Army acquisition pre-command course prepares students for future roles

By Ashley Tolbert

FORT BELVOIR, Va. (May 16, 2017)—Thirty-five future military and civilian Army acquisition leaders completed the fifth Acquisition Leader Preparation Course (AALPC) last month in Arlington, Virginia, preparing them as future product managers, acquisition directors and contracting commanders.

Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the newly appointed principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology and director of the Army Acquisition Corps (AAC) spoke at AALPC for the first time. He explained what to expect as a new commander and what it means to be successful. “Success as an O-5 commander is based on your knowledge and your ability to articulate what you do,” said Ostrowski. “… You have to be the smartest person in the room, always, with respect to your program. … You have to know your business. You have to be the master at what you do.”

Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski (shown here as a Major General, before his promotion), explains to students what to expect as a new commander. (U.S. Army photos by Michelle Strother)

Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski (shown here as a Major General, before his promotion), explains to students what to expect as a new commander. (U.S. Army photos by Michelle Strother)

The attendees included newly selected centralized selection list product managers, acquisition directors and contracting commanders, as well as product directors (PD). About 95 percent of the participants are assuming command this coming summer, while the remaining 5 percent of the class are PD incumbents who assumed command last summer.

Over the five-day course, a variety of senior leaders from DOD and industry spoke to the group covering a wide range of topics, including; leadership, effective communication, talent and organizational management, risk identification and management, and budget.

Craig Spisak, director of the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center and host for the event, said he was glad to have Lt. Gen. Ostrowski speak to the students as the new director of the AAC. “This was our fifth AALCP course and each year our speakers get better and better. We had a variety of new senior leaders, as well as a few who have returned. We also had our first four-star general speaker, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Daniel Allyn,” he said.

Allyn explained the impact a leader can have on their command. “Be excited about the opportunities you have to make a difference in our Army,” he told the attendees. “Be passionate about the opportunity that you have, because your excitement level, your passion and your commitment are going to be most impactful. … The impact you have on the environment you create is among the most important attributes you can deliver to the organization.”

Gen. Daniel Allyn, the Army's vice chief of staff, answers students’ questions about their upcoming positions during the AALPC.

Gen. Daniel Allyn, the Army’s vice chief of staff, answers students’ questions about their upcoming positions during the AALPC.

AALPC began in April 2015 under Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, the former director for acquisition career management (DACM), to generate thought and discussion with accomplished leaders and seasoned practitioners about a host of challenges that future acquisition leaders likely will face in their new jobs. AALPC is designed to provide acquisition leaders with training that compliments the pre-command courses offered at Fort Leavenworth, Defense Acquisition University and the Army Acquisition Center of Excellence.

The course also helps participants better understand the dynamics of the environment in which they operate, know their roles and the roles of their subordinates, to capture lessons learned, and to develop an outline for what it takes to run an organization as an Army acquisition leader.

During his remarks, Ostrowski advised the students they should know as much as possible about their program, such as the status of the program’s funding and where the program is on its milestones. “You shouldn’t have to guess at what your dollars look like. You shouldn’t have to guess at when your milestone is. … These are things we expect you to know,” he said.

He also explained what it takes to become expert commanders. “The only way you’re going to know [your program] is if you spend the time studying it. You’re going to have to have extremely good relationships with the folks that are your customers. … Number one: know your program. Number two: know your customers.”

Maj. Gen. Bob Marion, deputy for acquisition and systems management, spoke on the last day of the course and gave some encouraging advice on how to have a healthy work and life balance. “Balance is important in life and it’s hard. Don’t miss your kids’ soccer and softball games. Don’t ever lose leave. … Do the things you need to do to be the best leader you can be,” he said.

The Army DACM Office plans to conduct two AALPC courses each year to train centrally selected officers and civilians before they assume their new positions. The next session is scheduled for December 2017 in the Washington area.

In April, 35 leaders from across the Army acquisition community participated in the fifth AALPC in Arlington, Virginia.

In April, 35 leaders from across the Army acquisition community participated in the fifth AALPC in Arlington, Virginia.

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