View Full Version : Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

08-20-2009, 12:20 AM
I knew this coming into this conference and will count on it going into the next we might be invited to - a lot of the meat – the “reality show” - of what needs to be done and almost all of the passion many of TRADOC’s leaders possess as agents of change is lost via PowerPoint; cold, just the facts ma’am press releases; and our short synopsis of the issues discussed at the conference and presented here at SWJ and SWC.

The issues on the magnitude TRADOC Leadership is grappling with right now can seem daunting. Many of which were conveyed via PowerPoint (and to General Dempsey’s credit he tactfully utilized his authority and leadership qualities to generate discussion vs. the slide reading ritual). We've discussed this many times here at SWJ and SWC - justice to the “message” and to the “real intent” is often lost - completely and brutally via such venues.

I’ll keep this short and it is addressed to the naysayers – walk one mile in their shoes with an open-minded perspective. We have conveyed many SLC discussion points today - the military power of our nation will be measured by our ability to adapt – and – the right soldier, at the right place, at the right time - are but two examples. They come across as “sound bites” – bumper sticker slogans - until you look the conveyer of such messages directly in the eye and gauge if they actually mean it or it is just another dog and pony show.

I’m coming away from this week with a sense that there is meat behind the PowerPoint bones.

I don’t have a dog in this fight – excepting that we get this right – this time – right now. As Editor in Chief of Small Wars Journal, as a retired Marine who keeps track of how the Corps’ is handling many of the same issues, and most importantly as a chronic cynic, I’m encouraged by what I’ve heard so far.

My gut-feeling concerning this conference – I looked them in the eye – literally – is that they are very serious and very concerned about what the Army has to do. For my Army brothers in arms – if you happenchance upon General Dempsey and his “Lee’s Lieutenants” – engage. You may walk away with a few feathers ruffled – but you will gain from that engagement - as a better leader, student and practitioner of what our nation requires during these “interesting times”.

--Dave Dilegge

Ken White
08-20-2009, 01:03 AM
As one older and even more cynical, I gotta admit I'm impressed by what I've seen the Army trying to do in the last year or two. The important and needed hurdle of transformation to the BCT model while conducting operations hurt and delayed the effort you saw today -- but it's been building.

You may recall I said I'd have answers and wanted to know if the Army had the right questions. I didn't bring them to the board because every one of them got answered in the read aheads on this conference that I was able to see. Just for grins, here they are:

For TRADOC Sr Leaders Conf 18-20 Aug 09, SWJ Live Blogging.

Answers ((Key Point)) / questions are:

1. Part of the problem with risk avoidance is lack of trust. This is engendered by two factors; not being familiar with the people who work for you and a valid sensing that they aren't really thoroughly trained. ((The solution to these problems is lessened rotational frequency and better initial entry training for Officers and Enlisted Persons.)) / What can we do to lessen the problem of risk avoidance?

2. A performance factor and a risk avoidance factor is lack of timely attendance at advanced professional education. Many Lieutenants and Captains command at company/battery or troop level and / or serve on Staffs prior to attending the Career Course. Many NCOs will serve in leadership positions before they attend PME. The reality is that most people will almost certainly serve in a position one rank -- and probably two ranks -- higher than the the rank at which they were last trained or schooled before they again go to institutional training. This problem can be addressed by increasing the content and time of the Officer Basic Courses and some effort in that direction has been made. ((Each person should be trained in the schoolhouse for his or her next assignment entailing synchronization of PME and promotions.)) / Question: What is the one big fix to be made to improve PME?

3. While we train better now than we ever did, more effort is required. There has also been a flurry of new doctrinal material. Most is quite good but it does tend to be wordy and this can cause people to lose interest and not read the manuals to extract critical points. This is partly due to the lack of a grasp of the basics of our profession by new entrants, both Officer and Enlisted, the compensatory factor is to overdo the doctrinal material to fill that shortfall. This is a flawed approach. ((Improve initial training and the need for lengthy, overly verbose and over prescriptive material disappears.)) / Question: How can we improve doctrinal publications?

4. The use of tasks, Conditions and Standards as a training mechanism was adapted from industry, it was used by them to train new hired to do specific jobs. It is an excellent system for training new soldiers in a mobilization scenario. It is adequate for the assignment of soldiers to units in major conflicts and it should be retained for such use. However, it is not truly appropriate for a professional force which must be capable of full spectrum operation and in which conditions will vary widely. In the past, this flawed system was overcome by good and dedicated Officers and NonCommissioned Officers who did an excellent job of training their units in spite of a flawed system. ((The solution to the inadequacy of the current Task based training regimen is to accelerate adoption of Outcome Based Training.)) / Question: What is the single most important change to training that the Army can effect

08-20-2009, 02:14 PM
Ken, here is a response to your post:

This morning's first presentation at TSLC was a video game-based briefing of the May 2009 Farah province ambush and subsequent bombing incident.

The purpose of the presentation was to demonstrate to the audience the utility of the video game-based training tool. The presenters ran the video for several minutes then stopped it and engaged the audience with "what now, Captain?" type questions. The presenters asserted that they have the capability to rapidly convert real world combat actions into video training tools that they can then distribute globally, even to soldiers' i-Phones.

The short history of leaders training: dirt drawing, chalk boards, white boards, PowerPoint, now video game simulations. The goal is to improve leaders' decision-making skills. The questions is whether the new technology leads to better thinking. Or might it stifle the development of a young leader's open imagination?

The audience was enthusiastic about the promise of video-based training, and thought it essential to keep the attention of younger soldier-students.

What about transitioning from Tasks, Conditions, Standards to an Outcome-based training system? At the leader development level, my impression is that the TRADOC senior leaders very much desire to go that way. I think they believe that the video scenario/"what now, Captain?" method will do a better job of developing decision-making skills compared to anything that has come before. Naturally, we will have to wait and see.

-Robert Haddick