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Optimizing the Human Weapon System

August 1, 2013
By Lt. Ben Kohlmann, USN

 

One of the most frequent platitudes given by senior commanders to their subordinates is that “people are our most valuable asset.” While this very well may be true in the abstract, the U.S. Defense Department at large prefers to focus its efforts on more tangible items—namely, expensive weapons systems. Even in an era of rapid technological change, the human being remains the linchpin that determines victory or defeat. Yet, despite billions of dollars spent every year on cutting-edge research and development projects for equipment, very few programs are focused on optimizing the physical, psychological and intellectual capabilities of our warfighters.

This is ironic because personnel costs are fast becoming the largest portion of the Defense Department’s budget. Much of these costs stem from widely applied and necessary medical, salary and retirement payments. Yet, treating the human as a weapons system requires concerted research into the realm of pushing human performance to its very limits throughout the spectrum of capabilities. Defense planners currently do a very poor job at capturing these results.

Even the U.S. Army, which boasts a program executive office devoted to the human, does so with a view toward external capabilities such as night-vision goggles rather than getting the most out of the human itself, sans anything else.

The mind is the greatest strategic weapon ever created. More powerful than any computer, its mysteries have only just begun to be revealed. Training such an asset, and understanding the best way to impart relevant lessons, should be paramount. Yet, one of the biggest complaints from trainees is the poor state of military education.

No Venue, No Problem

July 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

The U.S. Navy uses a popular online collaboration tool 
to change course around last-minute travel restrictions.

The U.S. Naval Safety and Environmental Training Center, charged with conducting safety and environmental training worldwide, successfully is circumventing hurriedly imposed government travel restrictions by using an online application to conduct safety and environmental training. The tool recently enabled the center to conduct an annual conference with more than 1,000 attendees.

Normally used for smaller meetings, the Adobe Connect software, which operates in the cloud environment, is readily available to the entire U.S. defense community through the Defense Information Systems Agency’s (DISA’s) Defense Connect Online (DCO).

“We execute an annual joint occupational safety and health conference,” explains Cmdr. Greg Cook, USN, commanding officer, U.S. Naval Safety and Environmental Training Center (NSETC) in Norfolk, Virginia. “We have members of all five services ... active duty military as well as civilians across the services.” The conference has been offered annually for the past 20 years, with venues alternating each year between Norfolk and San Diego.

In the Cyber Trenches

July 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

The Army adjusts its training and career path for cyber domain troops and leaders.

The U.S. Army is taking a successful model developed to train chief warrant officers in the realm of information assurance and is adapting it for qualified enlisted personnel and officers. Instead of reinventing the wheel, the program blends already-successful cybersecurity training designed for the private sector with training tailored for the Army’s mission-specific networks. The goal is to create a career path for what is expected to be a cadre of cyberspecialists whose primary goal is to protect and defend the service’s digital infrastructure.

“The Army realized that our networks were being constantly attacked, but we never realized it until after it had taken place,” says Joey Gaspard, chief, Information Assurance Branch, U.S. Army Signal Center at Fort Gordon, Georgia. He adds that in 2007, the service embarked on a program to match staffing and training to be more proactive about cybersecurity. “Instead of consistently sitting there, waiting to be hit, they decided to put themselves in a position where we looked at the training. Commercial industry was already training personnel to defend commercial organizations, so why couldn’t the Army do the same thing?”

In response to that question, the Army embarked on a re-examination of its military occupational specialty (MOS) categories, which describe every job at every rank within the Army. The Signal Center focused on the MOS pertaining to cybersecurity.

Future Is Bright for U.S. 
Information Assurance

July 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

While many cybersecurity experts preach the gloom and doom of more advanced adversaries attacking U.S. networks, one government official contends that U.S. network defenders can meet the challenge. Training, education and technological improvements are showing dividends in a better-prepared cyber workforce.

L-3 to Design Undersea Warfare Training Range

June 14, 2013
George I. Seffers

 
L-3 Communications MariPro Inc., Goleta, Calif., is being awarded a $10,195,466 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract to exercise two options for design and installation services for an undersea warfare training range (USWTR) off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla., training and support services following delivery of the USWTR, and spares. The Naval Air Warfare Center, Training Systems Division, Orlando, Fla. is the contracting activity.  

The Bottom Line: Military Operational Paradigm Shifts

June 17, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

Up until now, elected officials, in consultation with military and intelligence experts, have made strategic national decisions about the role of the United States in global security. But the current congressional budgeting approach is turning this procedure on its head: military leaders will tell the elected what they can accomplish with the appropriated resources.

New Online Cybersecurity Training Initiative

June 17, 2013

AFCEA to offer 34 cybersecurity courses based on the U.S. federal government FedVTE through Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute.

 

Cyber Train as You Fight

June 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

The U.S. Army is making its facility at West Point the focus of a joint program with the other services, industry and academia, devoted to sharing advanced cybertraining and research. Training in the new cyber realm includes not only basic best practices concerning passwords and mobile device security but also advanced training in the latest network management protocols and technology for members of the Army’s Signal Corps.

Razor Talon Sharpens Services’ Synergy

June 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Integrating air land, and sea forces on a monthly basis saves money and creates continuity of operations.

Technology experts at the U.S. Air Force’s 4th Fighter Wing based at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, are networking joint units up and down the East Coast to provide unique training opportunities for the modern military. Through their efforts, advancements are being made to further the Air-Sea Battle Concept, simultaneously improving coalition interoperability. The events allow for interservice and international training without strain on organizations’ budgets.

These Razor Talon exercises are monthly large-force exercises that have grown significantly since their first iteration in March 2011. They evolved in part from an inability of units, because of timing or funding, always to send their assets to the major exercise of that type—Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. “We needed a large-force exercise to essentially grow mission commanders,” explains Col. Michael Koscheski, USAF, 4th Operations Group commander. Though units from the East Coast can receive world-class training by attending annual, large-scale events, the home station training offered through Razor Talon ensures they can keep up-to-date. Sometimes units miss out for years on attending other exercises because of costs or mission schedules. Razor Talon planners lay out the yearly schedule for their monthly events, and groups see when they are available to participate based on their operations.

U.S. Army Announces Federal Virtual Challenge Winners

April 25, 2013

U.S. Army Research Laboratory officials have announced the winners of the 2013 Federal Virtual Challenge at the Defense Users’ GameTech Conference in Orlando, Florida. 


The challenge featured two distinct focus areas for entries. The first required training critical thinking and adaptability skills in an immersive environment and measuring learners’ progress. The second focused on improving user interfaces in virtual environments, specifically for individual and group navigation.


The winner of the first focus area and $10,000 was Virtual World Activities—“Compound” from Alice Hayden of H2IT Solutions Incorporated, and Dr. Filomeno Arenas of the U.S. Air Force Squadron Officer College. Compound is a virtual team-building game developed for the college’s Virtual World Activities. Students learn how to lead a team, best delegate and communicate tasks, work together to analyze and adapt to the situation, and make decisions to accomplish a mission. Trainees must be able to communicate effectively with one another and to their navigator—the only person with access to the map showing the location of mines. 


The winner of the navigation focus area and $10,000 was VIPE Holodeck—Navigation Interface by Ryan Frost of the Virtual Immersive Training Team at Northrop Grumman Technical Services. VIPE Holodeck explores the use of the low-cost, commercial off-the-shelf motion capture system, resulting in a method for the user to move easily through a virtual environment that feels natural and is easy to adapt to and learn. This entry provided navigation strategies that support a first-person shooter environment. The user can duck, jump, dodge, run and stop with impressive response time.

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