The U.S. Army has reduced the values element of basic training from 17 to 10 hours, to include only five PowerPoint slides instead of the previous 115. Officials anticipate the new, immersive training method will provide graduates with a better sense of what it means to be a soldier.
At the Association of the U.S. Army 2011 Annual Meeting & Exposition, Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, the deputy commanding general of initial military training for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), said soldiers are "leaving basic with a mixed bag of standards," and often can't recite the seven core Army values.
Hertling tasked the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic (CAPE), located at West Point and a part of TRADOC, to develop a solution for standard values training. The result is a new training package, including video case studies with real soldiers, and True Faith and Allegiance, a Web-browserbased Virtual Experience Immersive Learning Simulation (VEILS), developed by WILL Interactive, a Maryland-based company.
Soldiers will begin values training with seven sessions, one per value, according to Wanda Majors, chief of instructional programs for CAPE. Each session will include three video case studies — one set in basic training, another in garrison and the third in combat. The case studies are interviews with real soldiers followed by questions.
"The case studies drive some real deep discussion and allow the drill sergeants to gear the discussion toward a specific value," Majors said.
WORKSHOP FOR INSTRUCTORS
CAPE also developed training materials and workshops for instructors to use during the sessions. "To be effective we need instructors who know how to draw out discussion," Majors said.
The case studies are also available for download on mobile devices. At AUSA, Hertling used his iPad to show reporters the beginning of a video on personal courage. "We now have a product that can be downloaded on a smart phone or iPad," he said. "Kids can see this even before joining the Army."
After soldiers complete the sessions on the seven values, they will move on to practice making decisions using True Faith and Allegiance. Like all WILL Interactive products, True Faith and Allegiance uses video of real actors rather than computer-generated animation. Trainees follow one main character, J.T. Taylor, through three acts as he makes the transition from high school student to soldier.
The video pauses and prompts the trainee to make ethical decisions based upon values they learned from the case studies, and unfolds to reveal the consequences of their decisions.
"Ethical leadership and decision making through a soldier's or officer's career is fundamental and critical, and becoming even more important as the world becomes more complex," said Sharon Sloane, president and CEO of WILL Interactive. "It takes confidence and courage to follow though with a harder action even though it's right."
True Faith and Allegiance was filmed at Fort Benning, Ga., over the course of three weeks using actors to portray soldiers. The content was developed from real events, soldier focus groups, research and interviews with the target audience and Army leadership.
"It's from the real stuff that soldiers tell us," Sloane said. "They will say, ‘This happened to me and it was very difficult and I made this decision.'Ÿ" True Faith and Allegiance was delivered to the five Army basic training centers in February, and Sloan said WILL interactive has two sequels already in development. n