Category Archives: Army

Overcoming PSTD – A different kind of learning

Much of what I blog about here is workplace learning, particularly in corporate settings, but we know that “learning” is really as much about behaviour evolution and modification as it is about learning how to work Widgets 2.5 after an upgrade.

The folks over at Military Minds are doing wonderful things to help those dealing with PTSD.  Until recently, serving members and veterans of all stripes were not encouraged to acknowledge and address their issues, but there’s a change afoot to reduce the stigma associated with this disorder.  Military associations aside, I’m very hopeful that efforts like these will help raise awareness and improve research into PTSD so that anyone suffering from this issue – regardless of what triggered it – can benefit from it. As a side-benefit, awareness improves on the outside so that we can help support and encourage those afflicted.

Our minds and well-being are too valuable to leave un-healed.   If we can learn to overcome it, we can likely learn to do almost anything.

S2 Q9) Best bottom-up learning implementation. Or, at least, my most memorable one. (apologies to @LnDDave)

>I pondered the answer to this question for a while because it’s been some time since I did any real bottom-up learning, but I drew on one of my experiences in the Army Reserve as an example, and arguably the one I am most proud of although I won’t lay claim to the original idea, only its implementation for some of my soldiers.

In my ‘trade’ in the Army (Armoured Reconnaissance, “recce” to the Brits and Aussies/Kiwis, and ‘armored cavalry scouts’ to the Americans), Armoured Vehicle recognition was a key skill required at all levels.  At the time, we were still training to operate in a Cold War-type, conventional environment as opposed to the regional and sectarian strife going on today.

The ‘traditional’ method of AFV recognition was through slide decks.  In this case, real photo sides, because PPT wasn’t widely used in field training at that time.  One of the problems with this training environment is that many of the photos weren’t realistic.  Many of them were like “dealer” photos.  The other problem was that the photos didn’t represent what these vehicles might look like at a distance or what it might look like from different angles, or half-hidden, etc., etc.  In short, success in AFV recognition in training scenarios came down to slide memorization and an ability to draw on a few memorized characteristics in case you got stuck.

On one exercise, some Regular Force folks put a few of us into a mock observation post, gave us binoculars and had us peer out to see what we could see.  The Reg Force guys (being better funded than us part-time soldiers) had some 1/76 scale models laid out in a few areas and wow, were they ever hard to spot.  It made recognition more of a challenge and at that point I had the germ of an idea.

So, long story short, a year or so later, I was teaching the on-weekends version Corporal’s Qualifying Course in Recce and I talked the Course Officer into letting me handle the AFV recognition portion.  Fortunately, I was (and sometimes still am) an avid scale model builder and I had a very large array of 1/35 scale vehicles.  But, rather than using those instead of slides, I booked the indoor range as my classroom.  Through a little bit of math, I set up a simulated environment where the soldiers were looking at vehicles that appeared to be 800M to 1100M away.  I set up some ‘terrain’, borrowed some camouflage nets and a few other tricks and laid out a pretty challenging scenario for the students.

After a general briefing on the principles of recogntion, the soldiers were taken down to the range, handed binoculars, told that there were almost 40 vehicles out there, and they had 15 mins to identify them all from their ‘distant’ vantage point.

While the scores were lower than the slide memorization, the activity was a big hit with them.  They felt it was far more realistic, and understood just how hard it could be to accurately identify these vehicles at a distance…because reporting a fleet of jeeps is one thing, but it what you really saw was a fleet of tanks heading in your direction, the implications are a little different. 😉

The real confirmation of that success came when an officer I knew from an infantry regiment at our Armoury happened to be in on that weekend.  He was downstairs and saw what I was doing on the range.  He asked to sit in and simultaneously asked if I would run the same training for his Anti-Armour troops and then cleared it with my CO.

So while it wasn’t e-learning at all, I like to think that I set up a good environment for learning and it wasn’t something that would have come from the top-down.