The Army War College: Facts & History

With an intense history that goes years back, the Army War College has provided resources to leaders unlike any other educational institution could. In today’s post, we are going to provide an overview of the Army War College.

In keeping theme with the expectation that US Army Officers are to engage in lifelong learning and professional development, the US Army War College provids senior Captains, and all the way up through Lieutenant Generals, with curriculum centered around: strategic thinking, theories of war and strategy, strategic leadership, national security policy, and most importantly…the development and employment of landpower with a Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental and Multinational force.

Where It Is Located

The Army War College is located at the historic Carlisle Barracks in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Carlisle Barracks is on 500 acres of beautiful Pennsylvania countryside and was first built in the Revolutionary War period. Benjamin Franklin was instrumental in the erection of the Carlisle Army encampment to protect Quakers and other citizens.

Training Site

army war college

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

President George Washington proposed that Carlisle Barracks become a military academy, but the decision was made on West Point.

The War College was originally created during the Spanish-American War to help train military Officers.  Strategic failings throughout the campaign were the catalyst for this movement and the college was intended to help “direct the intellectual exercise of the Army.”

This continued on into the early 1900s and into WWI.  During WWI, the focus shifted from preparing and mentoring the General Staff to the academic studies of war. Because of the great training, Confederate troops captured and burned Carlisle Barracks during the Civil War.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Carlisle Encampment became an Indian school. They taught captured Indians English and how to live as the white man. It was called the Indian Industrial School and taught vocational subjects too. Sports were also a part of the Indian Industrial School and that is where we learned of the great Jim Thorpe.

When World War I began, the Indian Industrial School was closed for good. The Carlisle Barracks became a hospital for a short time and then went back to a location for education. All of these schools used the Carlisle Barracks for short times:

  • Medical Field Services School

  • Army Information School

  • School For Government of Occupied Areas

  • Adjutant General’s School

  • Chaplain School

  • Military Police School

  • and the Army Security Agency School

In 1951, the Army War College relocated from Washington D.C. to the Carlisle Barracks and remains there today.

Army War College Beginning

In 1903, the Army War College started by the conception of Secretary of War Elihu Root. His statement about the reasoning of the War College was:

“Not to promote war but to preserve peace by intelligent and adequate preparation to repel aggression.”

The first person that was chosen to be President of the Army War College was Major General Samuel Baldwin Marks Young. Students began attending the Army War College in 1904.

The Army War College began in the nation’s capitol and some of the graduates included:

  • John Pershing

  • Dwight Eisenhower

  • Omar Bradley

The Army War College stayed at Washington Barracks until it was closed because of World War II in the 1940s. In 1950, the Army War College was re instituted at Fort Leavenworth, and after 1 year, the College was moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania where it is now. The Carlisle location carries a lot of history, as it is the location of the historic Carlisle Barracks.

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Admission

The Army War College is considered graduate level education for military officers and civilians for preparation for senior leadership duties. The final award when graduating from the Army War College is a master’s degree in strategic studies.

Every year, a certain amount of Army officers are considered for admission. They first must have completed the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. The Army chooses the officers that can attend, but also included in classes are officers from other military branches, D.O.D civilians, State Department civilians, N.S.A. civilians and military officers from foreign countries. Some of the programs currently offered at the Army War College are:

Accredited by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, the U.S. Army War College is the Army’s ultimate professional development institution that prepares selected military, civilian, and international leaders for the responsibilities of strategic leadership in today’s modern global environment.  The US Army War College strongly views the development of strategic leaders.

In broad terms, the programs and curricula of the courses taught are built around the concept of mastering the strategic art, which they define as “The skillful formulation, coordination, and application of ends (objectives), ways (courses of action), and means (supporting resources) to promote and defend the national interests.”  Or, more simply put, “Strategic leaders need to move beyond a deep expertise in a relatively narrow field and develop wider intellectual and professional horizons.

This is essential if they are to integrate and coordinate more broadly defined ends, ways, and means to fulfill long-term objectives that will both help realize their organization’s strategic vision and contribute to the security profession at large.”

The Best of the Best

The Army War College has trained some of our top military leaders. It has also been a training medium for civilians who are involved in high level United States systems, along with foreign military leaders.

After graduating, many Officers begin operating in the national strategic or theater strategic environment-either directly or as advisers to the senior leadership of the Armed Forces, the DOD, other governmental agencies, or in foreign militaries. A select number of graduates may even assume the most senior leadership positions within their organizations, leading them at the strategic level.

Just consider some of these graduates:

  • Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmad who is retired from the Pakistani Army.

  • General John Anderson (1891-1976) He was a great World War II General.

  • Muhammadu Buhari. President of Nigeria.

  • General Fox Conner (1874-1951) Known as the man who made Eisenhower.

  • General Tommy Franks. Retired Army General who oversaw many Middle East operations.

  • Neyko Nenov (1961-2015) He was a Bulgarian General.

  • Lieutenant General Mary Legere. She is the current Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence.

Army War College Helpful Facts

Below, I am going to just list many facts. Some you may know, but there are others you may not know. Keep in mind that the key word with the Army War College is strategy. Not just a strategy for war, but also a strategy for peace, a strategy for leadership, a strategy for the future. Essentially, there needs to be a strategy for everything. The best leaders always have a strategy.

  • Army Applicants for the Army War College must have already completed United States Army Command and General Staff College as a Major.

  • The Army War College picks Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels to attend.

  • The Army War College also allows officers from other military branches.

  • The Army War College also allows officers from allied foreign nations.

  • The Army War College also accepts some civilians who work in the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, the State Department, etc…

  • The Army War College has had some famous graduates that include: Dwight Eisenhower (class of 1928), Abdul Fatah al-Sisi (class of 2006 President of Egypt), George Patton (class of 1932), Raymond Odierno (class of 1995), Omar Bradley (class of 1934), Tommy Franks (class of 1985), William Westmoreland (class of 1951), Muhammadu Buhari (class of 1980 President of Nigeria), Norman Schwarzkopf (class of 1973).

  • The Army War College has an International Fellows Program in which they invite up to 80 Military Officers from many different countries to attend the Army War College.

  • Each year, the Army War College hosts a National Security Seminar. Attendees are invited guests, and are referred to as New Members.

  • Students who graduate are granted a Master of Strategic Studies degree.

  • The Army War College offers an in house learning program, and also a distant learning program. The in house program takes 10 months and the distant learning program is 2 years.

  • The Army War College is on Facebook here.

  • The Army War College is on Twitter here.

  • You can visit their Youtube page here.

Ways To Learn Without Attending

Maybe you are not eligible to attend the Army War College; that does not mean you cannot learn from some of the material they are learning from. These publications are great reading:

Key Strategic Issues List

The Strategic Wargaming Series Handbook

From Cooperation to Competition – The Future of U.S. – Russian Relations

China Futures Wargame

Human Elements of Military Operations

Final Thoughts

The Army War College has been generating top military leaders for a vast amount of years. The College trains top Army officials, but also helps both civilian and foreign leaders understand leadership from a different aspect.

From the Spanish-American War to the War on Terrorism, the US Army War College has helped to shape the agile leaders we have in today’s Army.  The US Army War College is an essential element which helps to sharpen the sword of our National Defense and enhance our Profession of Arms.

We would like to hear from anyone who has attended the United States Army War College. If you have attended, please tell us more.

We would also like to hear any comments that you have about the Army War College. If you have any questions, just post those below. Please share this on social media so others can learn about the Army War College.

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6 thoughts on “The Army War College: Facts & History”

  1. Thanks Chuck. I do believe if I were an officer, one of my goals would be to get accepted to attend the Army War College. As you said, a Master’s Degree is a great degree to have, and can help you throughout life.

  2. Great article, Greg. I’ve spoken to many senior officers who attended and graduated from the War College and they thought very highly of it. It sounds like it was a tough course, but it’s vital if you want to get promoted to General Officer. The fact that you get a Master’s Degree from it is also very beneficial.

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