We Need to Blur the Line Between Education and Training: Former TRADOC Commanding General David G. Perkins

© United States Army Training and Doctrine Command – tradoc.army.mil

We’ve been highlighting ideas from the keynote speech of retired Four-Star General David G. Perkins, former Commanding General of the U. S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando, Florida in November 2017.

In Parts 1 and 2, we recounted General Perkins’ three aspects of training that require innovation from industry. In this third and final post, we will present his ideas about the differences (and similarities) between education and training.

General Perkins stated that we have to redefine the idea of “education versus training.” He went on to describe that during a recent combined arms field training exercise, an Army major approached him with the question, “Are you educating us or training us?” In other words, the major understood education as learning concepts at a high level of thinking, while he understood training as learning potential courses of action to apply to real life. General Perkins indicated that as a commander, his greatest need was to strive to blur the line between education and training. He wants to see the two concepts combined into one practice.

General Perkins discovered that soldiers want to be trained, which in their understanding, often means they WANT to be told what to do and how to do it. He believes that trainees often do not believe that they need critical thinking (thought of as part of education) because they mistakenly feel that this will not prepare them for the “real world,” where they face the unknown. In actuality, General Perkins thinks education, and the critical thinking that comes from it, better prepares us for the unknown. He suggests incorporating critical thinking, decision making, and leadership into training events, even virtual and constructive ones.

General Perkins believes the Army must adapt future Programs of Instruction to a changing world. His question is, “How do we bring that changing perspective into the educational domain?” He added that the military cannot tie itself to only one domain; training must incorporate all the domains: land, air, sea, space and cyber.

General Perkins explained, “A lot of times as I was growing up in the Army, we would have a training strategy with various gates and sometimes some of our simulations and training aids and devices weren’t all that great. But it would be put in the strategy like, ‘You have to do this first, then you have to do this, and you have to do this.’ And it may not have actually been a particularly useful tool for getting at what you want to get at, but it was a requirement. You can’t do this until you get to this, and so it was a little bit of a check the block.”

Ultimately, General Perkins advocated for “command, training, and student (training, education and the art of command)” to come together so that training is an integral part of command and not something different or extra. He wants to see not just industry change their technology ideas, but for the Army culture to change regard training as integral with command and operations. His challenge to industry is to help the Army make this happen.


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