By NICK DUKESeptember 11, 2013
FORT BENNING, GA., (Sept. 11, 2013) -- The Maneuver Center of Excellence, in support of Armywide plans for leader development, has instituted the Maneuver Self-Study Program.
The program, which was identified by MCoE commanding general Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster as one of his initiatives in 2012, consists of books, articles, doctrine, films, lectures and practical application exercises to help educate maneuver leaders about the nature and character of war, as well as their responsibilities to prepare Soldiers for combat, lead them in battle, and accomplish the mission.
The online program includes an introduction and list of topics, as well as recommended publications for each topic, at the MSSP website at www.benning.army.mil/mssp/.
Participants in the program take part in discussion forums through the use of LinkedIn, a social networking website for people in professional occupations.
MCoE staff members can moderate the discussion forums and ensure discussions are productive and on topic.
The effort to build the program began roughly a year ago, said Lt. Col. John Argue, program manager.
A pilot program went online in March, with the first students using the program in May.
However, that pilot version of the program featured a major difference from the version that will be used going forward. "For a student to be able to access the program, they had to have a common access card and a computer that is CAC-card accessible," Argue said.
"It limits so many people, such as retirees who might want to be mentors. There are retirees who have published some of the documentation that is part of the program, and they weren't even able to participate."
At the behest of McMaster, Argue said the MSSP team eventually found a way to open the program to everyone through the use of online library collaborative tools and LinkedIn.
The public-facing version of the program went into its own brief pilot stage last week, with students from the Maneuver Captains Career Course using it and providing feedback before the program was unveiled Tuesday and made open to the public and operational force.
Already, Argue said the two pilot versions have shown there is a benefit to using the program in conjunction with pre-course required reading.
"What we're finding is that when students read those topics, it better prepares the student for in-class conversation," he said. "They're already ready to talk about the topic when they come in. Also, they've already collaborated. Even if they don't know each other, they've met each other virtually. It enhances the group dynamic before the class even starts."
All courses and commanders are now required to implement and promote MSSP, but Argue said how each organization chooses to do that is up to them.
"When we say implement, we're not talking about implementing it into the core instruction," Argue said. "You can't do that because instruction is rigid. To add something, you have to remove something. So, that's why we're doing it as pre-reading and we're following course material that's already in the program. The topics chosen should assist classroom discussion."
The topics chosen for the program were suggested by McMaster and his initiatives group. Argue said topics will be updated to ensure relevancy, and that other ways to improve the program are already in the works.
"One thing we're looking at is the incentive," Argue said. "Do the students see enough incentive to participate in the program? We know as leaders that the incentive is the habit of lifelong learning, but we need to make sure there's enough incentives for young sergeants or lieutenants to participate."
The program could also see expansion, and could be used for leader development exercises within various units.
"Commanders in the force are mandated to do leader development once per quarter," Argue said. "This is a package that will already be available that involves a low amount of planning. They'll already have the documents and topics that have questions to use or that lend themselves to creating new questions. ... It'll be there and set up for commanders that want to use it."
Argue said the program could also see expansion to an international level if it is well received.
"International liaison officers are taking on some topic management assistance, so they're helping us facilitate conversation with students," he said. "If the program grows, we'd like them to help us facilitate with students in other international militaries."