As industry races to provide equipment and technology able to effectively respond to evolving improvised explosive device (IED) threats, the effort to keep troops trained and informed remains one of the most critical, and often-missed, elements of the broader C-IED strategy.
But just as no two route clearance missions are identical, so too must C-IED training be customized to contextual circumstances to ensure situational relevance.
To help establish a foundation on which a specialized training program can be built, here are four lessons learned after years of training partner forces in clearance operations.
Location is Everything
Industry providers who provide training and maintenance support often find themselves deploying equipment and personnel to corners of the world supporting infrastructure, resources, or operational norms. With this in mind, it’s important to realize that one cannot make assumptions as to what works simply based on past experience. Clearly understanding the entire environment is as vital to successful training as the route clearance equipment being used. An early site survey of the proposed training area provides instructors with necessary assessment to further enhance subjective training courses. This in turn allows the instructor to address any obstacles that environment may present in the field.
Complex Concepts through Simple Communication
Communication is crucial to successful training, and oftentimes experts must overcome barriers to effectively communicate complex ideas. Simple, straightforward visual aids and non-lingual quick reference cards can be instrumental to conveying need-to-know information.
- Fundamentals First: Training subjects as complex and dynamic as clearance and C-IED operations inevitably results in equally complex, detail-focused instruction. This tendency risks overwhelming trainees and can prevent them from grasping the broader concepts that are much more likely to endure tactical evolutions. Trainees should be taught to apply fundamental principles of clearance to the unique and changing context of a given threat, set of resources, or environment.
- Visual Instruction: It is often thought that simple translation resolves the barriers established by difference in language between student and instructor, but communication of complex ideas is much more nuanced. Verbal instruction is necessary, but must be concise, purposeful, and, most importantly, reinforced by visual communication methods. Intuitive diagrams and process charts, contextual imagery, appropriate sand tables, and walkthroughs are all mechanisms that help to reinforce otherwise overly complex concepts.
- Useful Reference Tools: To encourage continuous learning after the course, trainers must provide reference tools that are applicable beyond the classroom. This means materials must again be visual in nature, concise, and broadly applicable. These resources should act as cues to recall processes and procedures but not overwhelm trainees with detail that is likely to change in future operations. Employing such reference materials establishes an institutionalized standard while leaving room for adaptation and evolution. It also prevents memorization of instructor content rather than critically thinking within a framework.
Integrate Proven Practices with Local Context
Training consistently fails when applied in real operations if instructors approach their task with a rigid, one-size-fits-all mentality. Forcing rigid doctrine onto students operating within unique context reduces critical thinking during learning. Instead, successful instructors know how to integrate fundamentals and best practices into contextually unique environments and threats. If framed appropriately, a curriculum should not require the instructor to reinvent the wheel with each new training deployment; the goal is to assimilate new tactics with local, pre-established TPPs in a way that enhances current operational functionality.
Be Prepared to Adapt
As with its counterpart, IED response inherently requires improvisation. How best can new equipment adapt to battle-seasoned tactics? What application of that equipment is most appropriate in any given IED encounter? Are soldiers trained in a way that enables them to retain established technical competence while encouraging them to improvise?
Just as adaptation will be critical for students once deployed, so too must a trainer be able to adapt to meet a student's needs.
Be prepared for and plan to accommodate:
Each Training Event is an Opportunity
Appropriate support is the name of the game, whether that means comprehensive training tailored to meet client needs or equipment maintenance and product servicing long after the sale. Every training objective is a new opportunity to instill confidence while informing future strategy and best practices.