FORT LEE, Va. -- From the words, actions and publications generated by many of the U.S. Army's senior leaders, agencies and institutions, there is a consensus that adaptive thinking and leadership traits are the U.S. Army's answer to engaging an adaptive enemy while operating within an ambiguous environment.
Enter the U.S. Army Asymmetric Warfare Group's Asymmetric Warfare Adaptive Leader Program, or AWALP. The AWG was recently assigned to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and the AWALP has proven to be an excellent example of the close training link between TRADOC and the AWG.
The AWALP is a 10-day program designed and run by one of the AWG's four squadrons at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. The AWALP is designed to enhance adaptability in leaders and promote innovative solutions in training, and it does this through a change in the training paradigm that presents skills in unique ways; through strategies that demonstrate how to think more flexibly; and through considering techniques on how to get others to question the status quo.
The AWALP is currently in its second year, and is the only program of its kind in the Army. More than 150 Soldiers have participated in the program coming from various units including Forts Bragg, N.C.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Lewis, Wash.; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
"AWALP was purposely designed to promote an environment of learning while enhancing adaptive qualities that Soldiers fundamentally already have," said Lt. Col. Blakeslee Connors, AWG's Charlie Squadron commander. "This is what makes the program so unique -- a key attribute to the design of the program is that we target leaders who have a variety of skill sets and responsibilities."
While there is a classroom portion to the program, 80 percent of the training takes the participants out of the classroom and immerses them into realistic scenarios. It is scalable for diverse units and Military Occupational Specialties. It also focuses on training through the context of fundamental skills common to all Soldiers.
The adaptability training is accomplished in two phases.
Phase one is dedicated to understanding the concepts of adaptability, and how that concept relates to the individual and team.
"When the students first arrive, what we expect to see from them is a whole lot of questioning because what we have done is designed the course differently from any course that they have attended in the past," said Wayne Newberry, an AWALP cadre member and retired Army sergeant major.
While going through the course, 2nd Lt. Matthew Perovich, a platoon leader with Company C, 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Campbell, Ky., said each day presented new challenges and surprises.
"I'm not sure what training is going to entail," Perovich said. "It's always been something new. Whatever I have expected hasn't really played out."
Unlike other Army courses, Soldiers do not receive a program curriculum outlining each day's activities during AWALP. The purpose behind this ambiguity is to ensure Soldiers are always thinking, always assessing what took place the previous day, and how those events are going to affect the events of the following day. Each day is designed to build on itself, Newberry said.
Phase two focuses on how to train for and defeat the enemy in historical and emerging asymmetric threat scenarios. This phase enhances the individual, team and operational adaptability in a unit.
"By the end of the course, what we are really looking to see is that (Soldiers) have a good grasp and understanding of individual adaptability, the enabling attributes that are important and necessary to be an adaptable Soldier and perform as an adaptive team," Newberry said.
The intent is also for the participants to understand the differences between creative and critical thinking, when to apply these types of thinking, and how to perform overall as an adaptive team.
"We really want to start sparking their thoughts towards the latter part of the (program)," Newberry said.
Training is not affected by the various ranks of the participants, except that it brings varied and more experience to the (program), said Staff Sgt. Mick Miller, a squad leader with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.
"I think as far as the group dynamics are concerned, I don't thinks that it really matters your rank or position as far as what I think this (program) is offering," Miller added."Right now, as far as being adaptable, and no matter what rank you are or position you hold, (adaptability) is a (fundamental) that every Soldier should have, or in fact, every leader should be able to pass onto his or her Soldiers."
The program provokes change in units after their Soldiers return with increased skills and understanding of adaptability.
After having completed AWALP, Command Sgt. Maj. Corbett Whitmore, a member of 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, has already begun implementation of adaptability into his unit's training program with an adaptability Leadership Professional Development seminar with platoon and company level leadership. A team leader course followed.
"It is definitely starting to gain momentum," Whitmore said. "Once we attain the concept of adaptability and expose the Soldiers to this through varied repetition, they will know how to adapt more quickly and be able to apply it to the situation without being saturated by the circumstance they are in."
The AWALP cadre and support personnel are made up of both active-duty and retired military officers and NCOs with more than 20 years of experience. Many cadre have special unit mission backgrounds; however, many members come from conventional combat arms with years of experience in their field with developed adaptive mindsets.
The AWG is comprised of about 350 active-duty Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians and contractors and is headquartered out of Fort George G. Meade, Md. The AWG provides operational advisory support to Army and joint force commanders globally to enhance Soldier survivability, combat effectiveness and enable the defeat of current and emerging threats in support of Unified Land Operations. It is comprised of four squadrons: two operational; a training, recruiting and assessment squadron; and a concepts and integration squadron.
The AWALP conducts one class per quarter with a total of 30 participants per class. Units interested in participating in AWALP can call 301-833-5258 for more information. For information on how to join the AWG, call an AWG recruiter at 301-833-5366.