Innovation and Adaptation

Army Training System Transformation

By Ben James August 7, 2020

The Australian Army needs a ‘Training Transformation’. Our current training system largely follows a formula of receiving instructor-led teachings in a classroom-based environment, demonstrating some practical application of newly acquired knowledge and, having progressed through a pre-determined Learning Management Plan, being deemed competent or otherwise to apply this knowledge in the workplace. Too much of our training is still delivered by large, centrally planned and run residential courses that take soldiers away from their units and families for prolonged periods. Residential training will always have its place but it must be a well-designed component of the training system, not the system in its entirety. While this approach has served the Army well for many years, it is showing its age. It’s a steam-driven, mid-20th Century approach to training that no longer allows us to embrace the full potential of learning technology available to assist trainees or to exploit the full potential of our people to absorb education and training. It needs a radical overhaul if we are to contend with a number of key drivers:

  • Army’s step change capabilities demand a revised approach to training. These capabilities, enabling Army to generate effects not just on the Land, but increasingly in the air (Air and missile defence), Sea (Land-based, anti-ship missiles), cyber (force level cyber and EW) and in space, place Army in the unique position of providing persistent, cross-domain options to the joint force. They will not be realized with a ‘business as usual’ approach to training. The Army Training System needs to be better prioritised to develop, test and evaluate the concepts and structures that support these step-change capabilities and Army’s rapidly changing contribution to the joint force. Moreover, the effective synchronisation and application of the range of capabilities within the joint force requires multiple iterations of training if we are to understand, apply and adapt their application to best contend with an Accelerated Warfare environment. A wider embrace of technology and simulation in training will be essential if we are to ‘learn at speed’ and deliver Army’s step-change capabilities.
  • Accelerated Warfare demands we take a more flexible and wide-ranging approach to training. Former Australian Rugby coach Eddie Jones still attracts mixed reviews, but one of his great strengths was to implore his players and prepare his teams to ‘play what’s in front of you’ as opposed to conforming to a pre-determined game plan or script. An Accelerated Warfare environment demands that our training system focus on the same principle through an 'always on’, ‘continual learning’ approach to training to instill, develop and refresh in our people the skills and knowledge to understand and adapt as circumstances dictate. The requirement for constant professional education will empower soldiers to take command of their ability to gain professional mastery but these methods, often self-driven and self-paced, will challenge our traditional approaches to learning.
  • The skills and knowledge we’ll increasingly require in Army’s people are also in high demand in other sectors of the workforce. If we are to attract, train and grow the people and teams to meet the demands of Accelerated Warfare, we’d better make sure we’ve got a training system that represents best practice and helps them realise their potential…or they’ll seek employment in other professions that more readily deliver on their needs.
  • Training can’t be a ‘set and forget’ prospect. People need ongoing training at the ‘point of need’ and our training needs to be more focused on enabling the best possible ‘learning outcome’ rather than simply ‘delivering a course’. Despite our best efforts at communicating last year’s changes in Land Range Safety doctrine, we know that not everyone was able to understand and apply those changes in a practical sense in their workplace. We’re also seeing a spike in injuries from the Army Combatives Program, possibly because Army’s approach to training was not flexible and robust enough to contend with skill fade and the disruption of a posting cycle. We owe our people more in helping them learn, retain and apply the knowledge gained through a more sustained and diverse approach to training and education.

There are already a number of initiatives in place that are beginning to transform our training in Army.

Land Range Safety. The drivers that have led to the ongoing review of our approach to Land Range Safety are real and illustrate what can happen when training goes wrong, when lessons aren’t learned and when qualifications, currency and experience in a particular field are not immediately apparent to Commanders. Many of the initiatives we’re introducing through Land Range Safety – simpler, clearer, more accessible and engaging doctrine; an open and transparent sharing of lessons and ‘near-miss’ incidents; a trial of 21st century learning and range training and additional personnel resources at the point of need – will inform our wider approach to Training Transformation. (click on the image to find out more)
Decisive Action Training Environment (DATE). Our new adversary framework includes a multi-dimensional, lethal adversary based on current threats we see on contemporary operations. Developed in partnership with the US Army, DATE replaces the far more binary Musourian and Kamarian doctrine and promises to better test both our individual and collective training outcomes. (click on the image to find out more)
Combat Behaviours. The Combat Behaviours initiative groups together a combination of existing training and new programs to provide Army with the framework for preparing soldiers with a combat mindset and combat skillset appropriate to their role on the battlefield. Combat Behaviours is designed to prepare every Australian soldier for the physical, mental and moral rigours of close combat: to survive, thrive, fight and win. To be effective, these behaviours need to instinctive and effective. This will require cultural change and constant practice. It’s an example of an approach to training that is responsive to our changing circumstances, that reflects the rapid transfer of skills and training from SOCOMD to the conventional force, and that can be incorporated largely within existing training programs and facilities.
The Cove. The Cove continues to grow in terms of usage, value and diversity of contributions and international connections. I’ve been particularly impressed with the growing number of soldiers and non-commissioned officers writing about their experience on regional operations, Army’s approach to training and modernisation and ‘lessons learned’ from major training activities. It’s a terrific forum for the contest of ideas, to reflect and write about our profession and to share examples of ‘best practice’ with a wide and diverse audience. Cove 2.0 will be released this year and will take the interface and usability of the site to a new level.
Human Performance. We’ve established a Human Performance Optimisation (HPO) Directorate within TRADOC to drag the future towards us in terms of helping our people realise their potential. Building on the success of local programs such as the Tactical Athlete Development Programme or the Advanced Operational Conditioning Programme, regional partnerships within combat brigades and recent partnerships established with national institutions such as the Australian Institute of Sport and Rugby Australia, this program is likely to focus on physical, cognitive and socio-cultural pillars of HPO. These measures recognise implicitly Army’s place as a high-performance team and we will progress our Human Performance Optimisation Program through senior committees in the first half of this year.


More Work to be Done We’ve got plenty to do to take our training transformation beyond words to deliver a tangible, 21st Century training outcome. A vision without resources is a hallucination, and it’s important that we focus beyond words and deliver meaningful outcomes in this endeavor. This is what we’re doing to realise our Training Transformation:

  • We’ll develop a submission for an Army Training Transformation Program in the next Defence White Paper / Integrated Investment Plan (IIP). Army’s Combatant Training System needs a sustained funding line, a tighter and more responsive partnership with industry and a closer relationship with key partners in E&IG, CIOG and DSTG. An IIP project should underpin and coordinate these critical functions and resources.
  • We’ll apply our evaluation and lessons learned from our Land Range Safety initiatives more broadly across other training areas. The 21st century approach to training and learning we’re seeing delivered through an engaged and responsive industry partner are fertile ground for a broader, deeper training transformation across Army. Our Five Eyes partners are on a similar journey to us, and we’ll continue to learn from them in the ABCANZ program and through our extensive liaison officer networks.
  • We’ll review what we’re asking of our military instructors in light of a training transformation. We need to move past the concept of the instructor-led, classroom based traditional methods of instruction and help our instructors become creative and engaging teachers, coaches, mentors and facilitators, delivering better learning outcomes not only in residential courses, but increasingly at the point of need in unit locations. We owe our instructors a more comprehensive program of development if we’re serious about them meeting these requirements. We won’t be asking them to do more – we’ll be giving them the skills to do things differently.
  • We’re working closely with Head Land Capability to ensure that part of our training is directed towards testing, evaluating, trialing and fielding the step change capabilities and concepts that promise to give Army a unique position within the joint force. Creating the capacity for Army to transform is an essential pre-condition for a wider training transformation.
  • Our cooperation with E&IG and CIOG to ensure that the development of our training areas and information technology systems to support a training transformation is good. Similarly, we’re working much closer with our partners in DSTG to drag the future towards us; to realize the benefits of cutting edge research more quickly at the sharp end. Just as Army never fights alone in an ADF sense, we need to work closely with our partner groups to ensure we’re prioritising, funding and implementing the infrastructure and practices we need to deliver a 21st century approach to training.

A ‘business as usual’ approach to our training will not successfully land the Army we need for an Accelerated Warfare environment, nor will it realize the potential afforded by a number of step change capabilities being brought into service in the near future. There’s a ‘training transformation’ required.  




Ben James

Brigadier Ben James is The Australian Army's Director General of Training and Doctrine at Headquarters Forces Command.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.


Thanks for your article, Sir, and to those who have posted. I am very excited about the prospect of building a 21st Century approach to training and learning – the transformation of training is important to breathing new life into an approach that has become stale and less than responsive to Army’s requirements into the future. But let’s not throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water…the ADDIE model on which our SADL is developed remains dynamic and responsive, and is used worldwide to develop extremely effective instruction regardless of format. Traditional F2F classroom lessons or asynchronously-distributed micro-learning packages at the point of need still require us to analyse what we are required to performance, design and develop the training intervention, deliver successful instruction and ensure that it meets the needs of the workplace, the team and the individual. I do, however, share some concerns with regards to the ‘value’ of the LMP in its current format, and would proffer that over the years it have been come a catch all to meet the demands of a number of different masters. This has, over time, had an impact on what is contained within an LMP. The Training Package was primarily focused on the objectives to be achieved, the content to be covered, what should be assessed and how, and the sequence of delivery - to build performance. The Training Package ensured consistency and standardisation across the workforce over time. LMPs must be more than a template into which we cut and paste – they fundamental to shaping our profession, and are the result of rigorous analysis. With regards lesson plans, I acknowledge Anthony’s comments – we cannot afford to beat creativity out of our instructors. What is crucial to good instruction is the science behind the blue print. The science tells us that humans learn in certain ways. Thus, 1) we need to prepare our trainees for what we are about to deliver and make it make sense – hook it to something they already know and its importance. 2) we need to present the material / skills, provide feedback and confirm understanding in bite sized chunks that is geared to our trainees, and 3) we need to make sure that what we have just delivered ‘sticks’ and results in improved performance. The instructor understands the content, understands their audience and has the licence to use a variety of tools, techniques and aids to build solid instruction – the patter is not the important bit. A good lesson will stay with a trainee long after the training has finished - understanding how to make things ‘click and stick’ is as much about instructor flair as it is knowledge and skills.

Sir, a thought provoking article. I am impressed by the quality of responses so far. They are most useful for my Desktop Review of IDP, driven by COMDT RMC-A. I agree our instructors are high quality people. In fact, Army is above the national instructional standard, using the civilian measuring frameworks. For example, it takes up to 4 years of intensive training to give birth to a 'teacher', requiring further professional development and honing their skills. Our instructors do not have this luxury yet, they are successfully generating and growing Army's most valuabls asset, people, with trade and all corps skills. So, how do we support and enhance the instructional skills and optimise learning? These are issues I look forward to addressing this year in my role IOT improve the way we further develop and support our instructors.

Thanks for this contribution Nileshni. We have a lot to do if we’re to better enable our instructors and help them deliver training at the point of need. Our Land Range Safety trial is showing us how our instructors can better see, measure and respond to student performance without the need for paper-based tests and quizzes. This is important if we want our instructors to have the flexibility to adjust courses “mid-LMP” to account for areas where trainees are struggling or where they’re doing particularly well. Similarly, we need to make sure ADELE and other in-service IT systems help our instructors deliver training at the point of need, rather than being fixed to a classroom-based, “bricks & mortar” approach to teaching. Stay close to DPME and RSM TRADOC as you think about Instructor development, Nileshni - this work needs to roll out across Army. Looking forward to catching up with you and the AEC team later this week! BNJ

Ben - great article, looking forward to RMC-A’s role in helping make this happen. Already seeing some terrific thinking and work coming to fruition in the Army Education Centre to help provide us with the best practice methodologies required. Plenty of current workforce enthusiasm to raise the bar too.

Thanks Rupe. Agree about the energy and interest in this task. We’re seeing some terrific early signs in our Land Range Safety trial, through the work of AEC and through ADC willingness to upgrade ADELE. DSTG and HQ JOC are also making good contributions to informing our thinking. This is about making a good system better - I think we’re on the right track.

Mick, Thank for this very useful feedback and these’s no question in my mind that, if we are to successfully transform our training, it will need to be done in conjunction with our partners in E&IG, CIOG & DSTG. You’re right about many of our systems being cumbersome, bureaucratic and difficult to navigate - we see those same challenges in many elements of our training eneterprise. These systems were generally designed for an Army in greens, SLR’s and push to talk radios - we’re somewhat different now and our systems have a great deal of trouble keeping up. Most of my visibility of training area issues comes through the AHQ sponsored ‘Land Training Areas and Targetry Steering Group’. I look forward to continuning to work with E&IG to transform our training through that forum. BNJ

Given the residential component of both ACCC and ACMC and our relationship with UNSW, would it make sense to have those two courses contribute to credit for a subject in the Post grad program? At this stage I have observed that the majority of Officers are already participating in some sort of additional study in their own time (most likely a Masters through correspondence at ADFA).

Coop, Army currently has a number of agreements with universities which offer credit for between 3 and 16 units. As an example, Southern Cross University offer 16 units (50%) credit towards a Bachelor of Business if you have completed the ACCC and have four years of professional experience and professional development programs. Another university offers an associate degree in adult and vocational education if you have completed the Army Recruit Instructor Course, the TAE 10 QA Course and Subj 1 for CPL. This and more is offered under the Army Tertiary Education Program (ATEP) - please see the attached link for more information. These are all undergraduate programs though. I don't think that UNSW would be averse to offering credit towards post-graduate degress under our existing arrangements, but it would depend on the degree and the experience of the individual. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss further.

Great idea - let me see what’s possible here but your suggestion makes perfect sense. Our Director of Professional Military Education, Colonel Fi Curtis, will get back to you within a week with an update on what might be possible. BNJ

Ben, a terrific article that succinctly captures and explains the key elements of how Army is seeking to better prepare its people and systems to meet the challenges of the current and emerging security environment. I’m encouraged by your points on cooperation with E&IG and CIOG to make sure that training transformation is enabled appropriately. Equally, those of us in enabling Groups need to understand what the future training environment looks like and make decisions to deliver that outcome in a timely way. A key challenge will be managing the risk of an ageing and increasingly poorly suited to modern training needs; and matching training policy and systems transformation with the infrastructure funding and project delivery expertise to deliver on expected milestones. E&IG doesn’t have consistent form here: our processes remain slow and arcane. And we are frequently hamstrung when infrastructure costs of a system or policy change are not costed, or they are but the funding is reprioritised prior to delivery, or a critical element is value-managed from a project scope to meet a pre-determined budget bottom line. I’m looking forward to these initiatives being realised at bases and training ranges in the NT, doing what I can as an E&IG stakeholder at a local level to facilitate that and keeping myself informed about expected outcomes so I can articulate risk when I see an associated process or project start to run off track.

Ladies and Gents, as a current training designer at HQ CATC I offer the following observations WRT the construct of LMPs and the amendment process. 1) The best football teams have a fantastic back of office and front of shop filled with specialists who value add to the team to bring home the trophy. If your TD cells are poorly manned or manned with the wrong type of person (training design is not for everyone) dont expect quality curriculums or fast processing of amendments. 2) The best curriculums have been created collaboratively using subject matter experts on content working with subject matter experts on training design. Qualify ALL the pers in your TD cell on training design, ensure you have a balance of content SMEs and make sure their all CURRENT. If your TD cell resembles Jurassic park then CMA has failed you. 3) Quality not quantity of content within your LMP. Teaching points are subject headings.They provide enough direction to the instructor to guide the creation of Learning Material not form the entire content of your PPP. When creating teaching points remember the difference between what they need to know and what you want them to know. 4) The amendment process is like the zeroing process, never adjust content after a single course or you will end up missing the target. Always run a trial on a new cse or major revamp, validation is key and put as much effort into your learning reviews and workplace you do the learning materials. Review curriculums every 36 months, not 60, one complete rotation of the force gen cycle, if your cell can't achieve this you have to much product or not enough people. We reduced the APC drivers cse from 53 days to 20, in the space of 12 months, without a reduction in a single Km driven or a single round fired by focusing on core content. Your LMP will be as long or as short as you allow it to be.....

G'day Anthony, good job on putting pen to paper WRT the LMP / doctrine issue. I agree it can be a friction point, and if not managed in an innovative way can be a lengthy (and non-adaptive) process. For what it's worth, here at School of Artillery I manage the process of LMP, training and doctrine amendments as a 'trinity' in conjunction with CATC and AKC. I meet with SO2 CBT Arms Doctrine and SO2 RAA Trades and Training very regularly to set, re-balance and align our LMP amendments, doctrine priorities and the commensurate modifications to training. Noting I don't 'own' the LMP/doctrine prcoesses (or the people) we've nevertheless established a technical authority that gets around the problem; e.g. it sees us working together on the same LOO. I think, on the balance of outputs, this cuts through some of the red tape to have a far more adaptive and timely outcome. Additionally, each Wing here is tasked with writing the LMP / doctrine amendments once the TRO identifies a fix for consideration (we often do this in conjunction with the Master Gunners in each of the CBT Bde Regts). We then invite RAA T&T and AKC into the unit for scheduled working groups to ensure each adjustment is validated; thereby cutting down the time that CATC/AKC needs to invest in working out the 'why'. More work for us perhaps, but we reap the benefits of timely implementation. Ack - our system isn't perfect and in light of a transformation I concur it requires an overhaul; but in the meantime I assess a flexible approach - and strong and enduring relationships - go a long way to remediate it. If you and the team want to have a gander, feel free to contact our standards cell (Craig Woodhall) for more info. Cheers Nick Wilson

Anthony, this is excellent feedback and I will pass to RSM TRADOC as well – thank you. The issues you’ve raised are exactly what we need to get after – fast. I’m down at Pucka on Friday and would be keen to face to face to discuss these matters if you have time. What I’ll be keen to follow up on is: 1. What’s stopping us giving instructors the freedom of action to deliver learning material / lessons in the form / function that they think best meets the learning outcome? Our instructors are hand picked – what policy is constraining them? 2. I understand the point you’re making between doctrine and LMP’s. We’re seeing the same issue at a number of our schools. This is a more complex issue and we’ll need to discuss this face to face. Thanks for this excellent feedback – look forward to talking about it in more detail and fixing what we can. BNJ

Sir, As an instructor currently employed in a training establishment I agree wholeheartedly that our methods are outdated. I have two points that I would like to contribute as discussion points derived from this article. 1. Firstly, I believe that our current instructor assessment practices focus too much on lesson blueprint and hamstring an instructor to a particular style of instruction. I think that this leads to instructors becoming more focussed on the planning of instruction and conforming to a set method and order of delivery. This is to the detriment of the instructor actually drawing on their own knowledge and experience on the subject and imparting that onto the trainee. I think the blueprint is outdated and would rather see my team given a subject and construct their own method of instructing the subject inclusive of teaching points assessed as most important by the team. I intend to write a discussion primer on this subject later in the year, hopefully drawing on my last four years as a military instructor. 2. Secondly, our learning management packages are not manageable. With the current method of updating them we are consistently falling behind with content. Currently it is taking anywhere up to three years for a full review of content and updating any amendments. This also hamstrings instructors from being adaptive and providing a flexible learning continuum. Australian doctrine is currently in a state of flux and changing for the better. The training delivery package does not provide the flexibility required to deliver the most current content. A possible solution would be to allow the team responsible for that training the opportunity to make updates throughout the course and after the AAR. Then allow that team to run the next course as a pilot with the updated changes. Once the pilot hase been completed the course will be evaluated in the next TY. If required it will be changed and run as a pilot then implemented. Similar to the concept of the Combat Brigade SOPs following the ready formation IOT encourage consistent updating to remain relevant. I think this will becomes a lot more prevalent as we train our soldiers on multiple technical systems and within the joint environment. We ask a lot more of our soldiers now and have an expectation that they will naturally be able assimilate multiple complex systems and technical data. For some background knowledge I am employed at the School of Armour and have trained multiple AFV Crew Commanders, Troop Sergeants and Troop leaders in tactics wing over the last four years. The opinions expressed here are my own and I have conveyed them to promote discussion on subjects that I think are relevant to this paper. Thanks for taking the time to read this. I look forward to any responses.

Sir, Anthony I’m really excited by this article and the focus on ‘Training Transformation’. As a RAAEC Officer, I have plenty of thoughts and ideas…. But for now, I’d like to share my view on point 2. I agree that many of our LMPs are not manageable and do ‘hamstring’ the Instructor. Something I think we need to look at is how LMPs are being written, for example Learning Outcomes. These outcomes often include an exhaustive list of Teaching Points (TP) out of a belief that this is a necessary requirement of the SADL. I don’t agree with this. I think that the curriculum needs to be well designed - structured, sequenced, scaffolded etc, with well-defined outcomes. However, the LMP shouldn’t be so prescriptive that the Instructor cannot vary their lessons to suit a particular group of Learners, changes in Doctrine etc. How often has an Instructor covered a TP because it is in the LMP, even though they know the Learners already understand that content? Rather than list numerous TPs, all that is required are ‘critical’ TPs and references. I do think it is important that the assessment standard and criteria is comprehensive, as we use assessment to measure whether or not the Learner is workplace ready. However, the Instructor should be empowered to refer to current Doctrine, the Assessment standard and conduct their own analysis IOT identify the content that needs to be covered. Yes, there is potential risk in giving some of the control to the Instructor…. However, our Instructors are handpicked, and I think should they should be given the responsibility and opportunity to think for themselves. This approach would reduce the number of minor LMP amendments. The blueprint, instructor assessment policy, the LMP amendment process are all valid areas to review as we transform training and enable rapid change.

Thanks James. Great to hear your views given your former role in training assurance. To be clear, I’m not seeking a free for all in determining learning outcomes. I appreciate these need to be grounded in doctrine and reviewed and developed carefully to ensure consistency in the development of our people & army capability. I am seeking some discretion for our instructors to determine ‘how’ and by what means they achieve the learning outcome prescribed in the LMP. This will be a work in progress - but it’s an important step to make sure we’re harnessing the full potential of our instructors. BNJ

Good Morning – interesting points raised about instructors and feeling ‘hamstrung’ by LMPs. Having spent the last few years undertaking a trg assurance role in the G7 Br at HQ FORCOMD I concur that issues relating to LMPs and LMPSS were are regular source of friction. I agree that the number of LMPs we have across our TCs mean that their management is at times difficult, however, I would like to sound a note of caution against the potential for instructors to seek to change learning outcomes in an attempt to deliver the most current content – if we do so then the tail begins to wag the dog. The danger we face here is that instructors are given the green light to deviate from endorsed learning outcomes and thus trg is not delivered IAW the LMP. We have to remember that an LMP is created with workplace performance in mind and that changes to a LMP (in particular the learning outcomes) should occur primarily as a result of workplace evaluation. I fully accept that some LMPs are out of date and need an overhaul to make the training more relevant. We just need to ensure we distinguish between the ways we may seek to execute current learning outcomes in a different manner (e.g. flipped classroom or the use of learning technologies) as opposed to seeking to change those learning outcomes entirely. We have a process for the latter - the Evaluation phase of the SADL and in particular workplace evaluation at Kirkpatrick’s levels 3 & 4 as opposed to the trainee / instructor focused learning review at levels 1 & 2 (which would be used to recommend different ways to deliver trg for example). The issue with workplace evaluation is the lack of resources we have to undertake this task. That said, I encourage TCs to employ their RAAEC asset in the Analyse & Evaluation space in an attempt to get at this problem and overhaul our LMPs from the top down.

Blue print method suits military learning, meeting time frames and learning outcomes.

all good understand

Extremely well written article with pertinent points to consider for instructors

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