Soldiers need better communications training

Government would not spend millions of dollars on a weapons system and not train its operators. Communications systems must be held to the same standard.

Stewart Brand, creator and publisher of "The Whole Earth Catalog," famously said, "Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road."

Roger Seaton is vice president of integrated logistics support services for TeleCommunication Systems.

Technology innovation moves rapidly. And our warfighters are being asked to do more with technology outside their normal responsibilities, especially in the area of communications. Yet, although the military is spending billions of dollars on the latest IP technologies for deployable satellite communications, the funding for training on these technologies is not keeping pace. In many cases, training is just an afterthought.

That fact is reflected by today’s in-theater warfighter who states, “This is the first time I have ever seen this type of communications terminal. I have no idea what to do or how to use it.”

That’s in contrast to a junior enlisted Marine who, after formal training, recently said, "At first, I resented being sent to this training because I was 'voluntold' to attend. Now I am really enjoying it because I feel empowered to perform my mission."

It is important to point out that training is available. The problem is that there too often isn't adequate planning for training. The wrong people end up attending the training classes, or there are too many warfighters sent to a class with too few instructors. Many times, when a training class is available, the mindset is to send as many warfighters as possible — if 19 attendees are good, then 40 attendees must be better. In that scenario, five warfighters might want to learn, while the rest fade into the background.

A better approach is to limit the number of trainees-to-trainers and systems. We find a ratio of 15 to 18 attendees to two trainers with five systems is a good ratio to ensure warfighters receive proper individual instruction.

The lack of proper training increases the risk that the mission will be compromised or will even fail. Compared to older communications equipment, the newer IP technologies are simple. But to an infantry or artillery soldier, they might seem utterly magical. If warfighters are assigned to an unfamiliar terminal, the chances are greatly reduced that they can install and operate it correctly. Moreover, improper use can cause interference with other satellite and communications equipment. Poorly trained operators can not only adversely affect their system but also can adversely affect multiple systems, resulting in a potentially catastrophic outcome.

Avoiding that outcome begins at the leadership or decision-making level. Leaders must recognize that the person they send to training will be the person in theater who operates the communications terminal. They should not divorce the two assignments.

It is also important to schedule ongoing small-unit exercises or have training terminals available to warfighters. That allows them to become proficient at using the communications terminal, so when the time comes to use it in theater, they will be able to successfully execute their mission. Like any acquired skill, learning a new communications system is a perishable skill set. Think of something as basic as changing your golf club grip. If you do not practice, the results of the improved technique will be worse than the original.

Industry also must play a role in the training effort. Most training for newly fielded equipment is offered on a per-class basis, which limits training to people available at the scheduled time. Through public/private partnerships, we must develop ways to structure training classes that the military can summon at a moment's notice. Industry must be creative with training solutions that can be easily used and adopted by the military.

The bottom line is that without proper training and associated processes, communications equipment might not be used to its full effectiveness. The worst-case scenario is that the lack of training could cause loss of life if critical data does not get to where it needs to be in a timely fashion. Put it this way: Government would not spend millions of dollars on a weapons system and not train its operators. Communications systems must be held in the same high regard. In today’s theater of operation, information is often the most powerful weapon at our warfighters’ disposal — and those who wield it correctly will be successful.

NEXT STORY: The road ahead for Cyber Command

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.