The Soldiers of 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team "Greywolf", 1st Cavalry Division participated in Umbrella Week activities March 27-29 here.
According to Army Regulation 11-33, "Army Lessons Learned Program," an Umbrella Week is scheduled by brigade-level units or higher "within 6 weeks of completion of major deployments or CTC (Combat Training Center) rotations in order to share lessons and best practices supporting the transfer of operating force knowledge and facilitating changes to DOTMLPF-P (Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, Facilities and Policy) and capability development.
"The purpose of Umbrella Week is two-fold," said Sean Mahan, capabilities manager for live training support with Training and Doctrine Command. "It gives us the chance to come in and capture the relevant information that we need from a unit right after a deployment, so it's still fresh with them, and it also gives us a window where we know we're not impacting training."
The week included visits from TRADOC, the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) and the Consumer Research Team. The teams collected data and information from the junior Soldier all the way up to senior leaders within the Brigade.
Soldiers met with the different agencies, sometimes in a focus group type setting or sometimes individually. The agencies then facilitated discussion based on the experience of that particular group. This method allows the agencies to capture a wide-range of information and then apply it to their particular purposes.
"The fact that these guys are actually listening and will take this information back and try to implement those changes; that's the most important thing that will come out of this for me," said Capt. David Hale, commander of B Co., 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment.
The team from CALL begins preparing for Umbrella Week weeks in advance in order to identify the critical information that they need to capture.
"We take a look at what their mission set was downrange. We take a look at the patch chart to see who is in the chute and then look to see who is there currently," said Jose Cajina an analyst in the tactical branch at CALL. "We then take a look back at previous units and identify lessons learned from those units and then begin creating a collection plan."
"When we do our collection plan there are a couple of things that go in there." said Capt. David Beale an analyst for CALL. "We pull the unit AAR, which is uploaded to the joint unit lessons learned system. That informs us on what 3/1 did, and what we want to ask questions on. And then we also took the Army warfighting challenges, so the things the Department of the Army is interested in. And then we took what each of us is working on. Jose is working on a battle staff NCO handbook, and I am working on a handbook for platoon leaders and platoon sergeants for their first 100 days."
The analysts from CALL then apply the information they gather to their specific product and share the rest with the other analysts at CALL to help inform their specific product.
Umbrella Week serves to support the abilities of the various agencies to gather the information they need, but it also serves to help the unit as well.
"It's important for the unit because so often you hear there is a disconnect between TRADOC and the maneuver units at the FORSCOM installations," said Mahan. "And this is where the units get to make that connection and say, 'Here is what is really going on down here.' There is the big power point slides of the way you think it's going to go, but when you get down to where the rubber meets the road it doesn't always work out that way."
For CALL, it isn't just about collecting information but also sharing information.
"We bring handbooks for the Soldiers to take. We also talk to them about the CALL.mil website and direct them toward additional resources," said Beale. "Some things we highlight are the [Combat Training Center] resource page and the [Request for Information] page, which allows units to reach back to us and ask questions."
Ultimately it is the end product that matters most to those who are providing the lessons learned and those who are gathering, compiling and utilizing those lessons.
"Anytime we can take lessons learned and get those out to the rest of the force just makes everything that much smoother," said Hale. "The benefit returns to us the next time we deploy and can reach out to learn from the Brigades that went before us."