FORT BENNING, Ga. (May 22, 2015) – Maneuver Soldiers, leaders, and formations that are “fast,” have the ability to outmaneuver their enemies – physically and cognitively. The Maneuver Center of Excellence is working hard to develop maneuver forces that are “fast,” as well as smart, lethal, and precise. Forces that are smart, fast, lethal, and precise are the centerpiece of future maneuver and are the key ingredient to enable the Army to “Win in a Complex World.”
Already Fort Benning’s units have been working to help Soldiers improve their athletic performance and become physically faster. One significant way is through the Warrior Athletic Training, or WAT, program, in which civilian athletic trainers are embedded with units to help prevent injuries, provide injury treatment and rehabilitation, and provide fitness education and research.
“We want the Soldiers to see themselves as athletes,” said Joellen Sefton, WAT program director. “If we treat them that way, they’re more likely to view themselves that way, and they’re more likely to work more on fitness.”
The WAT program is a partnership between Fort Benning and Auburn University. All of the program’s 33 trainers are certified by the state of Georgia as athletic trainers, and about 10 of them are pursuing master’s degrees in exercise science through Auburn.
WAT started off six years ago working with a single brigade, Sefton said. Now, WAT trainers are present in nearly every unit on post, helping educate Soldiers about proper exercise techniques, and identifying and treating injuries early.
“Our number one thing is helping to reduce lost training hours,” Sefton said.
The WAT program has influenced other athletic performance initiatives around post. At the Infantry Officer Basic Leadership Course, or IBOLC, leaders are changing the way they approach physical training for new Infantry lieutenants during the 19-week course through a program called Leader Athlete Warrior.
“We want to make them stronger at the end of 19 weeks than they were when they came here,” said Maj. Chris Deruyter, executive officer of 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, which oversees IBOLC. “The end state is to have physically dominant lieutenants prepared to lead platoons after IBOLC.”
That’s challenging, Deruyter said, because IBOLC training is by nature physically intense. To meet that goal, IBOLC leaders partnered with WAT trainers and together developed a 19-week training plan. Now, the course includes planned recovery time, more hot meals in the field, and education on topics like weight lifting techniques and nutrition.
The Armor Officer Basic Leadership Course, or ABOLC, also works to help lieutenants become faster, said Lt. Col. Dennis Atkins, commander of 2nd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, which oversees ABOLC. The course is structured in three phases, which each include a Gate Event that students must pass. The Gate Events are a combination of physical and cognitive tasks upon which the lieutenants are evaluated.
One way leaders at Fort Benning are working to become faster is by implementing components of Cognitive Dominance, a concept that encompasses many different lines of effort aimed at preparing Soldiers to operate well in ambiguous, chaotic, and complex situations and governments. Some of the elements of Cognitive Dominance includes elements of leadership, cultural awareness, athletic performance, critical thinking and appreciation of complex operational environments.
Other changes to IBOLC’s curriculum over the past year have been aimed at helping lieutenants become cognitively faster. An extra four and a half days of training on troop leading procedures has been added in order to provide more time for the students to master using the procedures in a variety of complex environments where they encounter elements such as civilians on the battlefield or urban environments.
“Every time they do it, they get faster at it,” said Lt. Col. John Grantz, commander of 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment.
In the Maneuver Captains Career Course, students learn to become cognitively faster by working on exercises that deal with a variety of formation types – Armor, Stryker and Infantry – at both the company and the battalion levels. They learn how to work with offense, defense and wide area security.
“They’ll have mental models to draw from in situations to establish understanding quickly,” said Col. Tim Davis, Maneuver Center of Excellence director of training.