Fireside Chat forum speakers stress need for training acceleration at I/ITSEC 2022
Following the official opening ceremony for I/ITSEC 2022, this year’s format featured a new appointment, the Fireside Chat. The inaugural participants were Gen David Allvin, USAF Vice Chief of Staff, and Maj Gen Shawn Bratton, Commander Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM). The event was chaired by former RAdm James Robb, President of the National Training and Simulation Association (NTSA).
Allvin confessed that he was ‘not fully aware of the depth and breadth of I/ITSEC', and welcomed the fact that so many people had come together from industry and the military to support the event. He highlighted that there were so many attendees and commented that, ‘none of us are as smart as all of us', an observation taken up by many speakers on the Senior Leader Panel later that morning.
Allvin quoted Air Force Chief of Staff Gen Charles Brown’s comment that the USAF needs to ‘accelerate change or lose’. The problem is, explained Allvin, ‘everyone’s changing but we’ve got to change even faster to stay in front’.
He opined: ‘Training and simulation needs to accelerate at the same rate as technology, or if it doesn’t, they’ll be a major gap.'
Turning to the space domain, Bratton told the audience that the USSF is entering its third year and still growing and his own organisation, STARCOM, was only established in August 2021. ‘We’re learning about training and that’s why I’m pleased to be here,’ he said.
Bratton pointed out that the army, air force and navy all operate in the domain that they have responsibility to defend. ‘Unless you’re an astronaut, that doesn’t apply to us,’ he told delegates. Although Bratton said that STARCOM was responsible for training individuals, ‘we are now looking at how we can undertake more team training and we need industry’s help to enable us to achieve that,’ he explained.
Another challenge articulated by Bratton was that historically, STARCOM had undertaken mainly virtual training along with some live elements. This, he said, ‘is one of the challenges we’re struggling with at the moment. Our systems are not operated by individual guardians [members of USSF] but by teams and we need to address this shortfall.’
From left to right, Generals Bratton and Allvin with host, NTSA's RAdm (Ret) James Robb. (Photo: author)
Allvin commented on training currently conducted and made the observation that these are often disconnected from real operation and that they ‘need to be as realistic as possible’. He noted that many people procure what they are comfortable with and too many are ‘steeped in tradition and unfazed by progress’. He quoted the example of AI and how that technology could shape future training methods.
He made the point that industry and the USAF need to work more closely and should ‘discuss our concerns and requirements, and not just issue specifications for training solutions’.
In questions from the floor, Allvin was asked about the Pilot Training Next (PTN) programme. He highlighted that PTN shows how modern training needs to provided to meet expectations of the modern generation: ‘Student-centred learning is the way and not the “sage on the stage” that I was exposed to when I was learning to fly.’
He added that PTN ‘was beginning to bear fruit', because students could access training on demand, ‘even while wearing pyjamas’.
Clearly, both generals were in accord that they need to open and maintain communications conduits with the M&S industry. This request is not a new one, and perhaps should be foremost throughout the year and not just at I/ITSEC.
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