What is the (US Army) School of Advanced Military Studies?


The School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) is one of four United States Army schools that make up the United States Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This “enormously rigorous” graduate school comprises three programmes: the larger Advanced Military Studies Programme (AMSP); the Advanced Strategic Leadership Studies Program (ASLSP), a Joint Military Professional Education II (JPME II) certified senior service college program for senior field-grade officers, and the Advanced Strategic Planning and Policy Programme (ASP3), which supports officers in obtaining doctorates from civilian schools.

The school educates future leaders of the United States Armed Forces, its allies, and the Interagency at the graduate level to be agile and adaptive leaders who think critically at the strategic and operational levels to solve complex ambiguous problems. The student body is small but diverse and comprises members of each of the US armed forces, various US government agencies, and allied military forces. Graduates of AMSP are colloquially known as “Jedi Knights”.

The school issues a master’s degree in Military Art and Science, and provides its graduates with the skills to deal with the disparate challenges encountered in contemporary military and government operations. The modern course produces “leaders with the flexibility of mind to solve complex operational and strategic problems in peace, conflict, and war”. Various senior military leaders have recognised the contributions of SAMS graduates in supporting global contingency operations.

The first class began at the school in mid-1983 and 13 students graduated the following year. Due to increasing requirements for SAMS graduates in the US military, the army expanded the school in the 1990s, and in 2010 over 120 students graduated. Since the school’s inception, SAMS planners have supported every major US military campaign, providing the army “with many of its top campaign planners for the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries”.

Refer to USMC School of Advanced Warfighting and USAF School of Advanced Air and Space Studies.

Brief History

The SAMS course was designed to fill a gap in US military education between the CGSC’s focus on tactics and the War College’s focus on grand strategy and national security policy. In 1981, Colonel Huba Wass de Czege convinced Lieutenant General William R. Richardson, who was serving as Commander of the Combined Arms Centre and Commandant of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth from 1979 to 1981, that a second year of military education was needed for select officers. After receiving final approval, Wass de Czege helped plan and develop the school, which would open in mid-1983. Although there was some disagreement about the purpose of the course, army leaders and the course designers settled on a plan to provide officers with a “broad, deep military education in the science and art of war.”

In June 1983, the first class of 13 US Army students began in the basement of Bell Hall at Fort Leavenworth. Initially, there were some internal problems with facilities and scheduling, and in the school’s early years there was uncertainty whether its graduates would be accepted and how they would perform in the force. When the first class graduated in 1984, SAMS had already become “the symbol for intellectual renaissance in the officer corps”. When the first director, Wass de Czege, was succeeded by Colonel Richard Sennreich in 1985, the school was already beginning to produce results and the US Army and the college regarded SAMS as a “useful experiment”. By 1987, enrolment of high-quality officers had risen and sister services were becoming interested in sending students to SAMS. The programme’s growing popularity and reputation also began attracting students from allied countries.

SAMS graduates first saw active service in December 1989 during Operation Just Cause in Panama. A core planning cell of seven SAMS graduates “crafted a well rehearsed and well executed plan that simultaneously struck some roughly 50 objectives in a single coordinated blow”. According to Colonel Kevin Benson, the tenth director of the school, “The Army and SAMS faced a test of battle and the new group of highly-educated planners appeared to have passed the test with flying colors.” After its mission in Panama, the army’s leaders began to draw on SAMS to assist in additional ways. In the early 1990s, US Army leaders called upon the school to help develop army doctrine. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas E. Mitchell, Colonel James McDonough (the fifth SAMS director), and other members of the SAMS team helped revise the US Army Doctrinal Manual 100-5 Operations in 1990-1993.

Lieutenant General Guy C. Swan noted that SAMS graduates were indispensable in Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. They were expected to “re-engineer the decades of planning that had gone into the GDP [General Defence Plan] almost overnight”. Swan stated that this was “the first true test of SAMS on a large scale”. SAMS graduates served in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and were “remembered most famously in the early days for producing the ‘Jedi Knights’ employed by Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf in developing the famous ‘left hook'”. SAMS graduates also served in roles beyond the initial planning, with 82 graduates participating in diverse theatre tasks by February 1991. As a result, US Army leadership regarded SAMS as a source of “superb planners”.

After Desert Storm, the army struggled with military operations other than war, such as peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations. The school and its graduates examined the situations in Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia. Graduates also participated in Defence Support of Civil authorities missions. The course continued to change in the 1990s. Under Colonel Gregory Fontenot, the school moved from Fort Leavenworth’s Flint Hall to Eisenhower Hall in October 1994. In later years, the school’s leadership expanded the number of seminars and the civilian faculty. The military continues to draw heavily on SAMS in the twenty-first century. SAMS planners have played a significant role in the Global War on Terror. Beginning in 2002, the United States Central Command requested planners from SAMS and its sister schools, the United States Air Force’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS), which was designed to be similar to SAMS, and the United States Marine Corps’s School of Advanced Warfighting (SAW). SAMS students from the 2002 and 2003 classes participated as planners in the preparations for the invasion of Iraq and the plan for the post-combat occupation.

The school continued to change and develop, and an additional faculty expansion occurred in 2005-2006. Also, the Fellows’ curriculum shifted further away from that of the AMSP programme. To keep pace with increasing demand for SAMS planners, the commander of the army’s Training and Doctrine Command directed an expansion that was approved by the Chief of Staff of the Army, and the school’s 11th director, Colonel Steve Banach, began a winter-start course in 2007. During this period, SAMS provided planners to help forward-deployed headquarters plan operations and contingencies. The school moved to new premises in the newly renovated Muir Hall at Fort Leavenworth on 30 August 2011.


SAMS graduates have supported every major US military campaign between 1984 and 2009. SAMS graduates are known for their “critical thinking skill sets”, and are consistently called for by combatant commanders around the world. In 2010, Brigadier General Sean MacFarland said, “In a crisis, the president always asks, ‘where are the aircraft carriers?’ In the Army, leaders ask, ‘Where are the SAMS graduates?’ Just as the aircraft carrier was a game changer in naval warfare, SAMS graduates and practitioners of operational art have been game changers in land warfare.”

The school has been praised by senior US military leaders. According to Major General David Hogg, “SAMS has a reputation for producing skilled planners that can take complex ideas and develop cohesive plans.” In 2010, army Vice Chief of Staff Peter W. Chiarelli said that SAMS was “at the forefront of the effort to remake strategic military planning for the 21st century”.

Facilities and Student Body

As of 2014, the SAMS teaching facilities are mainly housed in Muir Hall (image right), which was once a stable, and Flint Hall. The AMSP courses are taught mostly in Muir Hall – the current SAMS headquarters – while Flint Hall houses additional AMSP seminars. Both buildings were renovated in 2011 and their classrooms accommodate seminars of about 16-18 students and an instructor. The renovations for Muir Hall cost $12.2 million, including $3 million in information systems that allow students to collaborate digitally, replicating a common practice seen in militaries today.

The application process includes an examination, an interview, and a supervisor assessment. Applicants must also complete the US Army’s Command and General Staff School or an equivalent intermediate-level education course offered by another uniformed service. The student body of SAMS comprises mostly US Army field grade officers from combat, combat support, and combat service support branches. However, in 1987 the US Air Force graduated three officers and officers from the US Navy and US Marine Corps graduated the following years. US government agencies began sending students to SAMS in 2007. The Department of State, Federal Bureau of Investigation and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have sent students to the school. Also, Warrant officers first attended SAMS in 2010.

Allied foreign militaries also provide students. In 1999, the school graduated its first international officers – Norwegian and Canadian. Argentina, Australia, Colombia, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Jordan, Republic of Macedonia, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Romania, South Korea, Brazil, Spain, and the United Kingdom have also sent students through the course.


The Command and General Staff College awards a Master of Military Art and Science (M.M.A.S.) professional degree to graduates of the School of Advanced Military Studies. The degree is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission for collegiate institutions in the midwestern United States.

Advanced Military Studies Programme

Most students participate in the Advanced Military Studies Programme (AMSP). In 2009, the school held eight AMSP seminars. AMSP is intended to educate students in military arts and science, and focuses on operational art and covers a variety of subjects, including military problem solving; military theory and history, military doctrine, operational planning; battle dynamics, operational theory and practice, contemporary military operations, and the application of national elements of power. Besides classroom studies and operational exercises, students must complete a research monograph and an oral examination. After graduating, officers serve on a division, corps, or Army Service Component Command staff, or in a functional area assignment.

Advanced Strategic Leadership Studies Programme

ASLSP is the school’s senior service college resident programme, educating sixteen officers for strategic-level responsibilities; developing them to be senior leaders. Students are senior lieutenant colonels, colonels, and their Naval, Coast Guard, and US interagency civilian equivalents. Classes include students from the UK, Canadian, and German armies. Most military students are former battalion commanders. The faculty consists of four civilian professors, one of whom also serves as the program’s Director, plus one military faculty member. Graduates are awarded a Masters of Arts degree in Strategic Studies, Military Education Level (MEL) I, and Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) II. US military officers are also awarded the SAMS Additional Skill Identifier (ASI) 6S.

The programme began in 1984 as the Advanced Operational Studies Fellowship (AOSF) by diverting lieutenant colonel War College selectees to Fort Leavenworth for an equivalent education programme. The AOSF program had students completing the AMSP coursework, and then serving as the principal instructors of AMSP during their second year. In 1995, the name of the programme was changed to the Advanced Operational Art Studies Fellowship (AOASF), and in the early 21st century its curriculum was more closely aligned to the strategic level of war. In 2013, the programme was again modified in part to bring it more in alignment with TRADOC policies, and to prepare it for Joint Professional Education II accreditation. It was at that time renamed the Advanced Strategic Leadership Studies Programme (ASLSP).

The course focuses on the strategic and political aspects of war and educationally prepares students for assignments as strategic leaders. The academic year runs from late June through late May. The ASLSP curriculum provides a comprehensive, multifaceted focus at the theatre-strategic level across the spectrum of Joint and land force operations during peace, crisis, and war. The program includes classroom studies of strategy, regional studies, joint operations, strategic leadership, and twentieth-century conflict. Students also research and write a publishable-quality monograph of 10,000-12,000 words on a suitable subject. ASLSP includes an extensive field studies programme, with approximately eight weeks of TDY, to reinforce and expand classroom studies and meet with senior leaders across JIIM organisations. Field Studies include interactions with several agencies in the National Capital Region, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and CONUS-based combatant commands, and visits to various military and civilian governmental agencies. Normally, six US Army officers and the USMC, Canadian, and German officers remain for a second year to serve as seminar leaders in the AMSP course, while one US Army officer joins the faculty of the ASLSP as the military faculty member. Graduates typically serve in a follow-on command assignment or work for a three- or four-star general officer as a member of their staff.

Notable Graduates

  • General Vincent K. Brooks (class of 1992)
  • Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, IV (class of 1988)
  • General Charles C. Campbell (class of 1986)
  • Michael T. Flynn, Former National Security Advisor (Class of 1994)
  • Lieutenant General Mark P. Hertling (class of 1988)
  • Lieutenant General David H. Huntoon (class of 1988)
  • General Charles H. Jacoby Jr. (class of 1991)
  • General David M. Rodriguez (class of 1989)
  • Lieutenant General John E. Sterling, Jr. (class of 1992)
  • General Jonathan Vance, Canadian Chief of Defence Staff
  • Lieutenant General William G. Webster (class of 1984)

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