Army Aviation

Training to be Adaptive and Innovative

Branch Command Sergeant Major / CSM Eric C.Thom: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” – Michelangelo

0315 csm aA UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to the 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment hovers over U.S. Army Special Operations members during overwater hoist training at Lake Yojoa, Honduras, Jan. 22, 2015. The 1-228th Aviation Regiment partnered with U.S. Army Special Operations personnel to practice recovering live personnel. The overwater hoist training was held to ensure members of Joint Task Force-Bravo are planning and preparing for crisis and contingency response, as well as countering transnational organized crime, and counterterrorism operations as part of U.S. Southern Command’s mission. Contingency planning prepares the command for various scenarios that pose the greatest probability of challenging our regional partners or threatening our national interests. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY TSGT. HEATHER REDMANWhen I joined the Army some 29 years ago, the motto was “Be all that you can be” (it ran from 1980-2001). It may be because that was the first motto I was exposed to, but it is still my favorite. The advertisement started off with pictures of Soldiers, both male and female of different races and backgrounds and ended with the power statement – “Be all that you can be, because we need you, in the Army.” You see, it didn’t matter where you were at in your life; you had more potential, you could do more, and you could be more. As I look back on it, that was a powerful message. It was all inclusive and left you feeling there was an opportunity for you in the Army.

Flash forward ten years and after being selected to serve as a recruiter, the Army taught me that most people joined the Army for one of five reasons: training, education, adventure, money or service to country. The truth is it didn’t matter which of these were the dominate reason for joining, because you got them all. Today, however, I would like to focus on training.

Twenty-nine years ago when we talked training, we talked task, condition and standard. Yes, we trained in varying conditions, but that was day vs. night, Mission-Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) 0 thru MOPP 4. In comparison training then was like checkers to today’s chess. Today’s Soldiers have to be critical thinkers; they have to be adaptive and innovative. Yes we still train a task given a condition to a standard, but that is just the beginning. Today’s Soldiers have to know when the situation is changing and what they have to do to stay ahead of the change. This is not just on the field of battle but in everyday actions. So when you go out to conduct training, think about some of the intangibles.

After you are a “T” in perfect conditions, throw in some curve balls, down in personnel, equipment, etc. Remember a wounded or injured team member takes out at least two, not just one. Our job as leaders is to first train the standard and then to deviate based on different situations. It is important our Soldiers know the standard first so they know how far off they are going with the deviation. This is vital in our fiscally constrained environment. It’s not about doing more with less; it is all about accomplishing the mission with what you have. I believe it was Aristotle who said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” I believe this still holds true today in a known environment but we are training for an unknown, unknowable and complex environment and a more appropriate quote might be from John W. Gardner: “Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” I like this quote because training should be an ordinary thing and we should do it extraordinarily well. Add the variables to increase complexity, change the situations, make our Soldiers think about the “what ifs” before we put them in harm’s way so they can be proactive and not just reactive.

We must anticipate that the demands of future armed conflicts requires an understanding of continuities in the nature of war as well as an appreciation for changes in character of armed conflict. We cannot simply train a task to standard; we must train it to standard while contemplating subsequent actions based on the operating environment. They must know the commander’s intent and manipulate the situation to our advantage. We must build relationships with our ground brothers and understand how they fight so we can better serve their needs. The Army exists to fight and win our nation’s wars and training is the most important thing we do to reach that end. That was true twenty-nine years ago, and it is still true today. As always I am honored to serve as your branch CSM.

Above the Best!

CSM Thom This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. CSM Eric C. Thom is the command sergeant major of the Aviation Branch and the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Fort Rucker, AL.