SQUAD: ASAT concept takes shape
March 28, 2012
By Vince Little
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- The Maneuver Center of Excellence has launched a pilot program aimed at turning Soldiers into battlefield detectors, capable of picking out battlefield anomalies before a surprise attack or ambush through behavior profiling skills.
Advanced Situational Awareness Training is designed to power leader development and build the human dimension part of the command's "Squad: Foundation of the Decisive Force" strategy, said Command Sgt. Maj. Steven McClaflin, the Infantry School's command sergeant major. ASAT is being taught directly to cadre and students in the Infantry and Armor Basic Officer Leader Courses, Infantry and Armor Advanced Leader Courses and the Maneuver Senior Leaders Course.
He said many basic skills the Army provides Soldiers are reactive in nature. ASAT's objective is to make leaders and troops more proactive, which will further enhance their ability to manage areas of operation. The course emphasizes understanding human behavior in different cultures and proactively forecasting actions based on trends and pattern analysis -- that will help dismounted squads get in front of would-be adversaries, the command sergeant major said.
"It's about not getting caught in a situation and understanding where the enemy is probably going to be at," he said. "It's using the things you have available … to provide you the situational awareness and probability of something happening."
Right now, the MCoE is trying to implement it into as many courses as possible, McClaflin said. It could even be extended to Soldiers in basic combat and one station unit training at some point.
ASAT's instruction period includes a four-hour familiarization or intensive five-day course, the Infantry School said. "Train-the-trainer" sessions will be offered over 22 days and given to key cadre and other instructors so they'll be able to integrate ASAT principles into their own training programs.
If the pilot is successful, McClaflin said officials plan to make the 40-hour ASAT class a requirement in the Advanced Leader Course, replacing combatives.
"It's that powerful, it's that easy to understand and comprehend," he said. "This really gives you a very simplistic look at how to approach situations from a different perspective. … You're looking at it through a different lens."
Through its "Squad: Foundation of the Decisive Force" initiative, the Army wants to turn dismounted tactical small units into overpowering forces at the point of attack and eliminate the enemy's comparable effectiveness on that level in today's evolving operational environment. The MCoE is the breeding ground for that philosophy.
"Part of the overmatch is providing Soldiers the ability to deny the enemy that first contact. (ASAT) provides us with the ability to identify the situation before it happens," McClaflin said. "We say every Soldier is a sensor. The lessons taught in ASAT can have a positive and lasting effect on combat readiness."
The behavior-profiling skills taught within the program are based on six key domains: heuristics, geographics, proxemics, biometrics, atmospherics and kinesics. He said each looks at the concept from a different approach.
"You start the critical-thinking process sitting outside a village. By understanding how to read people, you might be able to identify who's actually the leadership inside that village," he said. "Human behavior pattern analysis allows you to determine the optimal method and approach to take."
McClaflin said Advanced Situational Awareness Training has long-term ramifications for the MCoE and Army as a whole.
"In today's operating environment, there's no clearly defined front lines or rear echelon," he said. "All our Soldiers, no matter where they are, when they go outside the wire, they are executing some form of a combat patrol. It's equally important for every Soldier … to understand the situation and environment they're operating in, so they can protect the force and themselves.
"It provides better cultural awareness and could help us protect civilians on the battlefield, as well as our own ground combat forces. … We want to teach our Soldiers how to think, not what to think, and this is part of that process."
Behavior Profiling 101
The behavior-profiling skills taught within the Advanced Situational Awareness Training program are based on six key domains:
• Heuristics makes use of things already known to develop a tactical shortcut that elicits just enough information to draw a reasonable conclusion. It acts as the "lens," helping point out the safe and focus on the dangerous so military personnel can be proactive in their pursuits.
• Geographics focuses on how terrain -- specifically anchor points, habitual areas and natural lines of drift in both urban and rural locales -- creates measurable and detectable patterns within any environment. Understanding how an opponent uses or is familiar with the geographics of a battle space can promote predictive analysis on how, where and when the enemy will most likely strike.
• Proxemics gives Soldiers awareness of how proximity negates skill and how people interact with each other when they are in groups. Through the skills taught in this domain, troops will have the tools to better spot "high-value individuals and targets" on the battlefield.
• Biometrics involves more than computer or machine-generated images, retinal or iris scans, and fingerprinting. In behavior profiling, it includes observable and measurable psychological signals given off by an insurgent attempting to hide within and among the civilian population, either in theater or the U.S.
• Atmospherics consists of the smells, tastes and sights of an area, to include bullet holes, rubble, tattoos, colors, flags, bumper stickers and graffiti. This domain also accounts for the feel of an area; when Soldiers have conducted daily patrols along a route for months, they gain the ability to "feel" if something is amiss -- this is the essence of atmospherics.
• Kinesics refers to body language or paralanguage, by which one can determine whether a person is angry, sad, violent, deceitful or in other emotional states that can be assessed at any observable distance. When combined with an understanding of host-nation culture, emotional indicators can help Soldiers skilled in kinesics determine whether a situation is or may turn violent or dangerous.
Source: U.S. Army Infantry School