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Army, Air Force collaborate on education, innovation

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- Gen. David G. Perkins, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), visited officials from Air Education and Training Command Jan. 7-8 to collaborate with Air Force leaders on advancing education and innovation within the respective military services.

Perkins spoke with Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, the AETC commander, and Air University leaders at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, broaching on several subjects affecting both commands, from the future of recruiting to the emergence of new technologies.

TRADOC is the Army counterpart of AETC.

“As you deal with a very fast changing world, everybody wants to innovate so you want to be at the cutting edge,” Perkins said. “One of the keys to innovation is a wide-level of collaboration. Those units that collaborate a lot tend to innovate a lot.”

Army and Air Force leaders discussed employing technologies to train and educate Soldiers and Airmen, not just in the classroom, but in perpetuity when they return to their units. Leveraging new technologies for continual education is vital to reach and recruit younger generations entrenched in an information-saturated world.

“We talked about things like leveraging the Cloud and personal devices,” Perkins said. “The generation of Airmen and Soldiers we’re recruiting are very comfortable in doing things on their personal devices. They want the information right there in front of them; they want to be able to customize how they receive information, so we have to change our education systems to facilitate that.”

Recruiting is a challenge, as industry, colleges, and the military services vie for the same pool of potential applicants, Perkins elaborated. Numbers for those who qualify for both the Air Force and Army have decreased in recent years.

AETC and TRADOC officials are adapting to the changing recruiting environment by directing recruiters to actively educate potential recruits on the many opportunities offered through military service.

“The challenge in many ways in the recruiting environment is that as the military has gotten smaller, fewer and fewer Americans have any personal contact with the military whatsoever,” Perkins said. “They don’t have any firsthand experience, so many folks don’t think of it as an option. They don’t know about the professional development, leader development, and the educational opportunities offered in both the Army and the Air Force. So, we have to get our recruiters to spend time educating parents, as well as recruits, about these opportunities.”

Perkins also traveled to Austin, Texas, meeting with retired Adm. William H. McRaven, the University of Texas chancellor, to start a dialogue on the similar challenges each faces in administrating a large, complex university system. They shared ideas on developing learning tools that can be distributed in a very disperse manner, Perkins explained.

One of the topics of interest discussed between Perkins and AETC leaders was the relatively new Army University.

Army University officials integrated 70 separate TRADOC internal school programs under one university system while syncing instruction with a variety of other TRADOC institutions. Air University is similar in structure.

Last year, Army officials began a process to understand, visualize and describe ideas framed by the Army Operating Concept. The ideas in the AOC are foundational for shaping the strategy for the future of the Army, which includes developing adaptive and innovative leaders and officers. Army University plays a huge role in that respect, Perkins said.

“What we need are adaptive leaders who are critical thinkers and can exploit the initiative,” Perkins said. “We not only have to train them to do certain tasks, but we have to educate them on how to learn, because the world is changing so quickly. Great organizations are learning organizations. When people graduate from Army University, we don’t want them to leave Army University; we want them to take Army University with them to their unit.”

Army University is located at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Army University was established July 7, 2015.