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Lt. Col. Rustan Swichtenberg, Fort Sill Air Force Detachment commander, greets Gen. Robert Cone, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command commanding general, as they enter the Joint Fires Observer facility June 8 at the Fires Center of Excellence.

FORT SILL, Okla.--Less than six weeks into command and already Gen. Robert Cone, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command commanding general, has visited the Fires Center of Excellence twice and is impressed with the high level of training taking place here.

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.

He said more time is focused 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, it is not the best use of training for today's fight.

"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.

In 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 and immersive classrooms complete with sounds, smells and even temperatures at the Joint Fires and Effects Trainer System.

"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.

Cone discussed his initiatives for his time in command including one 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.

He expanded on his "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 those high standards should be applied to a Soldier who also has to make extremely tough decisions in combat.

"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."

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.

Page last updated Mon June 13th, 2011 at 09:33