There has been a historic progression of training in weapons, literally, since the dawn of time.
People have relied on others to educate them on the usage of tools and tactics to protect themselves and their tribes against the aggression of others.
Through constant training, the pupil strives to become a Master of Skill at Arms.
Our methods of training and teaching have evolved throughout the millennia. This evolution has been a factor of both technology and social trends.
Mastery of Skill at Arms was once a talent relegated to the wealthy. To acquire training required money, and monetary resources were limited. Basic soldiering could be acquired through military service, but this usually fostered very basic skills necessary to ensure a general understanding of the soldier’s weapon.
As our societies changed, and as weapon systems progressed, the need for training also expanded. The greatest change, though, is a fundamental paradigm shift in our understanding of the “weapons system”. We now realize that the weapons platform is simply a component part of a fully integrated weapons system. That system is “us,” the individual warrior, cop, CCW holder or soccer mom. Some systems have access to greater, more efficient weapons. Others only have access to limited force multiplying devices. Still others, depending on the permissiveness of their environment, must rely on improvised weapons of opportunity.
This more expansive view of Mastery of Skill at Arms comes with a more dynamic training requirement. We now must not only understand the physical manipulations of our weapons, but we must also understand the physical limitations of our own bodies. We gather this data from realistic, simulation-based training.
Kavon and I spent the last week in Orlando, Florida at the ITSEC conference. This primarily military convention highlights the usage of simulation-based training in teaching methodologies and developing a more lethal military. It also serves as a meeting ground of technology producers and training end-users.
The take-aways from the trip are important.
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First and foremost, the demand from our military (and allied militaries from around the world) to develop warfighters, without exposing our soldiers to war, in and of itself as a training environment, is at an all time high. This makes sense. From an economics perspective, every soldier, sailor, airman and marine costs money. They are resources that must be kept in working order. If the only way to train these resources is to expose them to lethal force, the survivability of the defense force itself will be called into question. (That, and recruiting new members of the unit might be a tad too difficult.)
In order to provide the training required to make cognitive decisions with limited information under the high-stress environment of combat, and more importantly… working as a team of warriors to provide intel and secure a military objective, the training environment itself must be as realistic as possible.
The use of technology is bringing the battlefield, the operating room, the city street to the training ground.
As with all simulations, a 100% accurate representation of a combat environment will be elusive. Mission failure in a simulation does not equate to mission failure in the real world. Establishing specific learning objectives might be a completely reasonable goal. The student may never fully appreciate the stress of combat in a simulator, but students will, ultimately, be competent, if not masterful in their manipulations of their weapons.
One area where this is especially true is combat aviation.
At the show, Kavon and I both flew multiple airframe simulators. The realism ranged from excellent to… “OMG… how the hell did I wind up here flying an F-18?”
The ability to engage enemy targets existed… but that was really not the point per se. Understanding the platform in a safe environment is a far more important learning objective. Preventing the death or injury of a pilot, and the destruction of a multi-million dollar airframe, become far more likely if we have the pilot make mistakes in a simulator first.
Technology is expanding, and doing so exponentially. What is of concern to me, though, and we saw it to a degree at the convention, is technology for the sake of technology. We must have a training goal in mind first. We must understand the needs of our students always. We must have a rigid mission objective of developing Masters of Skill at Arms. We then incorporate the technology to help achieve the mission. We do not create a mission to justify the purchase of the technology.
All in all, it was an interesting convention… one that we will plan to attend each year.
(It was also kind of fun to watch Kavon get as excited as a kid to live his dream of flying an Apache Helicopter… then bounce it during his landing.)