By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.
It would be difficult to ignore the presence of Fort Huachuca in Cochise County. It’s a little easier, for civilians, in particular, to be unfamiliar with what goes on there.
For that reason, Fort Huachuca officials are putting more effort into sharing the installation’s story with others.
Several weeks ago, fort leadership graciously escorted 20 members of the college’s leadership team on a full-day tour of the post. Our visit began at the Unmanned Aerial Systems Museum with a welcome by Major General Robert P. Walters Jr., Commanding General, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence (USAICoE) and Fort Huachuca, and Colonel James “Whit” Wright,Fort Huachuca Garrison Commander. Our hosts Mr. Jeffrey Jennings, Deputy to the Commanding General of USAICoE, and Mr. Matt Walsh, USAICoE Legislative Liaison, ticked off the many things that make Fort Huachuca special. The fort is rich in history, and its geographic location provides a unique testing environment that is unrivaled in the Department of Defense. As such, it is the premier site for electronic testing, cyber defense, intelligence training, doctrine and capabilities development. Because of the fort’s mission, more than half of Cochise County is comprised of restricted air space, test range, or considered a military operating area; Fort Huachuca is a national treasure and critical asset to our national security.
The tour could be considered “required reading” for our staff, as the college has a long history of serving Soldiers and their dependents. When the college opened in the 1960s, faculty traveled from the Douglas Campus to the post, where they taught evening classes. Later, the college offered full programs in culinary arts and automotive technology in facilities on post. While learning spaces changed over time and evening classes continued, the way the college serves Soldiers has also evolved to include partnering with units on post in the development of courses, certificates, and degrees designed specific to the Army’s military occupational specialty training. This past year, nearly 5,600 Soldiers took advantage of this unique program with 948 degrees awarded.
But college and fort leaders are taking another look at how the organizations work together. A specific area of interest is helping more Soldiers complete an associate’s degree. While thousands of military students have earned Cochise College credit, still others seek to earn one of the many technical credentials offered at Cochise College. Due in part to the transient nature of military life, some Soldiers earn credits but have difficulty pursuing further education as they serve in military assignments located worldwide. In other instances, Soldiers are simply unfamiliar with how to proceed or don’t know what questions to ask, a situation that together we can resolve.
On our tour, we observed new Soldiers in technical training that will prepare them to successfully support U.S. Army units. We had the opportunity to learn about the recent successful Army accreditation of USAICoE, the different curriculum and scheduling of courses, a conversation that is certain to continue. We had lunch with and heard the perspective of some of the Soldiers who have earned Cochise College credit. Later, we received an overview of the Electronic Proving Ground, visited Libby Army Airfield and the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) training facility, and stopped at NETCOM (Network Enterprise Technology Command), which provides critical network and security services for the US Army.
Fort Huachuca is home to numerous other missions, and there’s no question it is important to the nation’s safety and security. Our tour probably could have lasted several more days.
Ideas were flowing at a Cochise College staff debrief of the tour a few days later. One individual said it was among the top experiences he’s had while employed at Cochise College. We have discussed relevant timing in our intervention in the Soldier’s learning and training journey and identified a need for enhanced communication and programming that will help a credit-earning Soldier become a degree-earning Soldier.
While nothing is set in stone, we appreciate the time officials on Fort Huachuca took to arrange and lead us on the tour, and we look forward to turning ideas into reality.
J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.