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Developing Military Training and Education Professionals

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Military training and education professionals are responsible for equipping the men and women in the armed services with the knowledge and skills they need to carry out their duties. In a constantly evolving world, these professionals must have the necessary tools to develop and deliver effective and relevant training.

There are five unique requirements learning professionals should keep in mind when developing for this audience:

1. Understand the needs of the military.

One of the most critical aspects of developing military training and education professionals is understanding the needs of the military—taking the time to learn about the various roles and responsibilities within the military and understanding the specific knowledge and skills required for each role. The military often uses similar titles for these professionals, and words have meaning. Most military branches separate the roles with clear divisions, where the Instructional Systems Specialists (ISS) developing the content are not the same individual delivering the instruction. This differs slightly from learning and development (L&D), where the roles may overlap in the civilian sector. Due to this slight but essential difference, understanding the type of professional being developed is key.
In addition, it is important to understand the unique challenges that military personnel face, such as working in high-stress environments and being away from home for long periods. By understanding these, learning professionals can develop training programs tailored to the military’s needs.

2. Emphasize experiential learning.

Experiential learning is a critical component of military training and education. In the US Army, experiential learning takes shape as a model to provide a framework for learning activities. This type of learning involves hands-on experiences and simulations that allow military personnel to practice and develop their skills in a realistic environment. Often called reps and sets, experiential learning allows the servicemember to rehearse in low-threat environments and environments as close to reality as possible before performing in the field.

Experiential learning methods can include activities such as role-playing exercises, simulated missions, and virtual reality training. By emphasizing experiential learning, military training, and education, professionals can ensure that military personnel are better prepared for real-world scenarios. The focus then for L&D must be giving the training and education professionals the proper knowledge to design, implement, and deliver experiential training that will sustain learners over time and provide real-world results.


3. Foster a culture of continuous learning.

To be effective, military training and education professionals must embrace a culture of continuous learning, encouraging military personnel to continue learning and developing skills throughout their careers and honing their skills. Career development plans must consider how to keep these professionals one step ahead with emergent theories, knowledge, technologies, and techniques to deliver the best training to service members.

Support this culture of continuous learning by providing access to various training programs and resources, including online courses, workshops, and mentorship programs. By fostering a culture of continuous learning, military training and education professionals can ensure military personnel are prepared to take on new challenges. When efforts are focused on preparing for readiness without consideration for preparing those who do the training and education, a significant gap can exist.


4. Incorporate technology into training programs.

Technology has revolutionized our learning, and military training and education are no exception. Learning professionals should incorporate technology into training programs to make it more engaging, interactive, and effective.

This can include virtual reality (VR) simulations, online training courses, and mobile learning platforms. By leveraging technology, military training, and education, professionals can deliver training that is more accessible and relevant to today’s military personnel. The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) tools means they should be integrated into the learning environment. This is a challenge that the DoD’s newly formed Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office (CDAO) aims to tackle by enabling the development of digital and AI-enabled solutions across the DoD.

5. Prioritize mental health and wellness.

Military personnel face unique challenges, including exposure to trauma and high-stress environments. As such, it is essential for military training and education professionals to prioritize mental health and wellness in their training programs. When students, facilitators, and instructors are focused on a prior experience or trauma, they are not learning. Much of the training, particularly that which is realistic in nature, can be viewed as a trigger for many facilitators of learning who are prior service members themselves. Training and education professionals must facilitate learning in students with varied experiences and identify when a topic is provoking or a student is in need.

Developing military training and education professionals requires a deep understanding of the needs of the military, a focus on experiential learning, a culture of continuous learning, the incorporation of technology into training programs, and prioritization of mental health and wellness. By embracing these key factors, learning professionals can develop training programs that are effective, relevant, and effective for military personnel.

About the Author

Jason Armendariz is a former Marine training and education (T&E) expert who holds masters degrees in education and cognitive science. During his 12 year tenure with the US Marine Corps, he was part of a tiger team focused on T&E innovation for the Commanding General at Quantico. Following, he helped lead research and policy stewardship for the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative under the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Mr. Armendariz has extensive experience and expertise in supporting the DoD to provide insights on curriculum development, testing and evaluation, as well as acquisitions. He continues to serve as a consultant to recommend improvements and has a passion for supporting the learning and development community.

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