2 - The 20th-Century Revolution in Military Training  pp. 27-60

The 20th-Century Revolution in Military Training

By Ralph E. Chatham

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This chapter is about training as practiced by the United States military. In order to exercise some of the little we really know about learning, and in the spirit of the overworked phrase found at the start of almost every military course taught over the last four decades, I will begin this chapter by telling you what I intend to tell you, and then will proceed to tell it to you all over again in detail.

In the late 1970s the United States Army fostered a revolution in warfare training by institutionalizing group experiential learning with feedback. In doing so they changed the Army's culture such that even everyday actions are now routinely assessed and analyzed at all echelons up, as well as down the chain of command. The largest-scale use of these techniques trains brigade-sized units (3,500 soldiers) on huge training battlefields. The process is superbly effective, delivering in just weeks a measured order-of-magnitude increase in warfare proficiency in warfare areas as diverse as large-scale dismounted infantry operations and air-to-air combat. The revolution continues; it was recently adapted to train nonkinetic operations (everything that soldiers did not sign up to do) in large-scale events. This engagement simulation process is equally effective in non-military contexts, but its large-scale military applications are often expensive and episodic. Thus, it comes with a downside; it does not reach all our forces nor can it train those it does reach often enough to prevent skill decay.

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