"A bad guy is a bad guy anywhere in the world," said Joe Robinson, senior instructor for an Advanced Situational Awareness mobile training team that taught the class at Fort Wainwright, Alaska Sept. 5-24. "Once you've stripped away all of the differences in the environment and culture, the things we almost can't help focusing on, we'll be able to spot the abnormal behavior or anomalies in an environment that will alert us to a possible threat and give us the ability to control the situation, instead of reacting once it's too late."
In early 2012 the Army launched a pilot program aimed at turning the U.S. Soldier, already proficient in kinetic warfare, into a highly observant and actively perceptive battlefield evaluator capable of detecting the almost invisible clues that could make them aware of, and thus able to anticipate and respond to, planned enemy action before a bullet is fired or an explosive device triggered.
The Army calls it Advanced Situational Awareness Training, and Soldiers from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division conducted ASAT at Fort Wainwright's Combined Arms Centralized Training Facility.
"The purpose of this training is to become situationally aware of everything going on," said Chase Ford, an ASAT instructor. "Humans are the same all over the world; they act the same in certain situations, and we're teaching students how to analyze and process the human behavior they observe."
The five-day course consists of three days of classroom instruction followed by two days of in-the-field practice. Topics included human behavior pattern recognition and analysis and spotting behavior anomalies in any situation or environment.
"In the classroom we teach them about how humans think and how the brain interprets what the eye records and ultimately how to use this knowledge to increase awareness of any situational shifts in the environment that could indicate a possible threat," said Ford. "Often we will see something, but we don't know what we're looking at because we've never seen it before."
One of the main points of classroom instruction is that people are the same anywhere in the world; it is only the culture that is different.
"What we're doing is helping students understand the process the brain is going through and be able to verbalize things they may have just experienced as a feeling of unease or a gut reaction to something they observed but didn't really understand."
The instructors showed students in the class how to see past the differences to the similarities that can reveal the real picture.
"Having this training before I deployed would have helped out tremendously," said Sgt. Joseph Celeste, a team leader in B Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1-25 SBCT. "You're more aware of the big picture, all the things that are really going on. Your view of a situation isn't as one dimensional anymore and you're able to better predict all of the possibilities in a combat scenario."
The focus of this training session was to enable battalion intelligence and operations personnel to operate with a common understanding of challenges 1-25 SBCT Soldiers may face while deployed. However, all Soldiers stand to benefit from the course in the future.
"This kind of information will help you anywhere, not only in combat," said 1st Lt. Joshua Sandler, a platoon leader in B Company, 1-5th IN, 1-25 SBCT. "Heightening the awareness of Soldiers on the ground is going to benefit any type of operation, and I think we should all get this training."