disparate array of backgrounds and jobs. I've made several new contacts in other worlds, particularly those "artists formerly known as darksiders". I was also happy to make the acquaintance of several (searches for correct PC term) "former transferees" - some people I have never encountered on courses before, as they transferred at Sgt level. To those who denigrate transferees to the Corps, I say this: whilst many lack the breadth or depth of trade knowledge of someone who has spent their entire career doing the job, they make up for it in what they bring to the party from previous wider Army experience. Some people clearly have trouble accepting that experienced soldiers from outside the Corps actually bring a lot to the party; something I find particularly ironic when we claim, with some pride, that the Intelligence Corps is now more integrated with the rest of the Army than ever before. Feedback It is worth mentioning that the command tasks were the only syndicated exercise on the whole course. Everything else is individually assessed, which I think is a far more reliable system for assessing future WOs - particularly as you are often going to be working without a support or advice network and the buck stops with you. I am a big fan of tasks which make people think and then make a decision, rather than just "find the correct answer". I personally found that those tasks which did not have a DS answer - dealing with a sexual harassment complaint, for instance - were far more satisfying. It was quite revealing to see how different people addressed the same problem. Some used AGAI 67 against the culprit, others opted for alternative approaches. We were encouraged from the beginning of the course to be utterly ruthless in our course critiques, and we were. And for once, the critiques were not hastily collected and dealt with on the last day - they were collected almost every evening by either the DS or the CRSM, and we had several critique sessions at various points during the course. Everybody seemed genuinely invested in the idea of making the course as good as possible, and this attitude rubbed off on the students. TDT sat in on every lesson and were available to answer questions, especially if we queried the rationale behind the inclusion of a particular subject. Clearly the TDT course design process has worked - there is no radical overhaul needed of the new format. We made suggestions about lessons needing to be shorter / longer, concurrent activity etc. I think that most of it is likely to be implemented in some form; it is not physically impossible to fit the recommendations in with the timetable, as "this subject needs more time" was equally offset by "you can save time or be more efficient here". In general, we would have shaved time off certain lessons to allow more time with people like MCM Div and SO2 HR. Inevitably there was the odd person who opined (off-duty, of course) that the course is "bone", something they just have to endure for a career tick in the box. This was most definitely the minority opinion and for those in mainstream jobs, I feel the course was invaluable. As for the issue of the field phase; I think it is totally unnecessary. I do not believe there would have been any real benefit in spending a week on exercise. Any minor benefit would not be justified in the cost, time and administration involved in extending the course with a week on exercise. Almost everyone on the course has been in the Army for at least 15 years. Most have been on countless exercises over the years, fulfilling the role of anything from Section commander up to Ops WO or CSM in the field. Those in mainstream units have almost certainly been on exercise at least once in the last year, dealing with all the real WO2 level G1 and G4 issues in the field. Is there any real benefit in sending potential Warrant Officers out on SENTA to spend a week digging trenches, doing stags and giving Section orders? This is not progression, it's just doing the same thing which was assessed and passed at JNCO and SNCO cadre level. Personally, I believe the only reason it stayed in the syllabus so long was resistance to change. It was a brave decision to remove the field phase, but completely justified in my eyes. For those who disagree, think about what the course is designed to deliver: somebody equipped with the correct tools to become an effective Warrant Officer in the Intelligence Corps. The verdict We all had the opportunity to discuss the course with several WO2s, WO1s and RSMs in the Mess, both day to day and on the Regimental dinner. Those that I spoke to were of the unanimous opinion that the new OP MI Managers course is a clear improvement on both previous incarnations, and on the old SM&D. So to the old and bold amongst you, who are concerned that "the course is not like it used to be in my day" I say: Relax. You're absolutely right. It's better.