FORT STEWART, Ga. — The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division is looking for Soldiers to solve problems and innovate in their day-to-day duties and at all organization levels, updating antiquated systems, enhancing effective training or creating more efficient operations and processes. Called the Marne Think Tank, a diverse team has been assembled to help modernize every aspect of the nation’s only armored division east of the Mississippi River. The division’s most senior leaders are bringing creative Soldiers together, regardless of rank or years of experience, to present ideas in the hopes of leaving no opportunities unaddressed.
“The Marne Think Tank is an informal network of people in the division who are interested in doing innovations or making changes to problems they face every day and creative people who can come up with solutions to help fix those problems or challenges,” said Maj. Dominic Pileri, the Chief of Innovations at 3rd ID. “This is a survey of interest that says, ‘those things that you’re facing every day, are they harder than they should be?’ Most people say ‘yes’ to that question and then we invite them to come attend this.”
The program looks for creative Soldiers who are critical thinkers and think outside the box when addressing issues. They are also looking for Soldiers who may already possess technical skills, whether it’s through formal education or personal hobbies in areas such as software, designing phone apps, coding or robotic engineering. The Marne Think Tank provides Soldiers an opportunity to get together with a community of like-minded Soldiers from across 3rd ID that are motivated to contribute to the nation’s ground force of the future.
The program creators say the Soldiers facing daily challenges within the division are most likely to be junior enlisted Soldiers, the ones in the motor pools, sitting in the turrets, and at training ranges. Soldiers who can develop creative solutions to improve their organization are specifically the ones for which the Marne Think Tank are looking.
While the Army focuses on large-scale modernization efforts, the Marne Think Tank focuses on the smaller processes at unit level. The smaller bugs at unit level might not get as much attention, but still might have a significant impact on day-to-day operations and Soldier’s morale.
“The Marne Think Tank will help us identify problems the units are facing faster at the smallest level,” said Capt. Ben McFarlin, the Deputy Innovations Officer for 3rd ID. “Having a forum like this where a lot of people are able to come and highlight these issues to us directly, it helps them to bridge that gap a lot faster than they would have if they were voicing this to a platoon sergeant or other people that are very well intentioned, but might not necessarily have the ability to affect that change quite as quickly as we can from division.”
Innovation fosters a culture of development for Soldiers by giving them technical skills learned through education. It also makes their units more efficient and lethal by giving time back to warfighters to devote to readiness. Those benefits contribute to any missions the Marne Division receives, whether it’s deploying, conducting garrison operations, or modernizing the force.
At the moment, the Marne Think Tank program is pursuing an education path on how to apply problem curation and design thinking to problems across the division. Every member of the program receives information on expanded training opportunities, both online or in-person, in order to become a conduit of information for their other Soldiers. There is also an ongoing effort to bring Soldiers to Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta in January for an innovation workshop where they will interact with students and academia from across the country.
The Marne Think Tank conducts formal meetings at Club Stewart once a month with smaller working groups that meet twice a month. Program creators said a future goal is to establish a computer lab and makerspace where Soldiers can meet each other more frequently and collaborate on initiatives. Eventually, the Marne Think Tank will start making the division’s training and systems more effective with its informal network of Soldiers. The Marne Think Tank’s goals are to foster an innovative culture and continue the education of the division’s Soldiers.
“We’re trying to put the word out that we value everybody’s opinion and realize that there are very smart, skilled people at every rank,” said McFarlin. “We value their skills, input and want to hear from them.”