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By Marlo Brooke-Colchester
There is no greater training authority than the US Military. The magnitude of collaboration required to repeatedly execute effective missions, combined with an increasingly complex and intelligent enemy, requires a magnitude of training that is unparalleled in civilian operations.
The Chief of Naval Operations, ADM John Richardson, in “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority (January 2016)”, discusses the criteria to reduce and eliminate readiness degraders. In this paper, he states that one of the four lines of effort of combat execution is to “Achieve High Velocity Learning at Every Level. Start by seeing what you can accomplish without additional resources…inculcate high velocity learning as a matter of routine.”
An improved training process, combined with shrinking budgets and more pervasive enemy, prioritizes new, more innovative and cost effective training solutions based on the art of the possible. Injecting high velocity training with traditional methods, also necessitates providing the warfighter with information at their fingertips “at a moment’s notice”. Fiscal constraints decrease the ability to have human Subject Matter Expertise reachback at all times needed. Thus, the warfighter is expected to be a master of knowledge in a wide variety of diverse and complex systems, technology, and threat tactics. Fortunately, the warfighter has options: with the correct implementation of Avatars, such as augmented reality and high velocity performance aids, he/she can gain control with accessing the right information at the right time, instantaneously.
The paper “Naval Aviation Vision 2016-2025” (VADM Mike Shoemaker, LtGen Jon D. Davis, VADM Paul Grosklags, RADM Nancy Norton http://www.navy.mil/strategic/Naval_Aviation_Vision.pdf describes the issue with exactitude: “Expanding operational commitments, increasingly complex and integrated missions and declining budgets are testing Naval Aviation’s ability to effectively train our forces for all possible missions.”
To this point, AVATAR Partners Inc. (API) advocates four keys to developing and implementing effective high velocity learning and reducing/eliminating training degraders.
Key #1: Don’t Repeat History.
As Richardson puts it: “Do not relearn old lessons”. To avoid users repeating the same errors over and over again, best practices should be captured at the earliest opportunity, and should promulgate to all levels of the training process. The Feedback System must be effortless (and even seamless) to the user, providing simplified, rapid updates based on user experience, System/Software updates (by the Manufacturer/Vendor), and academic-based best practices. For any feedback system, a balance of flexibility and consistency is required to optimize the training improvement loop.
An effective feedback system establishes a cycle of continuous improvement to the Training process, which is critical to an optimal Knowledge Supply Chain (KSC). The KSC is a network of people, fueled by data, with a singular mission, that must collectively and collaboratively work together to achieve an objective. Similar to a “supply chain”, the KSC is a system of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources. But whereas a traditional supply chain involves transformation of materials into a finished product that is then moved and delivered to the end customer, a KSC involves the transfer of information and knowledge - through various training methods, retrievable data, and information at the point of need. A combination of instructor-based training augmented with interactive micro-learning, on-demand data, and capturing the best practices of combat operations, are paramount to an ideal KSC. The ultimate objective is the right information, at the right place, at the right time. When the KSC is continually fed lessons learned and best practices, and an easy way of integrating the information into the user’s environment, the information can be updated and disseminated exponentially: a key element to reducing readiness degraders.
Continuous improvement of our military operations involves the care and feeding of the KSC, so that mistakes are not repeated, lessons are not relearned over and over, and that the “basics” are covered faster, so that the warfighter can focus on the art of missions in the warfighter’s learnings. Once fielded, these qualities will ensure that a culture of continuous improvement in the training process is established, as the CNO puts it so wisely, “a matter of routine.”
Key #2: Know your Audience.
Training practices must align to the audience at hand. The average age of a person entering military service is approximately 17 years of age. People raised in the gaming/information age think and learn differently than people did 30 years ago. The US Military, being acutely aware of this, employs its base of experts and contractors to ensure the currency of training. “Naval Aviation is finding innovative, groundbreaking and efficient ways to train.” (VADM Mike Shoemaker, LtGen Jon D. Davis, VADM Paul Grosklags, RADM Nancy Norton).
The biggest threat to optimal training is the status quo. It is not enough to expect the warfighter to defend this country without having the advantage of state-of-the-art training and performance methods. All stakeholders of the training spectrum must step up to the plate and find better, more innovative, cost effective, and sustainable ways to provide the warfighter with the knowledge weapons needed to achieve the expected mission.
Richardson emphasizes the need for High Velocity Training (HVT). As participants in this process, API believes that the optimal HVT is achieved by deploying modular, highly specialized information, developed from the most knowledgeable experts in the field, and tailoring that knowledge to be applicable to the modern day warfighter. To outsmart the technologically smart enemy, HVT must be developed and deployed in such a way that it can be both standardized and quickly updatable.
A basic example of this is the young sailor who learns at home by going onto youtube. Youtube videos are , concise, and searchable. The main elements missing in the YouTube scenario is that they need to be interactive and scaled for micro-learning compatibility. The modern military audience is used to intractability in all modern programs. This is very different from the legacy methods of sifting through volumes of data to find an answer, or seeking out a single “smart officer” who has become the expert on a squadron. What if that smart officer is deployed, on leave, or is promoted to a different position? One answer is utilizing technology to capture that knowledge – and disseminate it at the point of need, in combat operations – through the KSC.
Key #3: Develop a Multisensory Experience. Studies have repeatedly shown that students retain information when the training uses as many senses as possible. Multi-sensory training also is about engaging different parts of the brain. Training should be exciting, stimulating, challenging, relatable, and engaging to all of the senses.
“To maintain our warfighting advantage, Naval Aviation requires training environments that replicate diverse operating environments, realistic adversary tactics and equipment, and battlespace complexity…The long term vision for achieving Naval Aviation readiness incorporates live, virtual and constructive (LVC) training that includes using realistic virtual or synthetic scenarios to develop the essential decision-making skills required to conduct air warfare in a joint environment. (VADM Mike Shoemaker, LtGen Jon D. Davis, VADM Paul Grosklags, RADM Nancy Norton).
The US Military has utilized simulators very successfully. Adjunctive technologies that are more affordable and flexible than traditional simulators, can be modular, multi-level solutions that not only engage multiple senses, but also cost effective, and sustainable. An example of this is integrating videos with augmented reality, virtual reality, gaming techniques, text with audio, and the ability to 3D print an object through additive manufacturing. The effect is to fully engages the user’s senses. Touch, feel, sound, experience: all contribute to memory retention.
The commercial industry is using proven technologies that transform plain two-dimensional objects, such as text books, into exciting, stimulating solutions that literally come to life in the world around us. Combining this with the ability of the user to access that information on-demand as needed, particularly in combat, is extremely powerful.
ADM Richardson writes of the “increasing rate of technological creation and adoption” as one of the three global forces that the Navy must address.
Recent advancements in both virtual reality and augmented reality can enhance HVT by allowing subject matter experts to quickly create scenarios of new threats – the key being quick to develop and deploy, and portable. Highly realistic scenarios can be re-created more cost effectively than traditional fixed simulation.
Key #4: Simplify Complexity
As a developer of training systems for the FA-18, EA-18G and Marine Helo mission planning systems, API knows the high number of stakeholders, both industry and government, who must participate in the success of large mission-critical systems. In the ideal world, the warfighter would not see any separate stakeholders, but only a single system that was built by a “badgeless team” supporting the single objective of our nation’s defense. Unfortunately, training is often not considered until tail the end of the development of a new system (or often, not at all). The fleet/regiment/wing pays for it by spending unnecessary hours to reference dozens of different sources to get Training, Job Aids, or Performance Aids to complete a mission or task. Any Admiral or General will reiterate the same message: there is no budget to remove our troops once in combat, and train them in a vacuum for any length of time. The true effect of budgetary constraints today is that beyond the basics, most training is On the Job.
With the reduction of formalized training, comes the need to simplify the complexity of training for the systems the user must learn. A proven method of simplifying complexity is standardization. Different styles of teaching and training aids or processes unnecessarily confuse the user. Aligning the training process from school houses to on the job training aids is critical to success; it reduces the “clutter” in the user’s mind, and allows them to focus on the strategy of warfighting versus the basic operations of systems; we want the warfighter to think about the “what”, not the “how”.
API has found that visual, workflow based content where the user can see a top level view at a glance, and then drill down into detail, and related materials, provides an optimal environment where the warfighter can be in control of what they need to know, when they need to know it, and get the information quickly. Get in, learn what is needed, and move on. In essence, the warfighter needs knowledge at the point of need. Preferably, one source: a single book of knowledge.
One example of this is the detonation of an improvised explosive device (IED). A user/operator may spend 1-2 years in a formal training environment. There could be hundreds, even thousands, of possible variants and issues that must be addressed and remembered when deployed. A highly useful tool is the Job training aids. In combat, the user watches a video on a helmet or existing lightweight system that reflects and updates his/her previous instructor based training. This gives the operator instant access to readable text, interactive 3D models, and Interactive videos, that refresh steps and information in the detonation process. Then to validate the setup prior to detonation, in some cases the user can utilize Augmented Reality, visually placing images in the training device above the real bomb and detonator to validate that he has correctly followed the steps that will enable a successful and safe detonation.
Optimizing training effectiveness is a key element to reducing readiness degraders. Four key elements include continuous care and feeding of the knowledge supply chain, developing training solutions that address today’s warfighter, utilizing technology best practices to engage a multisensory experience, and simplifying the complexity of systems for the warfighter. In the next article, I look forward to discussing how to engage the critical thinking process with innovative training methodologies.
Marlo Brooke-Colchester (firstname.lastname@example.org) is founder and president of Avatar Partners Inc. (API) (www.avatarpartners.com), a woman-owned small business specializing in innovative training and planning solutions for the US Military. She can be reached at (714) 226-1909.