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NEWS | Feb. 4, 2014

Virginia National Guard schoolhouse named one of Army’s best in the nation

By Staff Sgt. Terra Gatti Virginia National Guard

SANDSTON, Va. - The Virginia National Guard's Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute has been declared an "Institute of Excellence" following an accreditation process conducted by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. The schoolhouse earned an overall score of 98 percent, marking it as one of the best U.S. Army learning centers in the nation.

"HQ TRADOC recognizes the dedication and hard work of all personnel committed to ensuring the 183rd Regiment RTI received 'Institute of Excellence' status, and this achievement demonstrates your commitment to meet the competency needs of today's Army and total force," wrote Gen. Robert W. Cone, TRADOC commanding general, in the notification letter dated Jan. 23, 2014.

"Achieving an "Institute of Excellence" rating means we have exceeded the TRADOC and proponent standards for training facilities and training delivery," explained Lt. Col. Jimmy Kilbourne, deputy commander for the 183rd RTI. "It also tells other states' training managers that the Virginia RTI is a great place to send their Soldiers who need the type of training we provide."

The accreditation conducted by TRADOC ensures the institution evaluated has the necessary organizational structure, programs and resources to conduct training, the quality and standardization of that training, and that the training meets the needs of the operation force by being current and relevant to operations in a contemporary operation environments while preparing Soldiers for the future.

The 183rd began preparing for the accreditation more than a year in advance.

"We understood from the beginning of the process that achieving the "Institute of Excellence" level of accreditation would be a discriminating factor in maintaining future mission sets, student throughput, staffing levels and funding," said Col. Doug Messner, commander of the 183rd RTI. "Therefore, we began the process early developing a plan 18 months out."

Staff members researched the standards set by TRADOC, visited other Regional Training Institutes to observe the accreditation process and each of the battalions submitted self-assessments. Accreditation teams then conducted several visits to the 183rd RTI, each lasting three to four days and including an in-brief, a review of each standard, student and instructor interviews, facilities inspections and commander leader interviews.

Virginia's RTI is comprised of the RTI Headquarters and three battalions. First Battalion conducts infantry training, including the infantryman military occupational specialty qualification course, Light Leaders Course and rappel master, while 2nd Battalion conducts the 88M Motor Transport Operator Course. Third battalion includes both Officer Candidate School and Warrant Officer Candidate School and also trains Soldiers as military police officers.

"This accreditation cycle marked the first time that the 183rd RTI was evaluated as a Regimental entity," explained Messner." Past accreditations focused on the individual battalion, and while that same level of scrutiny was applied to each battalion, [this time] there was the added dimension of regimental coordination and support."

Different standards are applied to various parts of the RTI, and include a look at the facilities and environment of the schoolhouse, the mission and functions, training resource management, safety, the effectiveness of the staff and faculty, staff development and training support.

There are four levels of accreditation: Institution of Excellence, requiring a 95-100 percent rating that marks the institution as having exceeded TRADOC requirements; Full Accreditation, requiring an 80-94 percent rating that satisfies the TRADOC requirements; Conditional Accreditation, with a 60-79 percent rating and requiring the institution to correct deficiencies and submit a report for approval; and Candidate of Accreditation, with a 0-59 percent rating and the requirement of reevaluation within 12 months.

All three of the battalions earned high marks, with 1st and 3rd Battalions earning 100 percent ratings and 2nd Battalion earning a score of 97 percent.

"While this seems like a long and arduous process, the RTI staff, instructors, officers and NCOs, take tremendous pride in their level of professionalism and ability to excel," Messner said. " This achievement was only made possible because of our Soldiers' ability, knowledge and experience and their commitment to translate accreditation standards into executing our assigned mission of training Soldiers."

Located at Fort Pickett, the 183rd Regional Training Institute includes 74 instructors supported by 32 staff personnel. The schoolhouse was completed in 2011 and includes approximately 400,000 square feet of instruction space, including a combatives training room, eight modular classrooms and a lecture hall capable of accommodating 480 students, along with three barracks with two-person rooms and open bay housing that can accommodate 275 students. At Fort Pickett, instructors and students can reach training sites within five minutes and that includes a variety of ranges, convoy and live fire lanes, an urban assault course, training villages, field training lanes, an air assault tower and an extensive urban training site.