Military Training: Instruction & Quality

“Many complain that the Marines they are getting out of entry-level training lack physical fitness, have poor discipline, and are prone to personal issues. Besides the basic leadership issues presented here, I would present that the reason there is such a large disparity in the Marines coming from the schoolhouse is directly related to the lack of organized training for instructors assigned to instructor duty.” (Davila, 2012, p.28).

The UK Perspective

British armed forces instructors are usually recommended for instructional duties by their commanding officers after annual appraisal has suggested they might be suitable. All three services believe that only those with recent front-line experience are credible for appointment as instructors.

Some training establishments base their selection on a competitve application and interview process, but many do not. As a result of these procedures there is an instructional workforce which varies widely in attitude and competence. Most instructors will stay in these roles for an average period of two years.  Also, some branches of the Army require soldiers at certain levels (such as Corporal or Sargeant) to be employed in instructional roles in order to gain advancement in rank regardless of the enthusiasm or competence for the role.

The ‘better’ instructors describe training as an important and worthwhile job; they are praised by recruits for maintaining an appropriate balance between discipline and support, as well as for their knowledge and experience (ALI, 2005).

Although some instructors love the role, others resent being posted away from opportunities to distinguish themselves in the front line. These instructors are not interested in the role and may even manifest destructive attitudes to it, including an inclination to repeat bad experiences they, themselves, had suffered as recruits. Some also believe that fulfilling the services’ duty of care for recruits is ‘babysitting’, to which they profess a strong dislike.

Fewer than half of all instructors are trained to do the job before they start. The British Army continues to see training in advance for instructors as an aspiration. The training of instructors varies between the services, although there is an emphasis to integrate to a Tri-service model as many other business support services are doing or have done.

The ALI (2005, p.26) states that “there is no planned programme of continuous professional development for instructors and, if there was, instructors’ short postings would preclude a steady growth of their skills.” This report looks at training for recruits rather than training for trained soldiers.

In 2004, one year before the ALI published its report I attended the 5 day DITS (Defence Instructional Techniques) course at the Defence Centre of Training Support (DCTS), Portsmouth. DITs is a foundational course required for entry on to other courses, such as:

  • Coaching & Motivation;
  • Supervision & Coaching of Instructors;
  • Presentation Techniques; and
  • Simulator Instructional techniques.

During my trained soldier instructional roles I was assessed upon the commencement of the instructional role, internally assessed/verified by the qualified validator at least once per year and the training establishment, as a whole, would be externally verified once every two years. Instructors classed as poor, and sometimes average, would be given training and support.

Unfortunately, a ‘dedicated’ career as a trainer/instructor in the military is difficult to achieve with a large majority of instructors only holding one such post during their military career. A small minority will have two posts and the very lucky few may have more. As a result organisational quality and memory may be reduced, and trainers struggle to develop and maintain the skills and competence necessary to deliver high quality training. However, a majority of training establishments employ civilian staff, mainly ex-military, which can ameliorate these effects.

DITs Course Outline

In the near future I will be uploading an outline of the DITs course I attended in 2004 at the DCTS in Portsmouth.

References

Davila, J.L. (2012) Screening or Rolling the Dice: What Qualifies a Marine to Teach? Marine Corps Gazette – Quantico, March 2012, pp.28-30.

Adult Learning Inspectorate (2005) Safer Training: Managing Risks to the Welfare of Recruits in the British Armed Services. Available from World Wide Web: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/21_03_05_ali.pdf> [Accessed: 13 November, 2012].

Adult Learning Inspectorate (2007) Better Training: Managing Risks to the Welfare of Recruits in the British Armed Services: Two Years of Progress. Available from World Wide Web: <http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/E82B3EE1-182B-47F6-8693-05AF88E6CF63/0/MODBettertrainingfull.pdf> [Accessed: 13 November, 2012].

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