GEN Martin Dempsey TRADOC commander
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command commanding general, spoke with Marty Kauchak of Military Training Technology for their July 2010 issue. Below is the interview about how TRADOC is using technology to train for future op... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

This article was reposted with permission from Military Training Technology and KMI Media Group. To view the publication, go here:

General Martin E. Dempsey assumed duties as commander, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command on December 8, 2008. Prior to serving in his current assignment, he served as the deputy commander and then acting commander, U.S. Central Command from August 2007 to October 2008. In August 2005, he assumed command of Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq until the summer of 2007. Before that assignment, Dempsey commanded the 1st Armored Division and in June of 2003 deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. After completing 14 months in Iraq, Dempsey redeployed the division to Germany and completed his command tour in July of 2005. From September 2001 to June 2003, Dempsey served in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the program manager, Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program.

Dempsey graduated from the United States Military Academy and was commissioned as an armor officer in June of 1974. He first served in the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment as a Scout and Support platoon leader and squadron adjutant. Since then, Dempsey has commanded at all levels, including command of the 4th Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Division and command of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. He has served in multiple other leadership positions, including executive officer at both the battalion and brigade levels including the 3rd Armored Division, with whom he deployed in support of both Operations Desert Shield/Storm. Dempsey has held other staff positions including chief of the Armor Branch at the U.S. Total Army Personnel Command. He also served as the assistant deputy director for Politico-Military Affairs Europe and Africa J-5 and special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.

In August of 1982, Dempsey began studies at Duke University, earning a Master of Arts in English, and upon completion in 1984 was assigned to the English Department at West Point. He performed duties as an instructor and later assistant professor in the department. He was subsequently assigned to Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he earned a master's degree in military art and science. He continued his studies at the National War College in 1995, earning a master's in national security and strategic studies.

Dempsey's awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star with "V" Device, the Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge.

General Dempsey and his wife Deanie have three children; Chris, Megan and Caitlin, all of whom have served in the United States Army. Chris remains on active duty.

Q: How has the Army learned and adapted over eight years of war and what does that mean for the future training environment'

A: Well, we've been in an eight-year fight with adaptive adversaries, and we have learned a great deal. And we've acted on that learning. Importantly, we've learned that we must be a force that's grounded in fundamentals relevant to threats across the full spectrum of conflict. It can't be just be the fundamentals of major combat operations, or counterinsurgency fundamentals, or peacekeeping fundamentals.

Of necessity, today's training focus is primarily on the next deployment's mission requirements, notably on preparing for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. We've demonstrated that we do many, even most, things very well, but we've also identified some gaps in our preparation for a broader set of missions-for example, "larger" unit mounted maneuver over extended distances and establishing the C2, logistics and the intelligence architectures to support it. In TRADOC, we've been ramping up through a series of initiatives, doctrinal updates, concepts and strategies to broaden our focus. We're anticipating and now managing a transition for our Army that must be better prepared for full spectrum operations in an era of persistent conflict against hybrid threats and uncertain future challenges. As a learning organization, our next logical step is to reframe the fundamentals and determine how we produce them inside the institutional schoolhouse, at home station and at the combat training centers.

Our learning has been demonstrated in adaptations to our most important operations doctrine, FM 3-0, and the introduction of full spectrum operations. In FM 3-0, we stress the need to be able to simultaneously conduct offense, defense and stability operations and to react to all forms of contact. We will release another update to this manual that introduces the concept of mission command to provide a capability and framework to more fully leverage the potential of decentralized operations. The recent release of FM 5-0, the Operations Process, represents a major shift in how we develop adaptive leaders through the introduction of design. The goal here is to develop leaders who do not think linearly, but who instead seek to understand the complexity of problems before seeking to solve them. Design gives leaders the cognitive tool to "understand" complex problems as part of the "Visualize, Understand, Decide, Direct" responsibilities of the commander.

We also intend to roll out a revised FM 7-0, Training for Full Spectrum Operations, that will define our full spectrum mission essential task list [METL]. This will establish a single METL for proficiency in the fundamentals and encourage leaders at echelon to enter into the discourse necessary to prioritize constrained training resources. FM 7-0 states that "good leaders understand that they cannot train on everything. Therefore, they focus on training the most important tasks. Leaders do not accept substandard performance in order to complete all the tasks on the training schedule. Training a few tasks to standard is preferable to training more tasks below the standard." Said another way, quality must override quantity.

Our chief of staff, General George Casey, has charged TRADOC with the task of implementing a new Army leader development strategy. The strategy establishes three paradigm shifts based upon what we've learned over the past eight years of war and establishes a new baseline for developing leaders by cohort and at echelon. When the unexpected occurs, good leaders will innovate and adapt. And their units, if grounded and extremely proficient in a select number of tasks, can and will adapt as well.

TRADOC will also roll out the Army's Training and a revised Learning Concepts over the next year. Both of these documents speak to providing a rigorous and relevant environment that allows our 21st century Army to train smarter under variable conditions to a select set of full spectrum mission essential tasks. If we're true to our claim to be an expeditionary, campaign-quality, full spectrum force, then our METL is the constant and the conditions are the variable in our training.

In summary, we think that the future security environment will be increasingly competitive. In an environment of increased competition, the dimension where we have to prevail is the competitive learning environment. If we prevail in the competitive learning environment, we'll be able to make the kinds of adaptations and innovations that we need to stay ahead.

Q: You stated the imperative to prevail in the competitive learning environment. Can you expand on what you are doing in TRADOC to enable that'

A: We actually have a number of initiatives ongoing and a tremendous amount of energy focused on that question. For our learning model, we're framing how we need to adapt to meet the demands of the Army as it achieves a 1:2 BOG [boots on the ground]/dwell [time spent between deployments] and eventually a 1:3 BOG/dwell ratio. We know we have to replicate the complexity of the operational environment and challenge junior leaders who have come out of the fight where they had incredible resources at their disposal. And we have to meet the learning demands of a generation of soldiers that are accustomed to technology being at the core of everything they do in their life.

So our challenge then is how to prepare. We truly have to transform training and leader development, and that means leveraging technology like never before. We can't afford to go back to the way we did it before 9/11, if we're going to prevail in the learning environment or remain relevant to our soldiers for that matter. One of the major initiatives we're leading to address this challenge is an effort I already mentioned-"The Army Learning Concept 2015."

This concept will describe the learning environment we envision in 2015. It's about improving our learning model by leveraging technology without sacrificing standards so we can provide rigorous and relevant training and education in the future learning environment. It also describes a continuum of learning from the time soldiers are accessed until the time they retire.

One thing that's pretty clear to all of us is that responsibility for developing soldiers in this learning continuum will be a shared responsibility-sometimes TRADOC will be responsible for their development and sometimes it will be the responsibility of the operational force, and the individual will always have a responsibility. Technology should, if we leverage it correctly, allow us to share the responsibility for learning over the course of a career.

The other thing it describes is a learning environment that has changed dramatically over the past few years. One small example is the introduction of the iPhone a couple of years ago, followed by Droid and now the iPad. There's no doubt in my mind that we'll continue to experience these dramatic improvements in technology in the years to follow. It's now about appealing to multiple senses [touch, see, hear], about personal content and about mobile access. It's about meeting the learning demands and catching up to the generation of soldiers following us.

But to be clear, we aren't focused on the instruments, but rather the opportunities presented by mobile learning. We're focused on ease of access to applications as an imperative of learning and a move toward a blend of physical and virtual collaborative environments. We are focusing more than ever on the learning outcomes we seek and on producing applications to support those outcomes. We need to be device-agnostic. What we want to do is become the application store. Instruments will come and go, so we are focusing hard on understanding what we must deliver personto- person and what we can deliver by other means.

And it's not just in the learning environment where we are seeking to leverage this approach. We also have programs ongoing to figure out how we get this mobile capability to our soldiers in the fight. It is really about empowering the edge of our formations.

Q: As a follow-up, compare the 2010 and 2015 TRADOC training environments in terms of the balance among the live, virtual, constructive and serious gaming domains, and the value added of this technology application to current TRADOC training.

A: That's a great question and a topic I'm pressing hard within TRADOC as we move away from a 20th century learning model into one that's much more relevant to today's learning environment. Let me offer up what I think is a useful example to reinforce why I think it is so critical that we adapt our learning model. If you Google MMOG, the first result takes you to a Wikipedia page that describes it as a "massive multiplayer online role playing game." One game in particular is called World of Warcraft. It's an interactive game that establishes guilds or teams made up of individuals from across the globe. As a part of the game, you establish a proficiency level over time based upon your manner of performance and particular skills. You recruit, plan, prepare and execute as a collaborative team and then you conduct an after action review when the game is complete. Sounds very familiar to what we do in the military, doesn't it' My point in sharing this example is not necessarily to advocate for this particular medium of learning, although we intend to develop a MMOG for the military, but simply to make the case that the generation of soldiers today just learns differently. We can ignore it and resist it as an institution or we can be for what's going to happen. The question I always ask myself is-how do you remain relevant to the kids that are serving in our formations today' How do you embrace their inquisitive nature and provide learning experiences that can stimulate more than one sense' The era of the sage on the stage bludgeoning a student population with PowerPoint is over, so we better figure out how to enrich our soldiers' learning experiences in a way that challenges them and is consistent with who they are and what they expect. As one of our country's architects, John Adams, was fond of saying-facts are stubborn things. And the facts are clear that soldiers today are already using technology to learn differently, via Internet searches, crowd developed content and leader development tools like the MMOG. Since TRADOC trains over a half-million soldiers per year, including all initial military training for enlisted soldiers and officers, the challenge is to leverage the value of virtual, constructive and gaming environments so we don't disenfranchise them by applying stale or outdated learning models.

Q: It sounds like you're focused on leveraging technology, but what about live training environments to address your learning requirements'

A: I'm certainly not advocating the use of technology alone to address all our learning requirements. Our approach needs to apply a blended approach that considers what learning can best be applied using technology as an enabler and what learning must be live or hands-on.

Therefore, before we start moving too quickly down the path of technology, we must recognize the fundamental benefit of live training and education as critical to developing the skills and characteristics the Army needs. Our mission is distinctly human and requires individuals who are physically fit and possess expertise that has been committed to the level of muscle memory. In initial entry training, this is especially critical, since coaching and mentoring require personal interaction to inculcate the Army culture, values and warrior ethos, along with skills training and comprehensive soldier fitness. Many of the key aspects of this initial training experience must be grounded in rigorous physical exercises that remain the bedrock of developing new soldiers and junior leaders. This means we cannot become so enamored with technology that we lose sight of the importance of live learning experiences, where physical and interpersonal skills are honed through direct feedback from quality facilitators. The challenge is to use virtual, constructive, gaming and distributed learning technologies where they will have the greatest impact in taking our soldiers from novice to expert, at the point in time where learning is needed.

Q: Can you describe particular capabilities that have opened doors to TRADOC's vision for a new learning model for 2015'

A: As I'm sure this audience knows, TRADOC has a long history with virtual training environments such as simulations, and have for many years trained aviators, tank crews, as well as small unit tasks like gunnery or convoy operations using simulators. We have also used constructive simulations extensively for battle staff training. Additionally, commercial game engines are adding portability and capacity by creating virtual worlds that closely replicate operational scenarios. The Army fielded the Virtual Battlespace 2 [VBS2] game engine with a suite of tools for both units and the schoolhouse. Today, the Joint Training Counter IED Operations Integration Center can replicate any event in theater within about four days into a VBS2 scenario. This amazing capability adds current realism and relevance to any training experience and is rapidly available to units located around the world. The "training brain" of a 2015 learning environment must possess a capacity to quickly develop, update and distribute relevant common training scenarios to the force. This is what I like to call "reaching forward" to provide capabilities that can enhance our readiness, whether you're deployed, preparing to deploy or in the schoolhouse.

In 2015, the schoolhouse will use far more constructive, virtual and gaming technology to develop individual skills through a blended learning approach. This will form the basis for small group collaborative problem-solving exercises and for capstone course events, with individuals collaborating across networks linked to branch schools and regional learning centers (i.e. virtual operation centers or staff rides). As a part of our continuum of learning, many of the virtual experiences students encounter in TRADOC will carry over seamlessly to their next operational assignment to provide soldiers with a familiar experience across training domains. Scenarios at training bases will replicate actual operational events or be designed as simplified layers of training that can combine to increase complexity, thus creating progressively more challenging and realistic environments. Although life experiences build wisdom and an intuitive ability to size up situations and make decisions rapidly, virtual training environments contribute to the cognitive aspects of such critical experiences. The 2015 learners will be able to easily create and adapt virtual training environments to meet their individual or collective training needs.

This article was reposted with permission from Military Training Technology and KMI Media Group. To view the publication, go here: