Embedded Performance Experts have had a big impact on performance according to Lt. Col. John Ordonio, Commander of the 91st Brigade Engineer Battalion at Fort Hood, Texas.
During the 2020 Performance Psychology Summit Nov. 12-13, Ordonio and Jason Kampinga, Master Resilience Trainer, from the Fort Hood R2 Performance Center, explained how embedding a Performance Expert into the 91st BEB helped improve performance.
Ordonio said he decided to embed Performance Experts into his Bradley Fighting Vehicle Unit because he was seeing crews fail their qualification (Gunnery) rounds and saw the benefits of addressing the problem by having Kampinga and his team embedded within the unit.
“We met with Lt. Col. Ordonio and established our goals to increase lethality, survivability and deployability,” Kampinga said.
One challenge to the team was providing support to 175 troopers in a unit that was busy with training and deploying. So, Kampinga and his team had to address the Unit’s Mission Essential Task Lists in order to align their goals with the troopers.
“The team consisted of just four PEs and that would decrease to two over time,” said Kampinga. “The post is spread out over 332 miles and the Battalion supports other units as well as the training areas. We really could have 12 PEs to better serve the Soldiers.”
However, getting Soldiers into the right mindset was critical for success.
“First step in the process was to establish buy-in. It took four months to really fit into the unit by observing, establishing one-on-one relationships, and building that trust that is needed,” said Kampinga.
“The PE helps alleviate the problems the unit is facing,” said Kampinga. “The PE has to learn and adapt to the unit setting; establish rapport with the members of the unit; develop trust; and have Soldiers feel comfortable coming to you for help.”
“You have to circulate within the unit and make yourself known and try to know each member,” he added. “Do daily walk-throughs of the squad so you have situational awareness and can see changes among unit members as they occur. This was the only way that I could be an asset to the Unit’s METL’s.”
“I am proud of our success because of the EPEs. All crew members qualified first time and some were distinguished,” said Ordonio.
“More coins and awards are now being presented so morale is very high,” Kampinga said.
“Embedded Performance Experts (EPEs) helped Soldiers understand the intent of their training and encouraged them to put in more effort as opposed to merely going through the motions,” he said. “(We’re) building a culture of ‘practice makes permanent,’ meaning the more one practices with purpose, the more training with purpose becomes automatic.”
Kampinga said observing the components on a regular basis allows the team to provide resources better tailored toward 91st BEB specifically. He said demonstrating to the unit that the EPE team has bought-in to their mission objectives creates a mutual bond of respect and trust between the EPEs and the Soldiers, which allows for open discussions about mentorship, trust, and group cohesion, creating more optimal performance outcomes as a result.
“When under stress, we can guide Soldiers on how to calm yourself down so you can work the problem out while the crew is going through their training,” said Kampinga. “The EPE can offer immediate feedback and praise when cues are used effectively to aid in performance.”
Kampinga said being embedded allowed the EPE team to provide feedback in ways beyond what PEs have done previously.
“Being present, having immediate conversations and building rapport within the unit has had an impact on the 91st BEB Troopers—one that will lead to better resilient Soldiers,” he said.
The 2020 Psychology Performance Summit was hosted by the Consortium for Health and Military Performance and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.