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General William Booth
— General William Booth

Train And Teach And Develop

Officer training in The Salvation Army was not, at first, a calculated departure but rather a desperate accommodation to the demands of war, the battle for a better world. William Booth, founder, learned early on that conventional theological training did not fit leaders for his mission. "Let us train the working people," he said, "so that they can, wisely, in their own way, help the working people." Training programs, from 1879, now dotted across five continents, follow Booth's earliest dictum:

Quote: They must learn as they 
fight and fight while they learn

We must teach them how to fight...

Let every one have a chance. God is no respecter of persons, nor sex either...

Every gift you need is here; they only want calling forth and cultivating and you will be fully provided for war.

But, mind: you must train and teach and develop – No Pipe-Clay Soldiers will be of any service here – and establish your army in actual service...

They must learn as they fight and fight while they learn.

— General William Booth

We Must Teach Them How To Fight

The College for Officer Training, Suffern, New York, purposes to develop men and women with the theological understanding, street-level skills and Salvationist spirit required to advance the mission of the Army expressed in its international statement: "The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. It's ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in His name without discrimination."

Let Everyone Have A Chance

The complex, interdisciplinary tasks of today's officer require persons of exceptional acumen, discipline and creativity. Yet the school in Suffern continues to draw candidates, men and women alike, from every socio-economic level, baby-buster and second-vocation grandparent (average age, 30), G.E.D. and Ph.D., speaking languages as diverse as Spanish, French, Creole, and Portuguese. It represents an astonishing potpourri of experiences and gifts, cohering with a common creed and vocation. Classrooms are electric with the creative conflict of perspectives, generating the critical thought and commitment to discourse by which alone officers can thrive in the next century. In the common life of the community is personalized the pain of the world and demonstrated the gospel which brings together what is alienated and broken.

An Hispanic program makes provision for cadets whose first language is Spanish to study in that medium, to flourish in a culturally hospitable and supportive environment, and to enrich the training community with their cultural resources and perspectives.

You Must Train And Teach And Develop

Theological, pastoral and personal formation occur in three arenas: Classroom, field and common life. The faculty are characteristically reflective practitioners, chosen for character, field competence and teaching effectiveness. They serve in the roles of academic preceptor and midwife, coach and soul-friend.

They Must Learn As They Fight

General William 

Supervised ministry assignments, which occupy about half of the 22 months of training, take cadets to social cockpits of hazard and hope across the Army's Eastern Territory (11 Eastern states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) where they prove that "in our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action" (Dag Hammarskjold). The focus of the learning community is the rapidly expanding facilities on the 30-acre Suffern campus, occupied by the school since 1972, continuing its presence in the New York area since 1906.

Cadets continue their education following commissioning and ordination, through five years of mandated nonformal study and generous provision for ongoing professional development.

No Pipe-clay Soldiers

Responsive to the concerns and issues of its constituent communities, the school is committed to continuous experimentation and evaluation in the pursuit of excellence. Comprehensive self-studies were undertaken in 1988, 1991 and 1994 culminating in a proposal and legal petition to the State of New York Board of Education for accreditation to confer the degree, Associate of Occupational Studies. As of 2011 the CFOT confers the degree of Associate in Applied Science (AAS).

"God," wrote Colonel William Person with the optimism of grace, "is keeping his soldiers fighting."