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Training Critical Thinking For The Battlefield

FORT BENNING, Ga., (Oct. 9, 2013) -- Transitioning from the classroom to combat, students of the basic Advanced Situational Awareness Training program were challenged to combine science and experience Friday to enhance their battlefield tactics at Lee Field on Sand Hill, here.

Currently taught to cadre and students in the Infantry and Armor Basic Officer Leader Courses, Infantry and Armor Advanced Leader Courses and the Maneuver Senior Leaders Course, Advanced Situational Awareness Training, known as ASAT, provides leader development skill sets to help Soldier to make informed decisions before a situation arises.

Lynn Westover, senior instructor for human behavior pattern recognition and analysis, said ASAT creates battlefield scenes using props, role players serving as Afghan villagers and leaders and simulated gunfire to make the experience as authentic as possible for students.

The program teaches students to use behavior-profiling skills based on heuristics, geographics, proxemics, biometrics, atmospherics and kinesics.

These skills, Westover said, are tools people already use to assess a variety of environments in everyday life such as traffic jams and childbirth.

"Our basic course lasts five days, and they expect to gain a skill set they already have but they weren't able to describe," Westover said. "It's what people describe when they have that 'gut feeling.' It's not a sixth sense. It's your limbic system reacting to something it's seen before."

The limbic system of the brain is responsible for emotion, motivation, behavior and memory.
Westover and other instructors provide Soldiers with classroom training to develop a course of action before applying their skills on the simulated battlefield.

"These guys need to know how to react to an IED (improvised explosive device) or an ambush, but if they can problem solve and see a situation before they find themselves in the middle of it and be predictive and proactive, they can exercise tactical patience and change the momentum of a situation," he said.

Students are divided into several teams to conduct threat assessment of a village from a distance.

Using radios to communicate, the teams observe clues such as body language and the overall atmosphere of an area to determine if the village is a potential hostile environment.

Understanding culture, common human behavior and chemical responses to emotions are small clues that can develop a bigger picture.

Second Lt. Ed Bickert, a student in the basic ASAT course, has served in five previous combat deployments with the 2nd Ranger Battalion, but is a member of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, with the Tennessee Army National Guard.

Bickert said the program teaches skills that would have been useful during his deployments.

"I can think of several situations where this would have been great to have," Bickert said. "If my (platoon leaders) would've had something like this before, people wouldn't have been shot because all of the signs were there, and we walked right by them."

ASAT student 2nd Lt. David Knight said the program teaches students to identify clues that will serve them as future platoon leaders or in everyday life.

"You see how two people interact with each other and whether they are standing in a positive or aggressive manner," Knight said. "We as humans can actually see emotions in the way that we act. I don't have previous combat experience, but symbolism and culture apply to us all, even on a civilian level."


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Running through the ideas allowed people to comment and to support and challenge what was being said by their peers. This form of collective learning certainly isn’t something you could do with simple polling.

After discussion, the audience was then asked who would change their minds based on the arguments presented. Whilst a hypothetical discussion, it highlights the importance of forming a good argument free from logical flaws.

Hosted by Training Council (FAPSTC) and held at Curtin University, the Industry engagement forum provided a technology driver environment for the VET sector to interact with speakers and industry representatives. More than 40% of year 12 students undertaking a VET qualification in 2014.  The event itself was an overall success.

“Alison Sweet, event organizer from FAPSTAC said: “Teachers can gain insights to help them take industry intelligence and embed it into their classrooms, creating relevant, authentic and innovative environments.”

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