Examples of individuals having far reaching impact on an organization or nation exist throughout history, usually from positions that are not acknowledged by the culture of the time as being significant. For example, my good friend, and author of the outstanding book Storm Troop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army 1914-1918, Dr. Bruce Gudmundsson’s PhD dissertation is on the impact that two behind the scenes Army officers had on their respective nations in World War I. And they were only majors.
In this case the U.S. Army is experiencing a training revolution with far reaching positive implications of bringing the best out of all Soldiers at all levels of command through a new dramatic training and education approach. The extraodinary aspect that it has not come from the top or among the generals or some PhD located in a think tank, but from an Army Colonel. It is called Outcomes Based Training and Education (OBT&E).
Before we go on with this extradinary story of leadership, I will define Outcomes Based Training and Education (OBT&E). According to one of the best instructors I have seen using OBT&E, Major Chad Foster, also one of COL Haskins instructors at USMA’s DMI, OBTE is “OBT&E goes against much of the Army’s traditional mindset regarding training. Rather than emphasizing ‘input’ or ‘process,’ it focuses on results. In contrast, a typical TRADOC program of instruction (POI) often refers to a specified amount of time that will be devoted to blocks of instruction in specific areas. In most cases, there is little or no attention paid to the intended outcome of that instruction. Additionally, there is little or no emphasis on teaching the “why” behind specific actions. With no understanding of the “why,” soldiers are merely memorizing and performing the steps of a checklist. If trained in this manner, a soldier might be able to execute a drill effectively under conditions that he has seen before, but when new and unfamiliar situations arise, he automatically reverts to the memorized drill or procedure regardless of whether or not it is appropriate to the specific time, place, or enemy. In short, he has learned a task without context. OBT&E attempts to get to the root of this shortcoming by providing a broader vision or purpose to the training event. This allows training to “move beyond the minimalist approach to standards-based training and achieve the desired excellence and mastery” that all commanders envision.” (“Outcomes-Based Training and Education: An Introduction to the Idea.” Asymmetric Warfare Group. Fort Meade, VA)
I had the honor of meeting COL Casey Haskins at Fort Benning, in September 2007, when he commanded the 198th Infantry Brigade. He was already in halfway in his command and was further evolving the way that the Army develops basic training for infantry Soldiers. This inself is an incredible story of moral courage and strength of character in an organization that while it cries adaptability and agile, is in fact a very risk averse culture.
I later read an article COL Haskins had written a year earlier, while director of the Army Infantry Captains Career Course where he had began to impliment his concept of Outcomes Based Training and Education. I found out later that after he had his concepts approved by then Lieutenant General Petraeus, who was then Commander of the Army Combined Arms Center (CAC) at Fort Leavenworth, an Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) inspection team came down and failed him for not following Army regulations and policies which focus on what is called input training or education based on the competency theory of learning (think “Leave No Child Behind”) where one places all priorities on rote memorization to pass an immediate test.
COL Haskins moved on from director of the Infantry Captains Career Course at Fort Benning to command the 198th Infantry Training Brigade. The 198th Brigade is responsible for training infantry soldiers for the U.S. Army where he put OBTE to test in a very centralized and controlling Army training environment, and he won (see excerpt below).
In April 2008, I was invited by COL Sean Hannah, Director of the Center of Exellence for Professional Military Ethics to come up to the United States Military Academy and speak to various departments, instructors and invidividuals about the leader development approach I had created called Adaptive Leader Methodology (ALM). Through lecturing on ALM and OBT&E, I got to know several great instructors at the Department of Military Instruction. Throughout the spring and summer of 2008, we began working together to implement ALM and OBT&E. In May of 2008, I found out from the instructors that COL Casey Haskins was taking over DMI, and I told the instructors present that “you guys are lucky SOBs! You are going to have a lot of fun, while working hard here.”
I have been so impressed by COL Haskins’ efforts to evolve the Army’s training and education method beyond the Industrial Age, that I wrote an entire section on in my latest book Manning the Legions of the United States and Finding Tomorrow’s Centurians (Praeger October 2008) on him. From Chapter 6, Manning the Legions of the United States and Finding Tomorrow’s Centurians, (Praeger April 2008):
“On the unexpected eve of 9/11 and the following campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Army found itself with new operational requirements and many new technologies, but a professional officer and NCO corps that did not really know how to train it to fight and wage 4GW. “It could execute published tasks, under defined conditions, to simulated standards, but the culture imposed upon the Army caused it to struggle with how to fight and how to train to fight when conditions or requirements did not conform to officially approved assumptions.” The Army had, through its own cultural behaviors in the 1990s, taught itself what to think, not how to think.
Colonel Casey Haskins, commander of the Army’s 198th Infantry Brigade, responsible for the training of new Army infantry soldiers at Fort Benning, GA, describes the result in an observation he made in his own unit in August 2007:
Colonel Haskins contributes this observation of training to three factors that evolved from DePuy influence’s which led to greater centralization and a top-down Army culture:
“The third systemic factor discouraging excellence was that training was governed by inputs rather than outcomes or results. Number of hours spent, number of rounds fired, number of classes attended all counted; true proficiency at the task being trained seldom did. This system made it easy to calculate resources and provide support but, unsurprisingly, did not maximize the training effect. Attendance at land navigation training was a prerequisite for graduation; the ability to read a map and navigate from one point to another was not.”
As a result, recent leader and soldier training do not encourage thinking and decision making. In fact, it often discourages it. Although the best instructors—and especially those recently returned from combat—take great efforts to explain to their soldiers why things were done a certain way, the program itself stressed only the mechanical application of tasks. Worse, the atmosphere established during some courses emphasized “total control.”
In some units, particularly basic training units extended beyond the point of usefulness, that atmosphere sometimes remained nearly until graduation. Drill sergeants yelled, while instructors at leader courses assumed the “know and be all” stance that prevented anyone from questioning their authority. Cadets, candidates, and junior officers, as well as soldiers, asked few questions, and infractions were answered by mass punishment, while education techniques are rote and boring. The process for training mobilized Guardsmen and Reservists was even more obsolete and narrow. Guardsmen and Reservists, many of whom had active component experience, were treated as if they had never trained their units, and training at the mobilization centers has continued to be lock step in compliance with First Army’s, FORSCOM, HQDA and CENTCOM training requirements for theater. Many Guardsmen and Reservists have stated “I’ll deploy again, but I never want to go through another mobilization center run by First Army.”
Young leaders and soldiers are not forced to work things out for themselves or to learn to be individually responsible. Not understanding why tasks are performed a certain way, they often fail to adapt properly to changed circumstances. Fortunately, thousands of leaders at the officer, NCO, and retired levels in the Army have recognized the downfalls of today’s training and education doctrine and are moving from the bottom up to fix it, better preparing tomorrow’s Army for the changing face of war.
End excerpt from Chapter 6.
Today, I am proud to be part of a small group of individuals, leaders that are pushing the Army to evolve its training and education approaches to include the overarching principles of OBTE. Fortunately, our efforts are paying off as more and more instructors, course directors, commanding generals and even U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) are beginning to embrace OBTE. In our opinion, and those who have discovered its vast pay off once they embraced OBTE and worked hard to implement it, the entire Army will benefit as it continues to face asymmetric threats in the 21st Century.