Small Wars Journal

Army Learning Concept 2015 and the TSLC

In my last SWJ blog entry, I introduced the Army Learning Concept 2015 being "championed" by the TRADOC G3. Following up on that post, I want to briefly highlight our discussions on this subject during last week's TRADOC Senior Leader Conference.

What resonated most clearly was the shared agreement that in order to increase rigor, maintain relevancy, and prevail in the competitive learning environment we have to change. Our current models have not kept pace with the rapid pace of change, the demands of Soldiers rotating in and out of the fight, and a continuous influx of Soldiers with significant "digital literacy."

We all recognize the challenge and are working to adapt our learning models. We're changing our assumptions to look at the problem differently, because we know we can't afford to come up with the same solutions. We're reaching out to those both inside and outside the military to help in this effort. I've asked the TRADOC G3 to draft a white paper that we'll circulate among the communities of interest in the next 90 days. I welcome views from across the force on ways to ensure we get this right.

GEN M. Dempsey

SWJ Editor's Note: The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command conducted a Senior Leader Conference last week. We asked TRADOC to provide us short "snap-shots" from the SLC for posting here. General Martin E. Dempsey is TRADOC's Commanding General.


Having been a training officer and a liaision officer perhaps cultural awarenes studies be incorporated as part of the thinking cycle. I don't know the current abbreviations being an Aussie

Web based learning is used due to the costs of travel, training facilities and taking someone out of the unit, and my opinion along with 'just in time training' thrown in the scrap heap. If someone has the time during the day or anytime on ops to do web based training, someone will find a task for them. 'Just in time training' usually means trying to absorb the lessons of an invariably out of date course whilst doing a thousand other things - junior officers are magnets for secondary duties.

Some ideas for discussion anyway.

MAJ Andrew Aiello (not verified)

Thu, 03/25/2010 - 9:53am

I agree that there needs to be a change due to the competitive learning environment; however, I believe it should start as soon as possible in the development of our junior officers, namely ROTC. I am not sure what exactly changed in the ROTC curriculum over the last 14 years, but I have a unique perspective from taking 3 years of Naval ROTC before switching over to Army (mainly due to the 90s cutbacks at the time). Most of the NROTC courses were extremely technical and were 3 credit hours compared to the Armys 1 credit. These included Naval propulsion systems, Radar/Sonar, Missiles and Weapons systems, Celestial Navigation and Inland piloting.

Young officers are getting thrown directly into battalion staff jobs and both the Captains Career Course and ILE are hitting topics after fact. I have learned so much from these programs that cutting them would be detrimental, I just wish I had taken them earlier.

I am not a fan of the web based training such as DKO/JKO that uses flash video or powerpoint slides on HTML. I would rather have a hardcopy textbook or FM in my hand. With todays operational tempo a web based training program would only become a click through as fast as you can to take the exam, and would make more work in addition to regular duties that would keep troops at work later.

I believe the training solution would consist of a more robust ROTC, nothing changed in OBC, CCC, or ILE, and establish certain geographically strategic training centers to fill the gap. Personnel should attend these training centers in between PCS and their next duty stations TDY enroute or TDY and return if they are in an inter-post transfer situation. This would also offer personnel another small opportunity to take a knee in between deployment cycles.

The challenge the Army faces today is not one of over-thinking situations; rather, it is the failure to think clearly in situations that require sound judgment at junior levels, and leaderships hesitation to believe that juniors can or will think clearly. Soldiers and junior leaders who are trained or conditioned to "look" at the situation--i.e., to assess, exercise judgment and make decisions--are more decisive, deliberate and correct in their actions. This is particularly important in the complex environment of full-spectrum operations. The most important capability needed for the future Army of 2030 and beyond are thinking Soldiers and junior leaders who seek the "why" of a situation, task, or directive. They are interested in this primarily to understand and make better use of the purpose behind it. But the future is now.

In light of this, thinking young men and women who have been taught the purpose behind military operations understand that anarchy leads to failure, while unity of purpose is more likely to lead to success. An organization of thinking individuals, working in unity of purpose with a strong understanding of intent, is more readily able to adapt to the unexpected realities of todays mission sets. As a result, the Army is embracing a new approach to training and education called Outcomes Based Training & Education (OBT&E) and evolving two teaching methods--the Combat Applications Training Course (CATC) and the Adaptive Leaders Methodology (ALM)--under the OBT&E umbrella.

The Army is beginning to embrace OBT&E as a doctrine, which evolved out of the efforts (2006-08) of the 198th Infantry Brigade at Fort Benning, Georgia, in the approach they took to developing new infantry Soldiers. Put simply, OBT&E looks for results; much like mission orders or mission tactics executed with little or no oversight from higher headquarters, it puts a greater burden of professionalism (including accountability for prior knowledge and training) on the shoulders of the student, with guidance from the instructor. OBT&E is best described as "developmental training," i.e., development of the individual within the training of military tasks.

Behavioral changes are not lasting if we fail to strike at their antecedents. Until relatively recently, these causes were not well understood, so there was little the Army could do to influence the way they developed Soldiers in meaningful ways. This began to change based on research done since about 1970. Today, the Army has to account for the fact that the actions we take at the earliest points in a career and thereafter, in a sequential and progressive fashion, manifest themselves much later.

To counter an array of national threats and opponents, using practices that range full spectrum, a synthesis of Army courses into "learning organizations" is needed. To meet this educational end, current educational and training ways and means must be assessed, evaluated and changed. Weak spots and points of failure in leader and Soldier education and training must be identified--all in the interest of retooling the system in ways that facilitate the development of officers who are intuitive and adaptive.

Acknowledging the need for change, the Army has begun an evolution in the way it develops--accesses, trains, educates, promotes and selects--leaders and Soldiers. Its recently published training doctrine, Field Manual (FM) 7-0, Training for Full-Spectrum Operations, states:

Traditional training and education may not meet all the needs of an expeditionary Army; as appropriate, training and education must adapt to the needs of a new operational environment. The training and education requirements are different for a full spectrum‐capable force. Development of new approaches may be necessary to ensure Soldiers and Army Civilians are confident in their ability to conduct full spectrum operations anywhere along the spectrum of conflict with minimal additional training.

For example, Outcome‐Based Training and Education is supposed to develop individuals and organizations that can think and operate in complex environments. Used in initial entry training, its goal is to develop individual confidence, initiative, and accountability in addition to mastery of skills, instead of just minimum baseline level of performance. The focus is on the total outcome of a task or event rather than on the execution of a particular task to a standard under a given set of conditions. Given operational expectations, it is supposed to develop tangible skills--such as marksmanship--and intangible attributes--such as creativity and judgment.

In the past, the "competency theory" of learning dominated course curriculums, and there remain signs of it today in leader development. Competency theory is a product of the old Industrial Age outlook that once, by necessity, governed the way military forces prepared for war. During the time when we relied on a massed citizen army made up of draftees, this "assembly line" mentality made sense, but the disadvantage was that this emphasized output more than the individual quality of the product. Today, some leader-centric programs within the institutional Army in general still reflect the old "assembly line" approach. Order and control are central to programs of instruction (POIs) that use the competency theory as its foundation.

Leader development for the full spectrum of 21st century military operations must be based on quality, not quantity, at every grade level. The rule should be, "Soldiers deserve and require trained leaders." Schools must constantly put students in difficult, unexpected situations, and then require them to decide and act under time pressure. Schooling must take students out of their "comfort zones." Stress--mental and moral as well as physical--must be constant. War games, tactical decision games, map exercises and free play field exercises must constitute bulk of the curriculum. Drill and ceremonies and adhering to "task, condition and standards" (TCS)--task proficiency--in the name of process are not important. There are many tasks for which TCS is still relevant. But under CATC and ALM, the emphasis is on growing the decisionmaker by explaining the reason for the task and teaching in the context of a problem-solving exercise.

Higher command levels overseeing officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) schools must look for flexible courses guided by outcomes rather than inputs while allowing instructors to evolve their lesson plans using innovative teaching techniques and tools for an ever-changing environment. Those leaders who successfully pass through the schools must continue to be developed by their commanders; learning cannot stop at the schoolhouse door.

The question that arises repeatedly is, "How does one teach in an OBT&E environment?" There are two techniques that answer this question: CATC is better for lower-level/individual Soldier-centric tasks, and ALM is focused more on leader tasks; while both approaches focus on growing decision-making. OBT&E is the guiding philosophy from which CATC and ALM were developed as ways to teach and reach outcomes.

In both CATC and ALM, Army standards remain the baseline for training; however, they are no longer the primary or exclusive goal of training. Within this idea is the realization that a generalized standard designed for the success of the Army at large may be less than is required for the success of the individual or small unit in unique situations. In this manner, the task to be trained is looked upon as an opportunity to develop Soldiers, primarily by creating a foundation of understanding that allows Soldiers not only to perform the task to standard but also to take ownership of the task, and exercise problem-solving skills.

Joseph J Collins (not verified)

Wed, 03/24/2010 - 10:36am

Army learning concept: capital idea! All Armies make huge mistakes. They are often on the wrong sheet of music. What differentiates the good Armies from the outmoded is their ability to learn in general, and learn on the fly in particular. While it sounds very theoretical for muddy boots soldiers, how we learn has changed so fast for so long, we may not remember the good old days before the Internet changed how we learn about the world, how we communicate, and most likely, how we think. When I was commissioned (1970), we could never have conceived of things like the company commanders net, or generals and admirals keeping up on Facebook and Twitter. Classified material has lost out in many ways to open source. 24/7/365 connectivity has changed the concept of battle rythm forever. Our enemies, not burdened by our years of experience and tradition, have made great use of new technologies for recruitment, communication, training, and no doubt, even for Senior Insurgent/Terrorist Manager PME. Before we master how to fight, we have to think through how we learn in the 21st Century. Look fwd to reading this Tradoc product.
Joe Collins, National War College,