Army’s ‘heart and soul’ marks 125 years of training leaders

Fort Leavenworth college a stepping stone for military elite

Military leaders from around the world attend Fort Leavenworth's Command and General Staff College. Earlier this year, Maj. Choi MoonHo from Korea, left, attended graduation ceremonies at the college.

The list of instructors and alumni at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth reads like a “Who’s Who” of modern American military history.

Colin Powell. Norman Schwarzkopf. Douglas MacArthur. George S. Patton Jr. Dwight Eisenhower.

“Basically, you name any famous general in the last 125 years” and they’re probably a CGSC alumni, said Kelvin Crow, a historian at Fort Leavenworth.

Crow added, quoting a former general, ” It really is the heart and soul of the Army.”

The college celebrates its 125th anniversary this week, with speeches from Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., as well as a banquet and Fort Leavenworth Hall of Fame induction ceremony for retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, former Army Chief of Staff and the school’s deputy commandant in the late 1980s.

“This is a significant milestone,” said Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, an Iraq war veteran who now serves as the school’s commandant.

The college has evolved massively since its beginning. Famed Gen. William T. Sherman started it as the School of Application for Infantry and Cavalry at the fort in 1881, providing new officers with basic education – there were classes in writing and geometry – as well as training in military tactics.

Over the decades, it became a place where Army majors got a midcareer sabbatical of sorts, taking 10 months of courses designed to enhance their leadership skills as they moved up the ranks. During that time, Petraeus said, the school has trained more than 100,000 officers from the United States and 149 foreign countries.

“It was a coming-of-age-experience,” said J.P. LaMoe, CGSC’s chief of staff and an alumni of the college. “The apprenticeship is over, and it’s time for you to earn your keep.”


The past couple of years have been a time of transition, as the Army shifted from a Cold War footing to dealing with terrorism and guerilla wars. And many of the students at the college now have battle experience, changing the dynamic of the classes.

“The focus has shifted from instruction to discussion,” Crow said. “The students are now the resource.”

“CGSC has served as one of our Army’s most important intellectual critical masses, continually transforming in response to the challenges that our officers and units have faced around the world,” Petraeus said. “And it has done that once again in response to the developments since 9-11.”

More changes are coming. The Army has spent more than $100 million to build a new home for the college on Fort Leavenworth’s grounds. The Lewis and Clark Instructional Facility is due to open next year, outfitted – unlike its Cold War predecessor, Bell Hall – to include Web-based technologies as part of classroom instruction.

“Today’s Army officer must be equipped with the knowledge and wisdom, as well as physical training, to be a complete warrior,” said Roberts, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who helped snag funding for the facility.

The new building is a sign that the Army, in an era of base closures, is committed to Fort Leavenworth’s long-term future.

“Leavenworth is not going anywhere,” LaMoe said. “We will stay here and continue to educate leaders at the Command and General Staff College.”