FORT MONROE, Va. -- Being innovative, understanding the new generation of Soldiers entering our Army, and continuing to advance training roused a crowd of more than 200 participants in the Initial Military Training Conference held in St. Louis, Mo. 4-7 October. Organized by the 108th Training Command, and led by the office, deputy commanding general for Initial Military Training, the four-day conference focused on revisions in programs of instruction, initiatives for everything from nutrition to sexual harassment, reinforcing cadre training, integrating technology, and further developing training to better assist the millennial generation learner.

"Since this group last met in February 2010, we have accomplished a lot in initial entry training," said Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, DCG-IMT. "We've made fundamental improvements to our basic training posts and are on our way to making improvements at 17 Basic Officer Leadership Courses and more than 200 Advanced Individual Training programs. "

This year's conference transitioned focus from Basic Combat Training to BOLC, AIT, cadre and Drill Sergeant training, and further implementing new ways to teach and train.

"In the past, we have not asked Soldiers in training to think critically, to make sound decisions, to be adaptive," said Lt. Col. Randall Wickman, during his briefing on Smart Training.

"This way of teaching...does that." Fort Leonard Wood integrated Smart Training into one brigade of three battalions and has seen a twenty-six percent increase in mental agility, decision making, critical thinking, knowledge retention, and natural leadership, said Wickman.

Smart Training ideas used in the pilot program included training in shorter instruction blocks, shifting topics throughout the day, and emphasized peer-to-peer coaching and conducting concurrent re-directive training to reinforce lessons and make them more dynamic.

"We integrated ideas from Army Learning Concept, Army CAPSTONE Concept, and the Army Training Concept 2012-2020," said Wickman.

Similarly, Victory University (VU) and the Drill Sergeants School (DSS) at Fort Jackson, S.C. has become more "learner" centric, focusing on the skills, values, and attributes related to the millennial generation to better facilitate learning and training for their demographic.

Instead of giving our Soldiers three, giant binders their first day of class, we give them a Kindle to store their documents, an iPad to access Blackboard and digital scenarios, and an RF Response Card to interact in the classroom, said the team of presenters from VU.

"If we are less Drill Sergeant centric in our teaching methods, and more learner centric, then the Soldier will retain more information," said the briefers.

Presenters from the Sustainment Center of Excellence (SCoE) and Fort Gordon's Signal School discussed IMT's role in Connecting Soldiers with Digital Applications and Apps for the Army.

"Not only is using smart-phones and apps how our young Soldiers learn, but also there is tremendous cost-savings for the Army," said Matt MacLaughlin, developer at SCoE.

In the matter of a day we can convert a 100-page Field Manual to a mobile app, said MacLaughlin.

This allows Soldiers in training to have immediate access to information at their fingertips and doesn't require them to lug hundreds of pages of training manuals around.

Maj. Gregory Motes presented two of IMT's apps fielded by Android and iPhone markets. The Army Soldiers Blue Book, a manual for all Soldiers entering the Army, and the award-winning Army Physical Readiness Training app, have been downloaded by the thousands and allows for direct mobile access by not just Soldiers and cadre but future recruits and anyone outside the military.

Many presenters noted that our method for training our trainers will start the evolution for how the Army trains the millennial generation Soldiers.

"The center of what we do is the training and certification of our cadre. What we do at Victory University and the Drill Sergeant School is critical to our mission," said Hertling. "It is the one place we are polishing the NCO Corps."

Conference participants had the opportunity to view the latest methods for training culture and values to new, younger Soldiers.

"We are in a war among the people, and that is going to go on for awhile. So we looked at how we teach culture and values at our training posts and how we are teaching it to this millennial generation," said Hertling.

The scenario-driven, interactive videos ask Soldiers; "What would you do'" based on scenes they have just watched. These videos are not meant to replace Drill Sergeants but to function as a training aide for Drill Sergeants, said Rick Schmidt, chief of technology at Invism, the Culture Video creator.

"We needed to take a one-hour course that every Drill Sergeant can teach the same way, and improve the delivery value and this was the result," said Schmidt. The videos provide consistency in teaching both culture and the Army's seven Values and ask our Soldiers to think critically.

Some characteristics to note about the millennial generation, said Hertling, are that they want to contribute and when asked 'what do you think,' they will give you an answer.

"We asked more than 26,000 lieutenants, their NCO counterparts, and their direct superiors, to complete a survey on how well were lieutenants meeting expectations at their first unit of assignment following BOLC," said Col. Fred Woerner.

What we got back was invaluable to how we are going to revise training. For instance, we noticed the leadership rated the lieutenants more qualified to execute their mission. However, their were a few points that they needed more training on, such as counseling and developing a subordinate, supervising supply activities, and resolving ethical problems, said Woerner.

To better reinforce these lessons in BOLC, IMT will review and implement new training methods including scenario-based and interactive training.

"Could we take a lieutenant and instead of taking him to the field for a counter -ED exercise, wake a lieutenant up by Military Police and hand him or her the blotter report with a domestic dispute between their Soldier and a spouse and then say, what now lieutenant'" said Hertling.

The survey also noted that situations like this one, a need for leadership, values, and ethics, ranked highest on the lieutenants list of important takeaways from BOLC.