News: AWG’s adaptive leader program takes to the road
Story by Maj. Sonise Lumbaca
FORT BENNING, Ga - The Asymmetric Warfare Adaptive Leader Program is a 10-day program hosted by the U.S. Army Asymmetric Warfare Group. The program, which focuses on building an adaptive force, is an example of the Army’s larger initiative of instituting the 21st Century Soldier Competencies. The ultimate goal is to provide Soldiers with a set of core competencies that are essential to being fully prepared to operate in complex and ambiguous environments. The program, which embodies all nine of the competencies, to include adaptability and initiative, critical thinking and problem solving, has historically operated out of Fort A.P. Hill, Va.; however, the AWG has taken this program on the road in order to rapidly affect a change in Army culture.
“What the AWG is trying to do is support Army initiatives in developing a capability at all levels of the Army where there is an understanding of what adaptability is, how to leverage its attributes, and how it ultimately contributes to the Army’s concept of operational adaptability,” said Master Sgt. Michael Crosby III, the AWALP noncommissioned officer in charge and an Operational Advisor for the AWG.
In working with units, the AWG has found that there is not only an advantage to maintaining the traditional 10-day resident AWALP, but also by bringing a two to five day shortened version to the units, this option maximizes the number of Soldiers participating— and more importantly— shapes the program to meet their needs and requirements. The AWG is also working with the Command and General Staff College to develop an instructional design course modeled after the principles within AWALP to assist the Centers of Excellence of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) in incorporating the Army Learning Model into their curriculum.
“When it comes to bringing AWALP to units versus units sending soldiers to attend it, in some cases, it’s better for the unit just in terms of time spent away from the unit and the overall cost to the Army,” said Blaise Cornell-d’Echert, an AWALP cadre member and retired infantry colonel who works for the unit. “In other cases, the soldiers have an opportunity to recognize an immediate relevance to their needs when they are on the same installation they are operating at.”
Such was the case when the AWG recently launched a mobile training team for the 197th Infantry Brigade at Fort Benning, Ga. In bringing AWALP to a brigade of instructors and those who oversee training, the AWG is able to hit the Army “schoolhouse” where military learning begins for Soldiers.
“There is this expectation to take the training where the training is needed; but also, to some extent, it’s an opportunity for us to identify the exact needs that exist for individual units,” Cornell-d’Echert said. “If all we ever did was conduct our training at Fort A.P. Hill, we would be guilty of some of the things that we’re helping the schoolhouse instructors recognize [with regard to] limiting themselves in the type of training they can conduct.”
Traveling to a unit’s home station provides an opportunity for AWG to keep their finger on the “training pulse,” and witness the challenges and constraints that instructors and trainers are operating under, Cornell-d’Echert said.
“The effects are immediate and we are able to better evaluate our expectations, and better understand what the capabilities of the instructors truly are at the schoolhouse,” Crosby said.
“Part of my job is to conduct company-wide training and to conduct training for mobilization and demobilization Soldiers,” said 2nd Lt. David Harrell, an AWALP participant and member of Company D, Demobilization Continental Replacement Center. “[What we are learning in AWALP] is good because it gives us a way to look at training outside of the normal check the box before [soldiers] leave the country. It allows us to look at [training] from a different angle.”
While there is a significant difference in the way the traditional 10-day AWALP is conducted at home station versus the shortened version brought to units and installations, the main outcome is only slightly different. Both outcomes of the training continue to focus on building adaptive leaders; however, there are additional unique commander requirements that the AWG attempts to meet with bringing the training to the unit.
“Whereas on the one hand for the traditional AWALP hosted at Fort A.P. Hill, the outcome is they understand how to apply adaptability as an outcome to training for soldiers and teams in combat environments. In the case of the 197th Infantry, our outcome is to ensure that instructors know how to promote adaptability and develop lesson plans that create the learning environment that develop outcomes for soldiers undergoing training,” Cornell-d’Echert said.
The AWG incorporated an example of this into the program by giving members of the 197th Infantry Brigade the opportunity to meet with various training enablers on Fort Benning. The AWG has identified that some soldiers coming from operational units, now assigned to institutional units, tend to focus on training and resources only within their immediate area and therefore isolate themselves from the various untapped resources on the installation as a whole. Here they were given the chance to engage with key people in training development, range operations, simulations, and the training support center among others.
“For us, that was an epiphany moment; here’s a great opportunity to not only demonstrate to these instructors a different approach to training, but at the same time broaden their horizon and make them aware that there are many different training enablers resident on an installation that they can take advantage of,” Cornell-d’Echert said.
“It allows us to see behind the scenes. We are constantly told ‘this is the standard, meet it.’ I had no idea how the standard was created, I just knew that I was supposed to follow it. [For example], to actually see how a POI and non-POI training was created, how we have an effect on it; I had no idea that we could have at the lowest level an effect on POI training, how its created, how its approved... That’s very good for us to know as trainers,” Harrell said.
This is an aspect that cannot be accomplished at the 10-day AWALP at Fort A.P. Hill because not all installations have the same training facilities and support elements resident to them, Crosby added.
Another example the AWG used was incorporating resident training facilities that are common on most installations to accomplish multiple training objectives.
“One of the 21st Century Soldier Competencies is problem solving; it also happens to be an enabler that we’ve identified that enhances adaptability in an individual Soldier,” Cornell-d’Echert said. “The Army has created a number of training facilities that on the surface have a particular purpose. An obstacle course is a perfect example.”
Without any creative thinking or imagination, most would look at an obstacle course as a one dimensional event, Crosby added. “This is a training facility that already exists; so we look at how can we promote adaptability while simultaneously invoking initiative, creative and critical thinking and also build a Soldier’s confidence.”
“If problem solving is one of the competencies we want to develop, sometimes we have to demonstrate through practical application using something as fundamental as an obstacle course, that there is another way to do it. Here is a tool, here is an asset that already exists, and by the mere application of a couple of other training aids— such as a stretcher, water cans, ropes, and creating a scenario for each obstacle— you not only turn it into a team building event, you now have a problem solving activity at the same time,” said Cornell-d’Echert.
AWALP participants agreed with this element of the training.
“There was no order to [completing the obstacle course]. All we had was limited conditions and standards—you have to do this and you cannot do this, and you have this time; go,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Park, an AWALP participant who is a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 29th Regiment, 197th Infantry Brigade. “So, it was very out of the box, very unordinary for us and it definitely put us in a situation where we had a little heightened stress. So, it was very much a different take on an obstacle course.”
Through the AWG’s adaptability program and various other initiatives, the Army is trying to help units recognize that there are different ways to train; and a variety of effects can be created when training differently.
“We know that not every unit can send their soldiers to AWALP; and some of the training scenarios that we conduct at other installations cannot be accomplished at Fort A.P. Hill, because no two installations are the same. But what’s relevant in all of this is that with the methodology behind the 21st Century Soldier Competencies— AWALP being one of its vehicles— we are able to effect change by helping to incorporate adaptability into unit training regimens,” Crosby said.
“[This was] a good opportunity in a safe environment to try things and not be afraid to try an idea; and if it failed, we have an idea of what doesn’t work and we had a good (After Actions Review) to think about other things we could have done,” Park said.
This method would be a good way for any leader to evaluate their unit’s strengths and weaknesses, he added.
The AWG provides Operational Advisory and Solution Development support globally to the Army and Joint Force Commanders to enhance soldiers survivability and combat effeteness, and enable the defeat of current and emerging threats in support of Unified Land Operations.