Within the Army, one organization focuses on ‘change’ at its primary mission, whether it’s a military intelligence professional or the operation of a unit — the Center for Army Lessons Learned, or CALL. While CALL is located at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, or USAICoE, fields a Lessons Learned, or LL Team to serve as the Military Intelligence proponent supporting CALL’s efforts. The USAICoE Team is a USAICoE, not a CALL, asset.
“Even though we’ve been around for so long, and we brief training classes and provide updates to the ICoE leadership, it’s surprising to learn how many people do not know that we exist,” said Chester Brown, Fort Huachuca Lessons Learned Division chief.
One of the jobs of the lessons learned team is to collect the observations, insights and lessons, or OILs, from the field and then provide to them to the people who can actually make changes in doctrine, organization, training, material, leader development and education, personnel or facilities. These topics are commonly known by those within the Training and Doctrine Command as DOTMLPF.
According to Brown, there are various methods of collecting these OILs. He explained how the LL Team establishes contact with Soldiers post-deployment.
“We will contact personnel or the leadership of those units to establish a communication channel prior to their deployment to provide them lessons we have received from others that may be of use. We also seek to receive from the unit the challenges they faced during their training or deployment,” Brown said. “We will arrange to visit the units upon their return from operations to learn from them directly what challenges they had and what things they would want us to take back here to Fort Huachuca for action.”
Sometimes a member of the Lessons Learned Team will meet with Soldiers during a mission for collection.
“That [Lessons Learned] person will deploy to go visit the unit and observe the operations and record observations unobtrusively and then speak with the unit personnel, all with the permission of the unit’s leadership and identify issues or challenges,” Brown said.
The deployed employee drafts a report and provides it to the leadership of that organization. During this process, the team separates Soldier complaints from the challenges that effect DOTMLPF.
“[The Lessons Learned team] also [obtains] an information security release and an operations security release from the unit’s senior intelligence officer and operations officer, or security manager so we don’t compromise any operational or intelligence information,” Brown added.
Aside from actively collecting OILs, CALL conducts an Army-level Lessons Learned forum and an Operation Enduring Freedom, or OEF, Lessons Learned forum. Brown described the forums as separate but complementary of each other. During the OEF Lessons Learned Forum, those that are engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom, can present issues for action based upon observations, insights and lessons.
“We also have our own forum here [at Fort Huachuca], and that’s the MI lessons learned forum,” Brown stated. “Our forum is modeled after the Center for Army Lessons Learned-run Army and Operation Enduring Freedom Lessons Learned forums in the way we bring together through defense connect online, a collaborative environment which participants can submit their issues for discussion, deliberation, action or awareness.”
A Lessons Learned exchange can happen without the team’s involvement. They can occur directly between instructors and students, or instructors and peers, commanders, leaders and their sources of information. Brown refers to these shared exchanges as part of an informal channel.
“There’s a great deal of information throughout the community that are in fact observations, insights and lessons but are not entered into an existing lessons learned process. Things are being acted upon, things are being learned and things are being shared very quickly among the practitioners and the leaders of training and futures, which is good. We do not want to upset that or interject ourselves into that process,” Brown said. “The informal channel is the strongest and the most responsive for lessons to be shared. We want to receive that information; but what happens is when the information is only shared on that informal channel, it doesn’t result in the recording of these lessons or the provision of resources to institute an enduring change.”
To make sure an OIL is enduring, intelligence personnel should use the Intelligence Knowledge Network, or IKN, for submissions. The IKN provides a Lessons Learned SharePoint capability, which makes the process more informative. Brown mentioned how this application makes everything transparent to the individual submitting, including the issues that were reported to the Lessons Learned team, items taken for action and aspects in which CALL is interested.
The current Lessons Learned effort began in 2003 with the first contract awarded in 2004. Today, Lesson Learned elements can be found within centers of excellence Army-wide and includes networks overseas. The Lessons Learned team here serves under the USAICoE Capabilities Development Integration Directorate of Doctrine, Concepts, Experimentation, Lessons Learned and Operations Research led by Michael Boardman.
“Lessons Learned is part of the dynamic process USAICoE uses to continuously modernize the Military Intelligence Force,” Boardman said.
The team is currently comprised of one active-duty noncommissioned officer, a Department of the Army civilian and four contractors. Until Sept. 20, CALL had a LL liaison contract employee at USAICoE. The contract expired and was not renewed due to budget cuts.
While team effort is important, Brown feels it’s the quality of the personnel who contribute to lessons learned which makes the organization successful.
“It’s the professionalism of the contractors, and the support that we receive from the Military Intelligence leaders in the field that see the importance of sharing the lessons that they’ve learned,” Brown said. “They submit these observations unselfishly, which is pretty humbling when you go out there to talk to these folks. They’re doing so much, that’s so important.”