WASHINGTON - During the Army's transformation, civilians have been asked to perform increasingly more tasks previously done by military personnel. To do a good job and perform well, they need the training and education formerly reserved for Soldiers.

In February 2003, the Army Chief of Staff's Army Training and Leader Development Panel identified civilian training as a high priority, and recommended implementing a centralized Army education system.

The Civilian Education System was the result of that recommendation and will slowly replace existing programs, according to Jennifer Brennan, marketing specialist and public affairs officer at the Army Management Staff College at Fort Belvoir Va. She describes CES as a progressive and sequential civilian-leader development program.

"It provides enhanced leader development and education opportunities for Army civilians throughout their careers," she explained. "As of right now, attending CES courses is not a mandatory requirement, but the proposal is being addressed by G-3.

"We are in a changing time in the Army and we need to grow our leaders. Our civilians need to be better equipped and educated so they can be ready to meet the needs of the Army. It's a testament to our dedication to warfighters and their Families."

Pam Hicks, who works at Fort Eustis, Va., recently graduated from the CES Intermediate Course, and said she would recommend the course because of the understanding and perspective it gave her about her organization's mission and its relevance to the entire Army.

"Most of the concepts and ideas were not new to me, although (they were all) reinforced in positive ways during the course," Ms. Hicks said.

Because she has been in government service for less than three years, Ms. Hicks said she gained from "the laboratory approach" to building commitment as an Army civilian leader in service to Soldiers and the nation.

"We all stood and took the Federal Employee Oath of Office on the first day," she explained. "We compared our personal leadership values to Army values, and we read extensively from doctrine such as FM 1, 'The Army,' and FM 6-22 'Army Leadership.'"

Pamela Raymer, Ed.D, dean of academics at AMSC, said she has noticed over the last three to five years that military hiring officials are looking for more leadership training on applicants' resumes. The CES could eventually fulfill continuing education requirements for which some employees must earn as a part of their professional development, she said.

Col. Garland Williams, AMSC commandant, said the CES will also level the playing field for civilians who apply for higher level jobs.

"One of the problems of the civilian corps is that guys like me - a colonel with almost 26 years in service - I can retire tomorrow and get a pretty good GS-14 job, almost solely based on my education," he said. "What CES does is level that playing field so when there is competition for the same position, the person who comes through the civilian corps, without any prior military experience, is just as competitive as the military officer."

All new Army interns, team leaders, supervisors and managers employed after Sept. 30 are required to attend the basic CES course, according to Ms. Brennan. This "foundation" course teaches students Army values and customs, something that might be a new subject for people who have never been in the military, she said.

Other courses in the CES are under consideration as mandatory classes for employees, but there are questions about how that would happen.

"Right now … that is one of the things that G-1 and G-3 are trying to figure out … the mandatory pieces of it," Williams said. "What we have been trying to figure out is, do you need to have the course to be promoted, or once you are promoted how long do you have before you need to take the course."

Because courses are centrally funded, lack of unit funds shouldn't keep qualified candidates from attending, according to Col. Williams and Ms. Brennan.

"We are not eating up mission dollars to bring people to school. The only thing the command has to do is identify the right people that need to come - and they should not be the most expendable, but be the right person," said Col. Williams.

Information about the CES is available at www.amsc.belvoir.army.mil/ces.