FORT SILL, Okla. - Less than six weeks into his Command at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. Robert Cone visited the Fires Center of Excellence and is impressed with the high level of training that is taking place.
GEN Cone visited June 7-8 and discussed the future of the Army, starting from the ground up with basic trainees.
"I think we've made a lot of improvements in recent years in terms of making basic training more challenging and more similar to combat," said Cone, which is a key idea of the Army in 2020, one of TRADOC's focus areas.
He said more time is spent on tasks that equate to how the Army functions in a combat environment and less on the ritual of drill sergeants screaming into the face of privates performing trivial tasks. Cone said while the latter method was effective, there are better ways to train and for and introduce Soldiers into the Profession of Arms.
"The reality of it is, life is hard. Life in a combat zone is hard. So I'd rather point at these youngsters and give them more significant challenges and have leaders do what they do in combat, which is to enable our Soldiers to accomplish the task," said Cone.
During Initial Entry Training and beyond Cone said the manner of training needs to change. With wide spread use of technology, educational material can move faster than in the past and those entering the military are more attuned to that type of learning.
"If you're going to do chemistry you've got to know the periodic table, there's no way around it in terms of mastering the basics of knowledge. But now we don't need to sit in a classroom and have someone pound them at us. The way you do it now is you get an app and you give it to these kids and they sit somewhere and they come back and they've got mastery of it," said Cone.
As a result Cone said higher cognitive tasks can be achieved.
He saw firsthand how technology is being used at Fort Sill with simulators at the Joint Fires Observer course. Immersive classrooms are complete with sounds, smells and even temperatures at the Joint Fires and Effects Trainer System. Simulation and gaming technology have been used by TRADOC for years to replicate the conditions of combat. This assist in reducing the costs of training materials, and allow for flexibility, not only in types of training scenarios, but also in time allowing troops can take the training at their own pace.
"It's not always possible to take people out to the National Training Center and bring in hundreds of Arab speakers and have artillery simulators going off, but if we can do this through simulation, we can make it more realistic and better training for Soldiers."
Cone said there are also app pilot programs being used at other training posts and he is looking into new technology to further this type of training Army-wide as a way to build knowledge, skills and attributes of the 21st Century Soldier.
Cone discussed the initiatives he will focus on during his time in command to include focusing on the tactical small unit. His goal is to further develop leadership in those noncommissioned officers and officers, arming them with more knowledge and leaving them less vulnerable while fighting on the ground.
"When we go into Afghanistan or when you go into urban terrain, war is still a very human process and it's about guys on the ground. It's your son or daughter. How has the United States Army enabled them to have any better chance of surviving an engagement with a bad guy than in World War II, or Korea or Vietnam?" posed Cone.
He said by simply reinvesting in leadership training those small tactical units will become the strongest link in the chain and overall it will strengthen the entire force.
"Young leaders in our Army today, in my view, are the best we have had in my 32 years. They are the most combat experienced and most combat tested young people that we have seen throughout my time," said Cone referencing the Soldiers who will lead the Army in 2020.
He expanded on the Profession of Arms Campaign, likening the responsibility of a Soldier in war to the responsibility of a doctor in a hospital. The medical professional has to go through rigorous tests to make sure they can be entrusted with the care of a patient. Cone believes high standards should be applied to a Soldier who also has to make extremely tough decisions in combat. The Profession of Arms Campaign is one of the driving forces behind the Army in 2020, and the campaign at Fort Sill is centered around small units and how they might employ fires in 2020.
He also touched on joint fires and ensuring the best land delivered fires will come from posts such as the Fires Center of Excellence. He added that while lessons learned in combat are crucial, there is always the need to adapt to new situations and problems that will arise in the future.
"When push comes to shove and we have to use violence, a controlled level of violence on behalf of national interest, you have a professional Soldier who has to make the decisions that are necessary to use it. It has to be based on standards. It has to be based on collateral damage and following the rules of land warfare."