Situational awareness training develops critical thinking skills for soldiers
By Sgt. Austan OwenAugust 13, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCChord, Wash. - Villagers in a small desert town play a lively impromptu game of soccer in an open courtyard. A half-mile away soldiers manning an observation post scan the town through binoculars. Suddenly gunshots ring out in the town and almost immediately a radio transmission is made.
"Tactical operations center this is OP1. There have been shots fired. It looks like they are celebratory shots. No one is hurt."
"OP1 this is the TOC, continue to observe and report, TOC out."
Soldiers with the 14th Engineer Battalion participated in Advanced Situational Awareness Training at Point du Hoc on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Aug. 1. The training prepares soldiers for future contingency operations, teaching them how to react and assess threats during conflict.
A training team traveled from Fort Benning, Ga., to teach approximately 60 soldiers assigned to 14th Engineer Battalion. The soldiers spent time in the classroom learning to observe others and identifying non-verbal queues. Then they moved to Point du Hoc mockup village for hands on training. The soldiers spent the day and night observing role players, interpreting their actions and reporting their findings to higher headquarters.
A major focus of the training was to teach soldiers how to observe human behavior patterns, identify a threat, take action if necessary and report.
The instructors wanted the students to be fully cognizant of all actions of the villagers and their mission impacts. The training provides soldiers with a holistic approach to make predictions of future human behavior and plan potential courses of action, instead of a reactive approach to a destructive act.
Atlanta native, Spc. Nicholas Lawson, 22nd Engineer Clearance Company, said he wishes he had taken this training before his previous deployment.
"I see some things now that I know I definitely missed then. They have taught us how to tell who's in charge by paying attention to who's giving direction, the way they stand, the way they promote themselves. It would have made a big difference especially during key leader engagements with our platoon," he added.
Lawson said it is imperative for soldiers to be able to recognize differences in a situation after observing it over a period of time.
He said the soldiers would be able to set a baseline for what is normal, identify the anomalies through observation and then make a decision.
Knowing what is going on and understanding the key factors that make up a soldier's environment can mean the difference between life and death in a war zone. This idea is at the forefront of Lt. Col. Douglas Brown's mind, commander 14th Engineer Battalion, as he prepares to deploy the 22nd ECC to Afghanistan later this year.
"The skills the soldiers can learn from this can absolutely be applied to route clearance," the Winston-Salem, N.C., native said. "I think what this training will do is put these soldiers at a much higher level of situational awareness, so they can get to the graduate level faster and it won't take as long through the period of deployment for them to realize that they need to pay attention."