Monday, 26 November 2012

Making learning quick and simple (CAVNET)

iraq Here is an interesting article about CAVNET - an online forum for the junior leaders of the US Army 1st Cavalry.

It's worth reading the whole article, but I share below some of the points made by Major Patrick Michaelis, the founder of CAVNET, who was Battle Command Officer and Task Force CKO for the 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq at the time the article is written (2005). These points are important, in helping define an effective learning system.

  • Firstly, Michaelis had a clear view of the purpose of the learning system. The enemy was adapting faster than the Army at the tactical level, and company-level leaders had little chance to physically interact. Therefore an online system was needed.
  • Secondly, he had a clear view of the scope - - "designed to prepare for the next patrol, not the next war", and focusing on "actionable" (contextually-based) knowledge which could be incorporated into the patrol plan, prep, and execute cycle. This meant focusing on the HOW - the tactics.
  • Thirdly, it had to fit the tempo of life in the Army. As Michailis says, "One of my baseline evaluation criteria is that it had to compliment a commander's battle rhythm rather than complicate it ... It was my belief that if a commander could not get on, get information, post information, and get off within about 10 minutes, it would be useless".
These three principles resulted in a simple but very effective way of sharing knowledge, over and above the AARs at unit level.

Does the system work? Michailis provides two anecdotes to illustrate the value delivered by CAVNET

"A leader posts a report that his unit experienced an IED that was cloaked by a poster of Moqtada al-Sadr. On the other side of the city, a commander taps into the CAVNET and reads the post. Though he is in another part of the city, he has been involved in operations that require removing posters posted on IIG [Iraqi interim government] projects. He briefs up his leaders before they execute a normal combat patrol. One sees a poster that mirrors the description given by the original post. Instead of ripping it down, he calls EOD [Explosive Ordinance Disposal], who discovers that it is rigged as an IED.

"In another instance, a scout platoon leader -- in this case the scout platoon leader from 1-8 Cav. -- was given the mission to conduct sniper operations. He had never really executed a mission like it before. He looked on the CAVNET, where a commander from 1-9 Cav, in another part of the city, had posted notes and TTPs from employment of snipers over the past months. The Scout Platoon Leader from 1-8 was able to integrate what he had read from the CAVNET into his planning, preparation, and execution cycle".

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