Training ISR warriors faster, smarter through mobile apps

  • Published
  • By Lori A. Bultman
  • 25th Air Force
There are roughly 12,000 intelligence professionals assigned to 25th Air Force, 70 percent have less than five years of military service, and most of those Airmen are millennials; multi-taskers who thrive on high-tech, mobile and innovative training methods.

The educators of the 25th AF, Air Force Cryptologic Office (AFCO), in partnership with Air Education and Training Command, have discovered these newest intelligence warfighters require 24/7 access to fast-paced, highly agile training solutions.

“Through iOS, Android and Windows applications, training specialists are employing innovative technology to simplify complex topics so the Air Force will be in front of technology, not behind it,” said Frank von Heiland, of the 25th AF, AFCO’s Intelligence Force Management and Training Division.

This generation of Airmen live and work on the go.

“Advances in technology, innovation and creative thinking offer an opportunity to revolutionize how we educate, train and develop our Airmen,” von Heiland said. “The 25th AF has taken a competency- and proficiency-based approach to education and training. Our new, interactive multimedia instruction combines state-of-the-art presentation technology with graphics, text, voice, video, sound effects and animation to create effective, engaging learning experiences.”

The 25th AF’s intelligence training vision is to focus on people, relationships and innovation.

“Addressing the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s Airmen is paramount,” von Heiland reiterated. “We are partnering and collaborating across the intelligence community and major commands within the military to deliver advanced technology to those who need it, in any environment.”

Training developers are also focusing on more portable learning in response to frequent deployments, strains on the resources of both time and personnel, as well as, the availability of sophisticated technological capabilities.

Mobile Applications and Games for Intelligent Courseware (MAGIC) is a 25th AF-sponsored innovative training program designed with the most current technology to make the learning process more engaging and enjoyable for today’s Airmen. The applications are unclassified and present difficult-to-learn and highly technical concepts utilizing interactive applications.

These applications are designed to be used on mobile devices and personal computers, making training accessible anytime and anywhere. Unlike paper training materials, the apps can be updated at any time.

“The purpose of these apps and games is to provide an easily accessible, multimedia presentation on materials relevant to analysts since the apps can be downloaded to an Airman’s phone and can be utilized at any time, analysts are able to learn on the go,” von Heiland said.

The creation of app-based, mobile training benefits ISR specialists across the board.

According to von Heiland, mobile training will increase comprehension and retention, allow course lengths to be shortened and will create more capable intelligence technicians at a lower cost.

Currently, 17 new intelligence training apps are being used in the classroom at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas.

Surveys indicate students favor the applications, and instructors are seeing higher test scores.

Beyond mobile apps, the training team also employs virtual reality gaming as a training tool, allowing trainees to see and feel like they are in an aircraft or on the battlefield. The team developed a series of aircraft and a city environment for Airmen to explore while achieving knowledge, skills and abilities objectives. Virtual reality allows users to see all aspects of the training they are completing in a realistic, hands-on application.

Using virtual reality can build muscle memory and teach trainees to pick up on visual cues, von Heiland said. Trainers are also using virtual reality for emergency training on the aircraft, which is often difficult to teach with a book in a classroom.

By changing how 25th AF delivers education and training to intelligence professionals, von Heiland said they are better preparing Airmen to meet the advancing ISR capabilities in future warfare.

Through new technology, the Air Force hopes to draw more young Airmen into intelligence fields.

“We want to teach ISR Airmen in a medium they understand and embrace,” von Heiland said. “The current and future generations of Airmen are natives of the information environment. In order to have the best intelligence force in the world, we must continue to develop and integrate cutting-edge learning environments and technologies that will transform how they learn their trade.”