U.S. Army Trainers: The Path to Becoming a Trainer and the Development of Professional Identity

U.S. Army Trainers: The Path to Becoming a Trainer and the Development of Professional Identity

Steven W. Schmidt (East Carolina University, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6086-9.ch015
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Training in the U.S. military has evolved, and it has taken on new significance and priority as key in helping the military move forward. While the topic of training in the military has been discussed extensively in many different publications, there has not been as much discussion regarding those who are actually involved in that training, including curriculum designers and trainers. This chapter focuses on the experiences and identities of those who do that training. It discusses the experiences of civilian (non-enlisted) Army trainers (or educators), including how they got involved with training in the Army, their experiences in learning how to be a trainer, and their professional identities as trainers for the Army.
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“Throughout U.S. History, adult education has been a pervasive and essential influence on military training and education” (Persyn & Polson, 2012, p. 5). In fact, the U. S. Department of Defense (DoD) is the country’s largest provider of adult education. There are over 800 types of jobs within the DoD, ranging from healthcare to administration to combat-specific positions (Persyn & Polson, 2012). As such, training in the military is complex, multi-faceted, and broad in scope.

The U. S. Army Learning Concept (ALC) for Training and Education 2020-2040 discusses the importance of training, specifically in the U.S. Army. The forward to this document states the following:

The Army is a learning organization. Therefore, the Army’s vision is to immerse Soldiers and Army civilians in a progressive, continuous, learner-centric, competency-based learning environment from their first day of service. Within this environment, the Army applies a comprehensive program combining training, education, and experience to develop agile, adaptive, and innovative Soldiers, Army civilians, and teams able to fight against capable and elusive enemies and win in a complex world. (p. iii)

If the Army is to be successful in their mission, training is critical, and the role of the trainer is key. The role of trainer for the U.S. Army is more important and more complex now than ever before. But what does it mean to be a trainer for the U.S. Army? This chapter builds on a research study published by Schmidt (2014) on Army trainers. It includes discussion on how Army trainers came to have their positions, and the paths they took to become trainers. It includes content on how formal education in training and development (graduate study in a human resource development program) shaped the practice of Army trainers. It also includes discussion of professional identity development of Army trainers.

Why study the career paths and professional identity development of Army trainers over trainers in any other organization? There are several reasons why studying trainers in the Army is different than studying trainers in any other organization. First, as mentioned earlier, in terms of sheer size and scope of activity, the U.S. Army is an organization unlike any other in the world. As cited earlier, Persyn and Polson (2013) note that there are over 800 types of jobs in the military. This means that trainers instruct soldiers and other Army stakeholders on thousands of topics. Many of the topics taught are related to the health, physical safety, and well-being of the individual, which also makes Army training different than training in a typical workplace environment. Finally, the relationship between the individual and the organization makes the training function unique. Soldiers are not simply employees of an organization. Rather, they become part of a community, and they (and their families) are subject to rules governing where they go, what they do, where they live, what they wear, and with whom they socialize (among other rules) (William R. Abb, LTC (Ret) personal communication, September 14, 2012). The culture of the Army makes those who are Army trainers different than traditional workplace trainers.

The following quote is found in the ALC 2020-2040 (2017):

Human capital development is essential to the Army’s future success. Reinvesting skilled military and civilian manpower in the institutional Army is critical to achieving learner outcomes successfully. The Army must develop experts skilled in facilitating adult learners. (p. 33).

Key in meeting the long and short-term goals noted in the ALC 2020-2040 are experienced faculty and instructors with the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to teach the myriad of subjects necessary for today’s Army to function. Also important is the development of instructional designers, educational support, and educational program managers; all of whom ensure the Army’s training function runs smoothly.

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