US Army saying goodbye to “Death By Powerpoint,” giving leaders more freedom

Lt. Gen. Thomas Burnette, retired, talks to the leadership of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, about counterinsurgency operations during a three-day seminar at Fort Wainwright, Alaska in 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Blalack,1-25th SBCT Public Affairs)

The US Army is seeking to build upon the recent trend of making smarter warfighters by discontinuing Powerpoint Presentations in favor of thoughtful discussions with troops.

According to the Army Times, the Asymmetric Warfare Group has played a large role in the new plan, which has been named the Adaptive Soldier Leader Training and Education program, or ASLTE.

Under ASLTE principles, leaders will forego rigid and unimaginative instruction blocks, replacing them with a student-centric training plan that is capable of evolving and improving upon itself through lessons learned from customized instruction.

“How we’ve done it for years- you’ve had a set (program of instruction), you go one through ten, and that’s how it’s covered, and that’s how you evaluate it. We put a matrix on it,” said CSM David Turnbull, enlisted leader of the Combined Arms Center at Fort A.P. Hill, VA.

The new instruction method would have no set way of teaching material and would not follow a set process- as long as all mission objectives are met.

The strategy is simple, dating back thousands of years. In an effort to get “back to basics”, the ASLTE program, using individual feedback from engaged soldiers to determine what is and isn’t sticking when instructed.

“This is not new. This is the under-the-oak-tree training. This is Socrates,” said AWG commander Col. Micheal Loos. “What we’re trying to do, what we have done, is create an exportable package. Because at the end of the day, it has to be scalable and usable by large formations.”

While the principles of ASLTE are geared toward mid-level NCOs, the method is applicable across all ranks.

“I’ve been a soldier who’s been doing this since I was a young sergeant back in 1995. It just wasn’t labeled or named this way,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Henry of Cadet Command, who oversees one of eight ROTC regions.

One of the most frequently used examples of training was that of marksmanship- and essential combat skill. “If you’re only shooting to qualify, to satisfy a rubric, then we aren’t teaching what marksmanship should be, which is to get better at shooting to ultimately win.”

The AWG was borne out of the need to provide more flexible training and thinking skills that allow soldiers to keep up with the ever-changing environment, particularly with insurgencies such as those found in Iraq and Afghanistan. With enemy behavior being fluid, the need to make “on-the-fly” adjustments- “building an airplane in flight” if you will- became a prevalent task to protect American lives on asymmetric battlefields.

With a large portion of AWG members being from Special Operations background, many of the new schools of thought sought for the ASLTE program reflect the fluid, “gentleman’s course” method of teaching frequently seen in Special Operations units, With a better understanding of the “squishier human traits”, AWG members felt the need for adaptability, leadership, initiative and problem-solving would benefit conventional army troops.

“If you ask leaders anywhere, describe your best soldiers, it’s never the soldier who can put the M240B together the fastest. It’s the ones that have initiative, the ones that practice good teamwork, the ones that are engaged and make good decisions,” said Col. Blaise Cornell-d’Echert, an Army Training Integration manager at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. “That is the fundamental power…And now that’s been embraced in the Army Learning Model.”


  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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