Training update

Editor’s note: “Training update” makes its debut this Army Communicator with updates on several tenets of lifelong learning. Also see the personnel-management piece of assignment-oriented training in “Signals.” AOT isn’t a stand-alone effort by either Office Chief of Signal (the personnel proponent) or Directorate of Training, so both entities will provide updates in various AC issues. For background information, see the Winter 2001 AC edition, which contains several articles on lifelong learning, the University of Information Technology, AOT, the resource center, virtual campuses and simulations – all discussed following.

Lifelong-learning organization

by Barbara Walton

About a year ago the concept of lifelong learning was just a good idea, but the Signal School has come a long way since then in implementing the various tenets of lifelong learning. This article will provide an update on what has been accomplished to support those tenets.

The Directorate of Training was reorganized in March, and a UIT Division was established. The UIT Division’s mission is to serve as the directorate point-of-contact for implementing the lifelong-learning concept for the Signal Center. In close coordination with the directorate’s other divisions, 15th Regimental Signal Brigade, Leader College of Information Technology, Office Chief of Signal, Training and Doctrine Command and Department of the Army, the UIT Division manages the lifelong-learning tenets (AOT, simulations, the UIT resource center and the virtual-campus concept) as well as lifelong-learning materials, partnerships with outside activities and development of policies and procedures to support the concept.

At the 2002 Senior Leader Training Support Conference, leaders examined our current training-support strategy and worked on a new strategy providing individual, leader and unit training competencies. Chief of Signal MG John Cavanaugh teamed with Fort Jackson’s commander as co-chairs of one panel identified to work on the new training strategies – the panel on enlisted military-occupation specialty qualifications and lifelong learning. The panel’s objective was to develop an implementation plan detailing how to leverage innovative and technological processes and applications to achieve MOSQ in institutional training, as well as sustain MOSQ throughout a soldier’s career.

The Enlisted MOSQ and Lifelong-Learning Implementation Plan is the product we produced to meet that objective. The Chief of Signal briefed the plan’s main points at the conference’s conclusion, then we produced the final document and submitted it to TRADOC in March. In the plan are detailed explanations of the concept and strategy for each lifelong-learning tenet and a comprehensive laydown of estimated investments over a six-year budget cycle.

We also drafted a lifelong-learning business plan in June. The business plan combines the ideas and concepts of lifelong learning (described in the MOSQ implementation plan) with the hard resource and investment data, and it integrates the timelines for implementing our milestones. (Before the business plan existed, there were many documents and briefings discussing the various parts of lifelong learning, but there was not one document a person could go to for everything in one place.) The business plan also provides a common set of definitions and a roadmap that “crosswalks” all the activities and work the Signal Center is doing.

We’re firmly committed to this transformation of education and training, and we believe the Army culture is evolving to accept it. Several TRADOC schools have proposed candidates for AOT, so Personnel Command is helping those institutions by developing policies and procedures to manage personnel under AOT. Active and Reserve units have heard about UIT’s tenets, and they’re eager to become involved. We’re partnering with Fort Hood, Texas, through their Battle Command Training Center and with 93d Signal Brigade to establish the groundwork for pilot virtual-campus sites. We’ve captured the interest of instructors and faculty who are using the UIT resource center to post their course content, and we can tell by the increasing number of hits on the UIT resource center’s website that more and more soldiers are beginning to accept lifelong learning.

We’ve worked hard to mature the tenets of lifelong learning over the past year, and while we’ve accomplished a great deal, there’s a great deal more that needs to be done. We’re looking forward to maturing the individual tenets of lifelong learning in the coming months.

More MOS courses will be redesigned for AOT. Lifelong-learning materials – including simulations and other interactive multimedia technologies – will be developed to support these newly designed courses. The resource center will become increasingly valuable to Signal soldiers and leaders as more content is added to the digital library and as capabilities are expanded to enhance reachback. We’ll use lessons-learned from piloting the virtual campus to establish more campuses at other units and activities, with the ultimate goal being to provide all Signal soldiers and leaders the ability to access and share content wherever and whenever it’s needed.

Ms Walton is a supervisory instructional-systems specialist and chief of DOT’s UIT Division at the Signal Center, Fort Gordon, Ga. She has been deeply involved in the UIT project from its beginning, as well as with the IT and digital-training master plan.

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Resource center

by MAJ Jake Pennington

In my earlier article [Winter 2001 Army Communicator], the resource center was still conceptual. In just six months, the resource center has grown into a functional center for lifelong learning in the Signal Regiment.

We’ve built a UIT website (https://UIT.gordon.army.mil/), fielded web-based collaborative tools to the schoolhouses and many of the directorates, and with the help of the School of Information Technology’s futures-development team, built a number of on-line courses for use and testing in the schoolhouse. (Since coming on-line in January, about 100 courses have been activated on the site, and we’re averaging 8,160 user hits daily.)

Your Army Knowledge On-line user identification and password allow you access to the site.

We add content daily to the website. We have courses on-line for MOSs 74B and 74C, warrant officers and Functional Area 53 officers, as well as basic Signal officer courses and the Signal Captains Career Course. Courses are all being taught “resident” at this time, but we’re working on our first off-site class now for MOS 74B. (More on this following.)

The website provides search capability to the UIT digital library, as well as links to the Reimer Digital Library and other military sites. Forums, courseware and other options are also available. We’re working toward standing-up 24/7 support (an on-line help desk) with a frequently-asked-questions page, a knowledge base with subject-matter-expert profiling and voice-over-web support. We’re building the FAQ page and knowledge base ourselves, but we’re modeling the knowledge base after corporate successes (such as the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional program).

UIT Resource Center screenshot Log-in screen (homepage) at https://uit.gordon.army.mil.
UIT Resource Center forums screenshot Help can be asked for and comments made via the "Forums" link from the homepage.
UIT Resource Center Digital Library Search screenshot The UIT website provides search capability to its digital library.

Our knowledge base is built from our on-line forum database and allows each user to rate the response. This gives our SME profiling a unique perspective of how the community feels about the SME’s quality. SMEs are also rated on how often they post. The ratings are different for each topic area, so an SME might have an excellent rating in a particular area but have a mediocre rating in another.

We’re close to purchasing an eStara solution for our voice-over-web capability. EStara offers a reasonably priced web-to-personal computer or web-to-phone solution (push-to-talk) that will ensure our soldiers never get a busy signal. We’re also planning to add video support.

We don’t have our learning-management system in place yet, but we’re working with Blackboard and representatives from the Army Distance Learning Program to stand up Saba here as our LMS. Saba is the Army’s objective LMS, and we plan to be one of the first sites to field it. As an interim solution, we’re working with Blackboard to develop the reports we need to build a comprehensive training record on our soldiers and tie the data seamlessly to existing TRADOC systems.

As we end the fiscal year and approach the calendar year’s end, we have plans to expand both our server capability and software licensing to move the resource center forward. Our objective is to hire a help-desk staff, upgrade our Blackboard license to enterprise level and purchase enough hardware to configure our servers in a cluster arrangement to provide a more stable and secure platform for the resource center.

We’re also working with SIT and other agencies on Fort Gordon to improve our Blackboard classes so each course lecture module has a streaming videoclip of the lecture embedded into the briefing and timed to the slides. We’re accomplishing this through use of a digital videocamcorder, s-video cable and a free Microsoft PowerPoint add-in called Producer. We feel that once we’ve videotaped each lecture and built some simple Flash media videos of the hands-on training, the Reserve Component will feel comfortable certifying their instructors to teach our courses remotely. There appears to be a large demand for the MOS 74B10 course, so we’re starting with this course first and are coordinating an October class with a local Reserve unit as our first test. If successful, we’ll be able to create multiple instances of the course on our server and quickly bring up remote courses throughout the Reserve community.

MAJ Pennington is chief of the resource center. He’s a Functional Area 24 (computer-system engineer) officer and was previously an FA 53 (information-system manager). His assignments have included systems-automation officer and information-management officer at headquarters, 5th Signal Command, as well as FA 24 proponent manager in OCOS, Fort Gordon.

SFC John Barrett of OCOS’ Enlisted Division contributed to this article.

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Simulations

by MAJ Heather Meeds

Just as UIT will use the computer on your desktop to meet the education and training requirements for Signal and IT leaders, soldiers and units worldwide, the simulations being developed to support UIT will use PC-based simulations as the optimal means of providing realistic, virtual hands-on training, which will allow users to learn by doing.

The first PC-based simulation to support UIT and lifelong learning is the AN/TRC-173B, an air or vehicular transportable radio repeater that provides line-of-sight capability in corps-area communications. The simulations enable MOS 31R soldiers to learn TRC-173 and its critical tasks, then validate their new skills. Leader skills may also be obtained from working with this simulation.

The TRC-173 simulation was ready for training Aug. 31. The $2.5-million simulation immerses the user in a fully three-dimensional graphical environment. (See the following screenshots from the simulation’s familiarization portion.) The icing on the cake is that the simulation has 100-percent reusable content, so updating this simulation and creating new ones will be much cheaper.

AN/TRC-173B radio set simulation Familiarization from AN/TRC-173B radio set simulation.
AN/TRC-173B radio set simulation Familiarization from AN/TRC-173B radio set simulation.

Speaking of new simulations, we’ve also started working on a simulation for MOS 31U. This simulation will be used as initial and sustainment training for the MOS. The simulation will train Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (Version 3.5.3) as well as how to operate the tactical Internet to support fielding of Army Battle Command System digital systems. The 31U soldier will be able to operate each piece of equipment that makes up the tactical Internet, place the individual pieces of equipment into an integrated communication system and troubleshoot the system.

Other systems and equipment will be part of the simulation to form an integrated systems trainer:

Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System’s advanced system-improvement program;
Enhanced Position-Location Reporting System;
Automated net-control device; and
Precision lightweight Global Positioning System receiver.

Another new simulation we plan is the brigade-subscriber-node simulation, mostly targeted to MOSs 31F, 31P and 31R. This simulation will allow a leader or soldier to place the system into operation, establish internodal links as part of an integrated communications network, troubleshoot hardware and link faults, initiate shutdown procedures and prepare the system for redeployment.

Managers will be able to plan and monitor a network using the integrated network-management tools available within BSN, reconfigure an active network and troubleshoot network faults. More specific skills the simulation will train managers on include voice equipment; Internet-protocol address management; Hewlett Packard’s Open View software for monitoring network status; access-control list management; Intrusion Detection System management and monitoring; H323 videoteleconferencing protocol; and battlefield VTC management.

The “hottest” simulation projects now are the MOS 31 simulations, however. Since 31S is severely understrength Army-wide, Fort Gordon has moved the simulations priorities to the 31S simulations to help increase the throughput of 31S soldiers. The 31S simulations will also increase the interservice training capacity for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

The first 31S simulation to be developed will be the AN/GSC-52A (satellite-communications terminal). The AN/GSC-52A, a strategic piece of equipment, is a high-capacity super-high-frequency SATCOM system. The strategic sites are permanent (for all practical purposes), so the simulation will only be for operator/maintainer. The simulation will provide familiarization with the equipment, operation, site layout and terminal. The user will acquire skills on equipment configuration, patching, programming, system operations and troubleshooting. In following the lessons, the user will practice and improve his or her knowledge and skill.

Since AOT has been implemented for MOS 31S, it’s necessary to further train the soldier for his or her next assignment, since he or she only received formal training on either tactical or strategic in their advanced-individual-training course. The 31S simulation to be developed will be at a level where the soldier can get enough training from the simulation and unit-based training to effectively perform his job. This will eliminate the need to return to the schoolhouse to complete the other part of formalized tactical or strategic training.

The Signal Center is also seeking funds to develop a simulation on another critical 31S piece of equipment: the AN/TSC-85C nodal terminal, which can receive, transmit and process low-, medium- and high-capacity multiplexed voice, data and teletypewriter signals.

A few final notes on simulations in general. Having simulators at the schoolhouse will allow students to spend less time waiting for their turn on the equipment to acquire skills and practice them. This time-saving allows the course to be shortened and produces a more focused and better-trained soldier.

Also, using simulators will assist the schoolhouse in teaching joint courses. If the schoolhouse doesn’t have the latest equipment version most of the Army is using, simulators will help eliminate that problem; students will be able to train on the simulator even if the schoolhouse doesn’t have the actual equipment. The simulators won’t just be used for AIT – they’ll support follow-on training and can be used for refresher training, sergeants’ time training or remedial training. These simulations will also be available and will be used for in Noncommissioned Officer Education System training (for both the basic and advanced NCO courses), and for officer and warrant-officer training.

All simulations are built for field use and are based on training manuals and on critical tasks for certain MOSs. The individual soldier will have access to them – from the foxhole to the classroom.

MAJ Meeds is chief of DOT’s Systems Integration Division at the Signal Center. She’s been an Army officer for 16 years, 11 of those with the South Carolina Army National Guard. Previous assignments include S-1, S-3 and S-4 with 151st Signal Battalion; commander of Company A, 151st Signal Battalion; systems engineer, 151st Signal Battalion; network officer, 228th Signal Brigade; and emergency-response plans and operations officer with the National Guard Bureau.

SFC John Barrett of OCOS’ Enlisted Division contributed to this article.

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Assignment-oriented training

by Beverly Friend

This update focuses on four of the seven initial-entry-training MOSs for which 15th Signal Brigade is proponent. As reported in the Winter 2001 edition of Army Communicator, during the autumn of 2001, four MOSs (31R, 31S, 31F, 31P) were recommended as feasible candidates for the AOT pilot program.

The first course to be piloted (in October 2001) was the Multichannel-Transmission-Systems Operator-Maintainer Course (31R). The 31R supervises, installs, operates and performs unit-level maintenance on multichannel line-of-sight and tropospheric-scatter communications systems, communications security devices and associated equipment.

Before AOT was initiated, trainees spent 13 weeks and two days learning all mobile-subscriber and digital-group-multiplexing LOS equipment in use across the Army, regardless of the trainee’s next assignment. When AOT was implemented, 31R training was reduced to nine weeks and three days (saving three weeks and four days of training) for echelons above corps, or eight weeks and three days (saving four weeks and four days of training) for echelons-corps-and-below training (see figure below).

MOS 31R AOT MOS 31R AOT flow. AOT course lengths are eight weeks, three days, for ECB and nine weeks, three days, for EAC.

Our learners are now trained only on the critical tasks required by their gaining unit. This strategy will allow our learners to be more focused as they are trained, educated and developed through a systematic lifelong-learning process.

The Satellite-Communications-Systems Operator-Maintainer Course (31S) was the next course to be piloted (February). This task was a little more complicated than transitioning with 31R because of the length and complexity of the 31S course, the requirement to get an endorsement from the Interservice Training Review Organization, and the fact that we had to train legacy and AOT concurrently without more resources. The ITRO endorsement was required because the 31S course trains Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and international military students to operate and maintain the Defense Satellite Communication System. The 31S course also trains satellite systems and network coordinators to manage and control DSCS satellite networks.

Before AOT was implemented, the 31S course had grown from 39 weeks and one day in Fiscal Year 2002 to 41weeks and one day (the approved course length for FY03). Under AOT, the course’s length was reduced by 13 weeks and one day for the strategic track and by 16 weeks and one day for the tactical track; the 31S course under the AOT concept is 25 weeks and two days for the strategic track, or 22 weeks and two days for the tactical side. (See figure below).

MOS 31S AOT MOS 31S AOT flow. AOT course lengths are 25 weeks, two days, for the strategic track and 22 weeks, two days, for the tactical track.

The Signal Center instituted full-time AOT training in February for 31R and 31S. (Even though the pilot for 31S started in February, “full execution” did as well.) As of May, we’ve graduated 371 soldiers from 31R and no 31S (due to course length). By the end of this FY, 1,180 31R soldiers and 102 31S soldiers will have graduated AOT training. Course-length reductions have saved the Army 1,794 training weeks to date and will save 6,458 weeks during this FY alone.

We plan to implement the Network-Switching-Systems Operator-Maintainer Course (31F) as AOT (both the pilot and “full execution”) in September. The 31F course teaches supervising, installing and operating up to on-site/in-systems maintenance on large and small electronic switching systems, system-control centers, node-management facilities, associated multiplexing and combat-net-radio interface equipment. (See figure below).

MOS 31F AOT MOS 31F AOT flow. AOT course lengths are 15 weeks, three days, for EAC and 18 weeks, three days, for ECB.

Finally, the 31P course – which trains the supervision, operation and maintenance of microwave communications systems, associated antennas, multiplexing and communications-security equipment – transitioned to AOT with a pilot course in August, although we originally projected the pilot to begin in June (Winter 2001 Army Communicator). TRADOC approved our concept plan, which is now a requirement for an MOS to implement training under the AOT methodology. The plan includes training requirements, the projected costs or savings over the lifecycle of the program, a lifelong-learning plan to cover the entire education spectrum for the MOS and documentation of the required additional-skill identifiers.

Our AOT pilot programs this year and late last year have been successful. We’ve learned many lessons from them, and we believe we’re ready to move forward on a grander scale in terms of instructional development. It has been an almost seamless transition for the learners, but the instructors and supporting staff have developed tremendously on a professional level because of their involvement with this paradigm.

Also of note is that the AOT program benefits not only the active Army, but there’s also significant benefit to both the Army Reserve and National Guard. The program tailors the soldier’s MOS training to the equipment they’ll work with at their unit of assignment. They spend less time away from their homes, jobs and unit. Most RC soldiers will never require follow-on training, as most never change units, but it’s still available to those who need it. As UIT and the virtual campuses mature, RC soldiers may not even have to leave their jobs and families to attend training after they’ve completed IET.

As we continue our transition, we must remain mindful of what AOT soldiers will need after leaving Fort Gordon. Just as is presently done in the field, there will continue to be a requirement for AOT graduates to have mentoring and supervised on-the-job training from their supervisors. We’ll need in-depth planning and coordination to retain and sustain each AOT soldier’s technical skills and job proficiency. It’s critical that we use IT now to ensure all soldiers have workable opportunities to grow both professionally and personally throughout the rest of their careers.

Dr. Friend is academic dean for IET at 15th Signal Brigade, Fort Gordon. She was formerly department director at the Signal Center’s School of Telecommunications Technology. Friend holds master’s degrees in education and instructional-systems technology. She has a doctorate in instructional-systems technology from Indiana University and is pursuing another doctorate in training and performance improvement. Her civil-service education includes training at the Distance Learning Institute in Stillwater, Okla.

SFC John Barrett of OCOS’ Enlisted Division contributed to this article.

Acronym QuickScan
AIT – advanced individual training
AOT – assignment-oriented training
BSN – brigade subscriber node
DOT – Directorate of Training
DSCS – Defense Satellite Communication System
FA – functional area
FAQ – frequently asked questions
FY – fiscal year
IET – initial-entry training
IT – information technology
ITRO – Interservice Training Review Organization
LMS – learning-management system
LOS – line-of-sight
MOS – military-occupation specialty
MOSQ – military-occupation specialty qualification
NCO – noncommissioned officer
OCOS – Office Chief of Signal
PC – personal computer
RC – Reserve Component
SATCOM – satellite communications
SIT – School of Information Technology
SME – subject-matter expert
TRADOC – Training and Doctrine Command
UIT – University of Information Technology
VTC – videoteleconference(ing)

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04/04/12

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