By Kristin Molinaro, The BayonetApril 1, 2010
FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 1, 2010) -- The Army wants to develop critical thinkers who are better prepared for "hybrid" enemies and complex situations - such as those being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., commander of the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas-based U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, visited Fort Benning this week to assess how the new leader development strategy is being implemented.
A Leader Development Strategy for a 21st Century Army, published in November, lays out how the Army will transform its approach to training future leaders. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach built on well-defined problems, compressed time, attrition-based simulations and predictable enemies, leaders will now learn to master "ill-defined" problems with greater decentralization of capability and decision-making authority, the complexities of societal, religious, tribal and economic factors and the challenges of an extended campaign against an unpredictable threat.
The complex environment of today's wars "require leaders who are confident, versatile, adaptive and innovative," according to the strategy.
"The question is how are you going to create a learning environment that develops our leaders to be effective and thrive in a complex environment'" said Caslen, who's made implementation of the ALDS a priority since taking command in March. "What we are finding in the operations environment we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, is it requires junior leaders with decentralized operations in a very complex environment."
"The best way to work through these complex situations is with a very tight-knit unit that is intellectually adept - they've got to analyze the situation and be able to quickly recognize what actions are necessary ... they've got to be tremendously culturally astute and understand where elements of the fabric of society have been marginalized to see what it's going to take to get them integrated so they can be effective. These are the types of leaders we have to develop."
Fort Benning was the first stop on a tour that includes visits to Fort Gordon, Ga.; Fort Huachuca Ariz.; and the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif.
While here, Caslen visited the U.S. Army Combatives School, the Maneuver Captain's Career Course and the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation to see how current doctrine is being integrated into the classroom.
Caslen said his dialog with MCCC students was informative and encouraging.
"The MCCC is a phenomenal opportunity for captains - many of whom have had at least one if not two or three combat rotations - to sit together with their peers and reflect on what they've experienced and share lessons learned," Caslen said. "I'm interested in their thoughts about how you create an Army that maximizes decentralized operations, but doesn't maximize and push all risk down to the lowest level."
Caslen said two objectives in talking with the captains was to discuss how to use new, attractive technology to increase learning opportunities while overcoming resource constraints and the issue of investigations that hold leaders accountable for their actions in combat based on lessons learned during the past eight years of full-spectrum operations.
"As a senior leader, I'm deeply concerned that we don't create a risk-adverse Army," he said. "Their thoughts about what's happening in our Army and how they are reacting to it are very important ... I was encouraged. I would've been very discouraged if I'd seen them throw their hands up and say, 'listen, we are creating a risk-adverse Army and I don't want to be a part of it.'"
Caslen said ALDS annexes for NCOs, officers, warrant officers and civilians that cover the ways and means of accomplishing the strategy have been submitted to the Training and Doctrine Command for review and are expected to "hit the streets" shortly.
To download the ALDS, visit