Warfighters' Forums: a new era in Army collaboration
March 13, 2009
FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- Taking advantage of today's technological advances was one of the initiatives that led to the inception of the Army's Warfighters' Forums. Now, Web-based, information-sharing collaborative forums are becoming an integral tool for Army commanders at all echelons.
"This is really an extension of Army operational knowledge management," said Brad Mason, chief of the Advanced Concepts Division for U.S. Army Forces Command.
"Warfighters' Forums expedite the harvesting, vetting and implementation of key lessons learned throughout the Army Force Generation process."
Mason has played a large role in the promotion and growth of Warfighters' Forums.
"This program brought together the right people and processes to create watershed change to the way the Army will resolve key issues," Mason said. "It takes on the daunting doctrine and training development challenges we face now and in the future."
Begun at Fort Lewis, Wash., in late 2005, the first Warfighters' Forum (originally called Stryker University), was developed as a tool for new Stryker units to communicate and share information. After growing success within the Stryker community, the potential was recognized for the same capabilities to be used Armywide.
In late 2006, FORSCOM Commander Gen. Charles C. Campbell and then-Training and Doctrine Command Commander Gen. William S. Wallace saw a demonstration of the Stryker University at Fort Lewis and decided the program would be beneficial to the rest of the Army. In spring of 2007, a brainstorming session was held at Fort Lewis, which led to the expansion of the program into what is today.
"In 2007, the concept was way ahead of the technical capabilities," said Mason of the way the Information Technology for the forum is still being developed. "But now, we are starting to catch up."
The Warfighters' Forum homepage on Army Knowledge Online features upcoming events, photos, videos, announcements, newsletters and links to all of the individual Warfighter pages.
Each of the subordinate forums delve deeper and include chats, blogs, live online discussions, file shares and internal senior mentor symposiums - all tools to help resolve problems and share pertinent information.
"Being online reinforces the ways current and future generations of Soldiers communicate," said Mason. "Our adversaries are extremely effective at networking, and we have to be even better at it."
While the technology portion of the Warfighters' Forum has improved greatly in recent months, Mason stressed that online capabilities are not what make the forums so successful.
"It's easy to become enamored with technology," Mason said. "But we have downplayed the technology and emphasized the fact that people are sharing information effectively."
Warfighters' Forums directly contributed to recent changes in Army doctrine and tactics, including lessons learned for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, input to the Brigade Combat Team Holistic Review process and collaboration on Improvised Explosive Device countermeasures.
"Warfighters' Forums are an effective way to deal with a very complex and dynamic operational environment," Mason explained.
In the future, Mason would like to see the Warfighter sites more fully integrated with SharePoint software, and the inclusion of Web pages tailored to each individual Soldier in the Army.
Each command conducts online senior mentor symposiums or live Web sessions as needed, many averaging about once every six weeks.
For more information, log on to AKO, click on "Army Select Links" (near the bottom of the homepage), and then "ACOM Warfighters' Forum."