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Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2011

Inaugural symposium strengthens bond with Columbus State

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The Maneuver Center of Excellence took steps to promote the Army Learning Concept for 2015 and build its relationship with Columbus State University during a two-day conference on campus last month.

The inaugural Learning and Technology Symposium was aimed at getting Infantry and Armor course leaders to change mindsets and think in different ways within their respective curriculums. It also explored how technology can improve Army training. CSU hosted the symposium June 29-30.

“This goes beyond how we train in the generating force. It’s changing how we learn and adapt as an Army,” said Jay Brimstin, deputy director of the Training and Doctrine directorate. “But it’s more than just how we do instruction in the schoolhouse. Traditionally, there’s been a firewall between learning that goes on in the operational force and learning in the schoolhouse. One of our big goals was to help blur that line.”

More than 250 people attended the opening session, while Day Two featured participants from Fort Benning and the university in smaller breakout forums.

From Fort Benning’s perspective, the symposium was set up to expand leaders’ beliefs about what the Army Learning Concept means to the MCoE and their particular course, Brimstin said. Soldiers who attended went there with a certain understanding of course execution and the types of changes they needed to make for the ALC, but got exposed to fresh training-delivery methods. “Most people left the symposium thinking a little bit differently,” he said. “Now, internally, maybe they can generate new ideas and new directions.”

Brimstin said the ALC is an important part of the Army’s effort to drive change through its Campaign of Learning. It describes an education environment envisioned for 2015 and seeks to develop learning models by leveraging technology without sacrificing standards.

Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, the MCoE and Fort Benning commanding general, spoke at the symposium. Top university representatives included CSU President Dr. Timothy S. Mescon and retired Lt. Gen. Carmen Cavezza, executive director of the Cunningham Center for Leadership Development.

John Fuller, a former Fort Benning chief of staff who now works at CSU and served as symposium chairman, said the university gained greater awareness about the activities going on at the post.

“The hope we all had was to increase appreciation for what the other contributes to the community,” he said. “It allowed senior leaders, NCOs and officers to come here and rub elbows with some of our professors.”

He said CSU can share distance-learning concepts with the MCoE, while ALC 2015 stands to benefit from the computer science department’s technological expertise.

At the symposium, for instance, the Army discussed conducting more 3-D immersive training via live, virtual and gaming simulations. Fuller said very few studies have been done on whether that enhances learning speed or retention over a long period of time, but the university could possibly provide research benefiting both the Army and students completing coursework.

Brimstin said technology is an enabler that allows the Army to extend learning beyond the classroom. In a training environment, it creates numerous options for simulators.

“Simulation replicates the complexity. That’s very difficult to replicate in a live environment,” he said. “Simulators also allow for multiple repetitions. You’re simply resetting a computer, so the cost savings is significant.”

MCoE leaders tout a blended, interactive training program designed for the 21st-century maneuver Soldier.

Based on that concept, an avatar would be created for everyone entering the Army. Linked to goals and performance, it will reflect their characteristics and abilities stemming from the Army physical fitness test, weapons skills and other qualifications. The avatar card stays with the Soldier throughout his or her career and gets updated regularly.

As the Army works to implement the ALC, Brimstin said 2015 isn’t an “end state.”

“We have to continue to evolve how we approach learning throughout a Soldier’s career,” he said. “The enemy will keep adapting, so we have to as well.”

Plans are for the MCoE and CSU to co-host next year’s Learning and Technology Symposium. It’s tentatively scheduled for November 2012.

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