By Capt. Ryan Jennings. He is the Commander of Battery B, 1/129th Field Artillery and Administrative Officer for the 1/129th. He has served 12 years with the Artillery Battalion including three state emergency duty missions and one deployment to Afghanistan.
The National Guard has continued to evolve since its inception. The mission has remained the same as the organization evolves to ensure completion of the mission. Currently the Missouri National Guard is an operational force that is well trained, well equipped, and well manned. The biggest change I have noticed during my short career is how the Guard trains. Below I listed a few training methods of the Guard with positives and negatives. Good, bad, or indifferent; let me know how you feel about the different forms of training.
Online training—Over the past 10 years, the amount of online training has increased exponentially. The benefits of online training include that it is readily available to everyone and cheap to conduct. It’s available in many forms to meet the training requirement. It is also easy to track since it provides certificates. With the benefits comes equally as many negatives. I believe that Soldiers fail to retain information due to the learning format. Many Soldiers view it as check-the-block training and rush through presentations to complete and retain relatively little knowledge. Online training does not conform to individual Soldiers’ learning techniques. Despite the many drawbacks, I don’t foresee it going away.
Competitive Events—Competitive events work great at honing the skills of a unit’s top performer. The techniques Soldiers learn while competing are great at enhancing combat skills. Competitive events work well as a retention tool since Soldiers feel pride in what they achieve. The training also teaches the Soldiers to perform under presser, which is difficult to replicate in other forms. The challenges with competitive events include ensuring units utilize Soldiers from the events as subject matter experts. The Soldier’s ability to train his new skills is critical in compounding the benefits of the events. Other challenges include that only a select few Soldiers compete and receive the full benefit. My hope is that funding shortfalls will not limit these great training opportunities.
Army Schools—Army schools provide a baseline of information that ensures standardizations across the organization. The schools establish the cornerstone of knowledge each Soldier requires to perform his job whether it is MOSQ, NCOES or functional training. This training enhances the force by ensuring each Soldier has at least the basic concept required to complete his tasks.
Collective Training—Collective training provides challenging training to all levels of a unit. It is driven by the unit’s mission and focuses on standardized Army tasks. The benefit is that unit leadership can focus on weaknesses. Since the Soldier’s leader conducts the training, it is personalized to best meet the Soldier’s needs. Leaders experience is applied to the training to better prepare Soldiers to complete the mission. A unit’s ability to effectively conduct collective training ensures unit readiness. Soldiers learn far more from collective training because they can make mistakes. Everyone learns more from making a mistake and then working to fix it. Individual Soldiers learn more effective ways to accomplish the mission because they are working together. An additional benefit of collective training is that Soldiers apply training from the other training methods in hands-on scenarios. The Soldier uses his section’s equipment to perform actual missions. The stress and realism a Soldier receives in the training is very difficult to replicate in the other methods which contributes to a greater learning factor. A challenge with collective training is the number of Soldiers and funding required conducting it. It also requires more training time for the unit to plan. While these factors are significant challenges, the benefits are immeasurable in a Soldier’s development.
I’m sure that I have left out many valid points so please share your ideas and thoughts.