Army Chief Discusses Future of Training

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2011 — Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey has put a lot of thought into ways to take the lessons learned dur­ing more than nine years of war and apply them to the military’s train­ing and edu­ca­tion pro­grams.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey speaks with U.S. Divi­sion Cen­ter sol­diers at Camp Lib­er­ty, Iraq, April 19, 2011. Dempsey has cit­ed the need for Army train­ing that will chal­lenge a com­bat-sea­soned force.
U.S. Army pho­to by Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
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Dempsey, who spent two years com­mand­ing U.S. Army Train­ing and Doc­trine Com­mand before tak­ing his cur­rent post in mid-April, knew it would­n’t be easy to repli­cate the com­plex­i­ty of the oper­a­tional envi­ron­ment in the class­room or at home sta­tion.

“We can­not expect to cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion of com­bat-sea­soned forces that have been in some of the most com­plex envi­ron­ments imag­in­able for almost a decade by sit­ting them in a class­room and blud­geon­ing them with Pow­er­Point slides,” he wrote ear­li­er this year in a five-part series in Army mag­a­zine about the Army’s “Cam­paign of Learn­ing.”

“We must make the ’scrim­mage’ as hard as the ‘game’ in both the insti­tu­tion­al school­house and at home sta­tion,” Dempsey wrote.

Speak­ing in Feb­ru­ary at the Asso­ci­a­tion of the U.S Army’s Win­ter Sym­po­sium and Expo­si­tion in Fort Laud­erdale, Fla., Dempsey offered a glimpse of what’s like­ly ahead for mil­i­tary lead­ers.

“The chal­lenge we face is that we have to get ready for an Army that will have a poten­tial­ly insa­tiable demand to train and to expand the aper­ture away from strict­ly [coun­terin­surgery] to hybrid threats, full-spec­trum oper­a­tions, maneu­ver train­ing and all the things that we know can atro­phy over time,” the gen­er­al told the audi­ence.

Dempsey told the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee dur­ing his Army chief con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing in March that his chal­lenge is to build on a decade of bat­tle­field expe­ri­ence that’s proven the Army to be a coura­geous, resilient, res­olute, inquis­i­tive and adapt­able force.

“Our chal­lenge will be that these young men and women have had capa­bil­i­ties, author­i­ties and respon­si­bil­i­ties as cap­tains that I did­n’t have as a two-star gen­er­al — and I’m not exag­ger­at­ing a bit when I say that,” he told the pan­el. “And so con­tin­u­ing their devel­op­ment, … from that point, that much high­er entry lev­el than I had, is our chal­lenge.” Dempsey said troops sim­ply won’t accept a return to the pre-con­flict way of train­ing. “If we were a rub­ber band and have been stretched over the last 10 years, we can’t let our­selves sim­ply con­tract back to our pre­vi­ous shape, because they won’t stand for that,” he said.

Mak­ing train­ing as chal­leng­ing as pos­si­ble to ensure readi­ness, despite what’s expect­ed to be an era of reduced resourc­ing, is the goal behind the new Army Train­ing Con­cept. Intro­duced in the Army’s 2010 Pos­ture State­ment, it pro­vides the vision of the way ahead for the 2012–2020 mod­u­lar force.

The idea, Dempsey wrote in Army Mag­a­zine, is “to make train­ing more rig­or­ous and rel­e­vant by lever­ag­ing tech­nol­o­gy to cre­ate chal­leng­ing train­ing envi­ron­ments for our lead­ers.” The con­cept strikes a bal­ance between oper­a­tional and insti­tu­tion­al train­ing require­ments and offers dif­fer­ent ways to train beyond 2012 that will main­tain cur­rent capa­bil­i­ties while pro­duc­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of agile, ready forces.

A cen­ter­piece of the Army Train­ing Con­cept is Tradoc’s “Train­ing Brain.” This blend of capa­bil­i­ties, sys­tems, net­works and data repos­i­to­ries direct­ly from the Joint Train­ing Counter-Impro­vised Explo­sive Device Oper­a­tions Inte­gra­tion Cen­ter puts sol­diers smack in the mid­dle of real­is­tic oper­a­tional envi­ron­ments.

It “allows us to pull [a] stream of real-world data from cur­rent oper­a­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan, declas­si­fy it, and use it to build real­is­tic sce­nar­ios to sup­port train­ing through­out the Army,” Dempsey wrote.

In addi­tion, the Army is using the Train­ing Brain to cre­ate videos based on recent bat­tles and oper­a­tions to make them acces­si­ble on the Army Train­ing Net­work. “Sol­diers can use this as a tool to facil­i­tate their own learn­ing, whether they’re in a school­house envi­ron­ment, con­duct­ing home-sta­tion train­ing or even deployed,” Dempsey wrote.

Mean­while, the gen­er­al said, Train­ing Brain is help­ing the Army evolve mas­sive, mul­ti­play­er online role-play­ing games. These pro­vide a forum for sol­diers and lead­ers to inter­act and col­lab­o­rate using com­mon sce­nar­ios in a vir­tu­al envi­ron­ment — not only with sol­diers with­in their own units, but across the Army.

“This enables us to pro­vide real­is­tic and rel­e­vant train­ing and learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties at the point of need,” Dempsey said, while mak­ing train­ing stu­dent- rather than instruc­tor-cen­tric.

Dempsey shared the con­tents of an email he had received from a Tradoc school­house. Cap­tains attend­ing a career course had orga­nized vol­un­tar­i­ly into teams so they could com­pete against one anoth­er in an online role-play­ing game based on a rel­e­vant train­ing sce­nario. The offi­cers, he said, began giv­ing up their lunch peri­ods, com­ing in ear­ly and stay­ing late so they could con­tin­ue their train­ing expe­ri­ence on their own time.

“This Army train­ing cap­tures the imag­i­na­tion, chal­lenges the par­tic­i­pants and allows them to adapt the mate­r­i­al to facil­i­tate their learn­ing needs,” Dempsey said. It’s “a far cry from the death-by-Pow­er­Point approach with which many of us are all too famil­iar.”

Dempsey offered assur­ance that Army train­ing will nev­er lose sight of the fun­da­men­tals of “move, shoot and com­mu­ni­cate.” But look­ing toward the future, he said, leader-devel­op­ment pro­grams must pro­duce lead­ers who are inquis­i­tive, cre­ative and adapt­able.

“It should be clear to all after more than nine years of con­flict that the devel­op­ment of adap­tive lead­ers who are com­fort­able oper­at­ing in ambi­gu­i­ty and com­plex­i­ty will increas­ing­ly be our com­pet­i­tive advan­tage against future threats to our nation,” he said.

With that in mind, Dempsey said he makes a series of promis­es to stu­dents in pre-com­mand cours­es who are prepar­ing to become bat­tal­ion and brigade com­man­ders and com­mand sergeants major.

“I promise them that the future secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment will nev­er play out exact­ly the way we’ve envi­sioned. His­to­ry con­firms this,” he said. “I promise that we will not pro­vide the opti­mal orga­ni­za­tion­al design nor per­fect­ly design the equip­ment that they will need when they enter into a future mis­sion. His­to­ry — espe­cial­ly recent events — con­firms this as well, although we do our best not to get it too wrong.

“And I promise that the guid­ance they receive from ‘high­er head­quar­ters’ will always come a lit­tle lat­er than need­ed,” he said. “We would be ill-advised to think that we will do much bet­ter than our pre­de­ces­sors in that regard.

“What I promise, how­ev­er — and this, too, is con­firmed by our his­to­ry is that it is always the lead­ers on point who are able to take what we give them, adapt to the envi­ron­ment in which they are placed and accom­plish the mis­sion,” Dempsey con­tin­ued. “Leader devel­op­ment becomes job No. 1.”

(This the sec­ond arti­cle in a series about how the Defense Depart­ment and mil­i­tary ser­vices plan to main­tain com­bat effec­tive­ness and readi­ness as the cur­rent oper­a­tional tem­po begins to decline.)

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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