IDGA Q&A with Thomas Dale: Enabling Ground Forces for Improved IED Detection

Contributor:  Christopher Dauer
Posted:  12/05/2011  12:00:00 AM EST
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Tags:   CIED | MCoE

Thomas L. Dale is a retired First Sergeant and a veteran of OIF I, III, and IV. Mr. Dale has developed and executed a Counter IED training program for the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE) that all initial entry soldiers, both enlisted and officer, receive at Fort Benning, Georgia. This program trains both individual and collective tasks for soldiers in TRADOC and FORSCOM units, with training reaching over 20,000 soldiers annually in critical IED tasks.

In this installment, Mr. Dale discusses to what extent soldiers can experience realistic combat situations before deployment, current trends and new techniques to improve IED detection.

IDGA: How can soldiers experience realistic combat situations before deployment?

TD: In an era of persistent conflict, uncertainty exists as to where Army forces will operate and what the mission will be.  Therefore, commanders face two training challenges: preparing their units for the most likely missions, and developing the skills needed to adapt quickly and easily to operations anywhere on the spectrum of conflict. Units do not have the time or resources required to train under the conditions of all operational environments along the spectrum of conflict.  Commanders realize this and leverage advances in technology, training aids, and the experience of their combat-seasoned soldiers to train in realistic combat situations.

Army units achieve readiness standards by conducting tough, realistic, standards-based, performance-oriented training.  Live, virtual, constructive, and gaming training enablers enhance this training.  Units train while deployed, at home station, and at maneuver combat training centers (CTCs).  Commanders lead and assess training to ensure the training is high-quality and that individuals meet established standards.  To meet the challenge of preparing for full spectrum operations, the Army takes advantage of the training capabilities found in the three training domains: institutional, operational, and self-development.

Per FM 7-0, Training Units and Developing Leaders for Full Spectrum Operations, “The Army provides combatant commanders with adaptive individuals, units, and leaders.  Army forces are trained and ready to conduct full spectrum operations in support of unified action anywhere along the spectrum of conflict.  The Army accomplishes this by conducting tough, realistic, standards-based, performance-oriented training.”  Training and development in any organization requires implementation to achieve success.  Training strategies are mechanisms that establish what competencies are required in the future, and means to achieve the desired and stated end condition.  Therefore, successful CIED training strategies require vision, focus, direction, and an action plan that is current and grounded in operational relevancy.

IDGA: What are the new techniques needed to improve training?

TD: Army training includes a system of techniques and standards that allow soldiers and units to determine, acquire, and practice necessary skills.  Candid assessments, after action reviews, and applying lessons learned and best practices produce quality soldiers and versatile units, ready for all aspects of an operational environment.  The Army Training System prepares leaders, soldiers, and units to employ Army capabilities adaptively and effectively in today’s varied and challenging conditions. 

Commanders apply the following seven principles to plan, prepare, execute, and assess effective training:

  • Commanders and other leaders are responsible for training
  • Noncommissioned officers train individuals, crews, and small teams
  • Train as you will fight
  • Train to standard
  • Train to sustain
  • Conduct multi-echelon and concurrent training
  • Train to develop agile leaders and organizations

 Training builds individual confidence and competence while providing individuals with essential skills and knowledge.  Individuals and organizations need skills and knowledge to operate as part of expeditionary Army forces conducting full spectrum operations in any operational environment.  The principles of training apply to all Army training, regardless of topic, component, location, or duration.  The Army applies these principles to planning, preparing, executing, and assessing individual and organizational training in three distinct but linked training domains: institutional, operational, and self-development.

IDGA: What are the current trends in training, and how are they a departure or extension from past training efforts?

TD: The one training enabler we have not talked about is the use of Training Aids, Devices, Simulators, and Simulations (TADSS). TADSS enhance the training of soldier, leader, crew, and collective tasks. When field maneuver areas and or ammunition are not available for training, TADSS are generally used to accomplish the training.  Some training depends solely on the availability of TADSS.  As new systems are fielded, higher costs for ammunition and increased maximum ranges for weapons will make many existing ranges and maneuver areas obsolete, thus forcing greater use of TADDS to train soldiers and units.  Training aids and devices are generally simple devices that merely augment training and normally used with minimal guidance.  Simulators and simulations, however, may make up a larger part of the total training and require extensive training support.  The emphasis on the combined arms training highlights additional TADSS advantages.  Commanders cannot train all the members of the combined arms team together all the time.  When elements of the combined arms team are not available, TADSS can simulate those elements.  However, training aids must add realism to the combined arms training desired effect.  Training aids and devices require updating with the latest devices seen either at home, or on deployed operations in conflict zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

IDGA: What are some of the benefits of simulations?

TD: Simulations reduce the time it takes in creating a shared understanding by creating a training environment that includes live, virtual, and constructive simulations that allow soldiers, leaders, and units to train individually or collectively at all levels of war.  This combination of live, virtual, and constructive environments provides on-demand, realistic training opportunities for war fighters by overcoming many current constraints that limit training effectiveness.  In the past, warfighter training depended heavily on the weapon and operational systems as the only realistic media for providing mission training.  The result is a successful collaboration in the creation and management of shared space, and the formation of interactions between people: soldiers, leaders, and their organizations. The essence of simulations and modeling is the challenge of confronting uncertainties and converting uncertainty into manageable risks or opportunities.

Counter IED training is much more than just rote-memory tasks.  Today’s operational environment requires leaders who can think independently and act decisively, morally, and ethically; soldiers who understand the context of the problem to include surrounding cultural environment; and training that capitalizes on experience and the body of knowledge and recent combat veterans as learning facilitators.   Training must account for rapidly adapting and emerging learning technologies that when coupled with modern instructional design strategies will greatly improve the overall effectiveness of the learning environment.  Finally, our learning environment must account for the use of gaming technology to rapidly replicate operational events in order to bring realism and relevance to training.

 Thomas L. Dale, Team Lead, CIED, for the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE), will be speaking at IDGA’s 6thAnnual Counter IED Summit, to be held from Jan. 23-25 in Alexandria, Vir.  For more information on the event, visit, or call 1-800-882-8684.

Christopher Dauer Contributor:   Christopher Dauer

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