Marine Corps asks other services for training ideas

It’s possible the next big innovation in Marine Corps classroom or tactical training could come from an airman or a soldier.

Marine Corps Training and Education Command is in the final days of soliciting ideas for an innovation challenge focused on how to improve small-unit training, from policy to curriculum and classroom instruction to the use of tools like simulation and gaming. Any federal employee is eligible to submit ideas, including uniformed members of all service branches, including the Marine Corps, to defense department civilians.

“Sometimes it’s hard for this organization to look inside itself for new ideas,” Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, commanding general of TECOM, told Military.com in an interview. “So one of those ways that you get good ideas is, you go outside the organization.”

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To date, TECOM spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena said, about 150 submissions have been collected; those eligible to submit ideas have until March 31 to send them in via a dedicated site accessed through DoD credentials. Submissions for the innovation challenge will be reviewed in April, and winners will be notified in May, officials said.

Last year, the Marine Corps has conducted a Corps-wide innovation challenge on autonomous systems and robotics, and another challenge specific to the logistics community.

“The specific focus was on how to create better decision makers,” Lukeman said. “The idea is that the ability to make good decisions quickly with limited information is critical for success on the battlefield, so how do we change our training and education that creates better decision makers for the Marine Corps.”

The Marine Corps is not promising a financial reward for winners of the challenge, or even a guarantee that their ideas will be implemented. But the authors of the best ideas will get a free trip to TECOM at Quantico, Virginia, where their proposals will be workshopped with subject matter experts.

“We just had a discussion the other day about the commandant’s reading list, on books that are out there for Marines to read, and they’ve been out there for a while,” said Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew, the senior enlisted adviser for TECOM. “Somebody said, ‘well, they have audiobooks that are out there to do that. I could learn by using an audiobook.’ There are different things that are just provoking thought.”

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Even as ideas still roll in, changes are taking place at Quantico that affect Marine Corps training. In a January message to the force, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller called for the Marine Corps to develop a new plan for Marine Corps-wide use of simulation and virtual training environments no later than this June. He also ordered that a plan be developed to build a world-class simulation and gaming center at Quantico to enhance realistic training and better prepare Marines to fight.

With retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, who once told fellow officers that “Powerpoint makes us stupid,” now at the helm of the defense department, Lukeman said TECOM was also working to minimize slide-lecture briefings and presentations.

“This is what we’re trying to get away from, is sit in a classroom and get taught,” he said. “The other thing that we’ve shifted to is, where possible, we want for Marines to get taught by other Marines … We’re going with the method of having a unit leader discussion over having a class.”

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