School Without Walls:

IEW Maintainance Training in the Information Age

by Sergeant First Class Edward F. Turner

The vision of the Army Chief of Staff for the 21st century Army is of
a total force trained and ready to fight, serving our nation at home and abroad; a strategic force capable of decisive victory, as the cornerstone of readiness, training remains the Army's most important peacetime mission.

To successfully realize this vision, Army training must evolve as outlined in the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's (TRADOC) Army Training XXI strategy. This strategy addresses the evolution of unit training within the Warfighter XXI concept and the progression of institutional and self-development training in the companion document, Warrior XXI. In support of these training plans, the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca (USAIC&FH) has developed the Intelligence Training XXI strategy. To promote the goals of the collective training vision, several initiatives are under way within USAIC&FH which will harness the potential of information technology (IT) and propel intelligence training into the 21st century.
The trainers of the 111th Military Intelligence (MI) Brigade are leading the charge to realize these goals and objectives. Bravo Company, 305th MI Battalion, responsible for intelligence and electronic warfare (IEW) maintenance training USAIC&FH, has taken on the task of applying IT to enhance its training capabilities for the future. To ensure that IEW maintainers are ready now in concert with the Intelligence Training XXI objectives, training initiatives that leverage IT are given top priority. Tremendous progress has been made implementing two of TRADOC's exciting 21st century training initiatives: the evolution of Classroom XXI and "distance learning." This article will take a closer look at how we are approaching IEW maintenance training in the information age. The information age Army, forecast by Force XXI, will demand fundamental changes in the traditional Army training system. While those changes promise to affect all aspects of Army training in the future, efforts are well under way within USAIC&FH to make dramatic improvements today. The Intelligence Center has embarked on the important job of creating an intelligence structure that will be one with the warfighter and leveraging IT is key to this effort.

IEW Maintenance Training

It is important to take a brief look at the core of current institutional IEW maintenance training before exploring its leading edge initiatives. Bravo Company has the USAIC&FH responsibility in designing, developing, and conducting initial entry training (IET), advanced individual training (AIT), and functional course instruction for Army IEW maintenance personnel in Career Management Field (CMF) 33, Department of Defense civilians, and soldiers of other branches who support Service cryptologic elements. Accomplishing this mission on a daily basis offers some unique challenges.
Conducting both effective and efficient IEW maintenance training in an era of increasingly complex systems and continually decreasing resources is a formidable task. While this problem is common to many fields within the intelligence community, it is particularly acute in IEW maintenance. Institutional maintenance training on many IEW systems is cost-prohibitive due to their extremely low density within the force. Even so, the IEW maintainer must possess the skills required to maintain all of the current systems, ensuring them as to the force, wherever they are assigned. The IEW maintenance training conducted today focuses on three main areas: basic electronics, high powered workstations, and IEW system troubleshooting. An extensive overview of basic electronics and in-depth workstation maintenance training are the two key building blocks for the IEW maintainer. The IEW system troubleshooting that follows rounds out the educational curriculum. This training strategy provides the best mix of theory and hands-on experience possible within the limited time available. While this training program is getting the job done today, it is all but assured that it will be insufficient for the future.
As stated, the future is one of increasingly complex systems and ever-decreasing resources. The need for more complex training in a resource-constrained environment creates an information gap. Units are already facing this information gap, the difference between training required and training received. Although the current training strategy is sound, it cannot fill this ever-increasing information gap. Recognizing that its current training strategy will not meet the needs of tomorrow, Bravo Company set out to explore ways of closing the information gap. The results of this effort, "Classroom XXI" and our distance learning program, demonstrate the vast potential for IEW maintenance training in the information age.

A Foundation for the Information Age

At Bravo Company, we built our information age initiatives on a solid foundation. The cornerstone of support is provided by USAIC&FH's Center Without Walls initiatives. The Center Without Walls applies modern communications means to create more cohesive, total MI teams by promoting increased and improved interaction between all elements in the intelligence community. The total MI team quickly integrates new technological capabilities to maintain a warfighting edge. A subset of these initiatives known as School Without Walls, is an ongoing effort within USAIC&FH to radically redesign, develop, and provide innovative training services to MI personnel.
The second key piece for the evolution of information age training is the robust IT infrastructure that exists at Fort Huachuca. This key element provides the basic facilities and equipment needed for the functioning of this important training system. This infrastructure supports all of the efforts under the Center Without Walls program. Brigadier General John W. Smith, Deputy Commanding General, USAIC&FH, lists the need to make USAIC&FH the premiere "School Without Walls" as one of his Intelligence Training XXI training initiatives. The IT infrastructure is the key enabler to making this happen.

Classroom XXI

Classroom XXI is one of the major efforts within Warrior XXI that will lead TRADOC into the 21st century. TRADOC and its Centers are working hard to fully develop this classroom of the future. One of the Center's goals is to improve classroom instruction here at the home of MI. Anticipating a resource-constrained environment and appreciating the potential offered by IT, we set out to create a prototype 21st century classroom featuring information age technology. The endeavor will reengineer the classroom of the training institution to capitalize on new training methods and information technologies. Although it may not be the definitive solution, by creating a Classroom XXI laboratory within USAIC&FH we can explore more effective and efficient means of conducting platform instruction by applying emerging techniques and technologies.
Bravo Company's Classroom XXI Training Laboratory is comprised of a core and three main elements (see Figure 1). The core consists of lesson plans converted to hypertext markup language (HTML) distributed via an Intranet Web server over a local area network (LAN). The three main elements of the laboratory are
Classroom XXI has also been supplemented with the recent addition of the Barracks Link, which can extend the long arm of learning into the student living quarters.
HTML Lesson Plans. The most vital part of the design of this classroom was the creation of its core HTML lesson plans. The Computer Maintenance Section (CMS), responsible for High Powered Workstation (HPW) maintenance training within Bravo Company, was chosen as the test-bed for the project. Since none existed, the first step was to develop a HTML format for lesson plans. With a format in hand, the three-month process began to convert all of the CMS lesson plans to HTML. When completed, more than 40 separate lessons, consisting of hundreds of pages, had been produced for the project. Assigned soldiers and civilians did all the work. With the entire HPW course available to the instructor over an internal network, CMS was now ready to take advantage of its state-of-the-art classroom. Classroom XXI had come to life.
The HTML lesson plan core of Classroom XXI enables any instructor within the section to access lesson plans on-line. However, there are also many additional benefits provided by the classroom configuration. Instructors can rapidly update these on-line lessons in real time and the lessons are readily available to all consumers. Another benefit resulting from on-line lessons is the elimination of most publication costs. There is no need to print volumes of hard-copy lessons. Additional benefits will also be realized in the future. For instance, training managers, developers and even students, will also have on-line access to these training materials. The increase in administrative efficiency and training effectiveness is obvious across the board.
Podium-top Lesson Plan Access. A primary feature of the Classroom XXI suite draws directly from the HTML lesson plan core. It is podium-top access to on-line lesson plans. This low-cost solution gets the lesson plans from the LAN to the instructor's fingertips in the classroom. A lap-top computer placed on top of the instructor's podium provides lesson plan access. This computer, connected to the instructor LAN, directly accesses the appropriate HTML lesson plan using Web browser software, such as Netscape. The instructor simply moves through the lessons with a click of the mouse. Additionally, the instructor is not limited to lesson plans alone. The Computer Maintenance Section is able to place a wealth of related information on its Web server. All of this information is just a mouse-click away from the instructor on the platform.
Advanced Assistant Instructor and Visitor Positions. The second key element of the Classroom XXI training laboratory is advanced assistant instructor and visitor positions. This element also draws directly from the HTML lesson plan core. The advanced assistant instructor (AI) position is a computer that provides LAN access independent of the primary instructor's. The AI can access all the information available to the instructor, without disrupting the ongoing training. The AI can read ahead or review recently covered material. With appropriate permission, the AI could even be updating lessons on the fly. This second independent information-access point, the advanced AI position, greatly enhances the training environment.
The visitor position is also a part of the second element. In a traditional classroom, a hard copy of all the courseware is in the classroom for training evaluators and other visitors to review. This is called the visitor folder. Depending on the particular lesson, a visitor folder could easily be a thousand pages or more. The Classroom XXI suite does away with this huge expense. A separate monitor, connected to the instructor's computer, is in the back of the classroom. This simple device allows a training manager to follow along with the primary instructor without flipping a single page. The costs saved by this simple solution should prove significant.
Totally Electronic Slide Presentations. The final element of the Classroom XXI implementation is totally electronic slide presentations. This element also promises to be a dramatic cost saver. It is estimated that the traditional acetate slide produced for overhead projectors cost approximately one dollar each. With each block of instruction consisting of one hundred or more slides, the costs add up quickly. The goal of the totally electronic slide presentation is to never produce another hard-copy slide. Electronic slide presentations consist of computer-based slide presentations, such as ones made with Microsoft PowerPoint, projected electronically from a floppy disk. The projectors that facilitate this are not cheap, but eliminating hard-copy slides quickly recaptures their cost.
The recent addition of the Barracks Link has worked to supplement Classroom XXI efforts. The barracks link consists of a computer lab in their AIT student barracks. While it is not yet possible, the design goal is to have most of the instructional material available, via the Internet, to the students in the barracks. The benefit of this is twofold. First, the student gets hands-on experience accessing vital information through the network, a skill crucial to the field soldier of the future. Second, the students have access to information they can review at their own pace. The student can cover missed material or "read up" on the next day's lesson. The initial implementation of the barracks link has proven to be wildly popular. The dividends it will pay more than justify the costs involved.
As stated earlier, Classroom XXI is an ongoing effort and we learn valuable lessons from our training laboratory every day. We continue to refine it wherever and whenever possible. The Classroom XXI suite developed is not the perfect solution for everyone, but it has demonstrated a potential and has increased instructor efficiency. Classroom XXI has definitely been a step in the right direction.

Distance Learning

With USAIC&FH striving to become the premiere School Without Walls, one area of concentration is increasing our support to the IEW maintainer in the field. Fulfilling this need is the driving force behind the second major training initiative, distance learning. As is stated in Warrior XXI documentation,
Distance learning is not a discrete technology but incorporates a number of emerging technologies to move distributed learning from the realm of the possible to that of the practical.
To this end, we developed a practical solution called LINK33. LINK33 is a World Wide Web server accessible anywhere in the world via the commercial Internet. It is an interactive electronic maintenance home page designed to link the worldwide, joint Service, electronic maintenance community. While many organizations are using the Internet as a distribution source for information, LINK33 is going beyond the one way flow of information. Many aspects of LINK33 offer "interactivity" to the user. There are areas, such as the electronic help desk, by which the maintainer in the field can interact directly with institutional trainers possessing a wealth of resident knowledge that is available at USAIC&FH. LINK33's design facilitates the complete flow of information to and from the field. Internet access to LINK33 is through the uniform resource locator (URL) inside the brackets, http://huachuca-link33.army.mil. The name LINK33 comes from CMF 33, Electronic Warfare and Intelligence Systems Maintenance.
The information provided by LINK33 will reduce the costs associated with training, simplify the introduction of new systems and doctrine, fill training gaps and help satisfy force structure requirements. The LINK33 service provides a wealth of IEW maintenance information directly to the maintainer in the field. Basic electronics information and courseware is available, as well as maintenance and self-study information for HPWs. The link provides information on all facets of CMF 33 IET training and for many functional courses. LINK33 also provides maintenance, training, and general information for many IEW systems such as the All-Source Analysis System (ASAS) and TROJAN Special Purpose Integrated Remote Intelligence Terminal (SPIRIT) II. LINK33 directly addresses many of the challenges of leveraging information technology to improve training.
Providing information on the commercial Internet is inherently nonsecure. With that in mind, no information goes on LINK33 unless it falls in the realm of approved for public release. Of course there is a need to provide information that is sensitive or even classified to the field. We are addressing this need through the creation of a duplicate LINK33 service on the Secret Internet Protocol Routing Network (SIPRNET). This will allow provision of information up to the SECRET level within a secure environment.
It is important to note that there are two methods of distributing learning: synchronous and asynchronous. The synchronous mode deals with the real-time delivery of training. While highly valuable, it is inherently complex, expensive, and time-intensive. Conversely, the asynchronous mode deals with retrievable training that is without time constraints. The LINK33 distance learning initiative concentrates on delivering asynchronous distance learning. This limitation greatly reduces the costs associated with implementation, yet can still meet many of the needs of the maintainer in the field. Like Classroom XXI, LINK33 is an ongoing effort. Bravo Company will continue to develop LINK33 so that it can become the definitive electronic maintenance information resource available anywhere within the Department of Defense.

Future Advances

We are evaluating continuous advancements to expand our ability to provide training when and where needed. Additional advancements are undergoing test to increase the interactivity with maintainers in the field. Work continues to mature on what Bravo Company has termed distance assistance. Distance assistance will continue to close the information gap. It will also work to bring the classroom to the battlefield and vice versa. As Classroom XXI and distance learning continue to develop, they begin to meld, working to create a true Warrior XXI training environment. Distance assistance will be a key part of that environment.
One promising distance assistance technology we are incorporating into LINK33 is limited desktop video conferencing. USAIC&FH has already successfully tested a very inexpensive solution that allowed maintainers at Fort Lewis, Washington, to interact with personnel at USAIC&FH over the Internet. This solution offers interactivity using video, audio, and a shared John Madden white board. In much the same fashion that the Army's medical field is experimenting with tele-maintenance, so, also is Bravo Company experimenting with tele-maintenance. This technology, and many others, promise to increase both the usability and viability of the LINK33 service and other information age training initiatives.
USAIC&FH continues to explore all avenues of IT as it seeks to improve maintenance and other training. The fast-paced training environment posed by Force XXI will place extraordinary demands on all training institutions. The efforts being made today will ensure that maintenance training remains Always Out Front.
Sergeant First Class Edward F. Turner is an Instructor-Writer assigned to Bravo Company, 305th MI Battalion. He is the primary architect of the Classroom XXI Training Laboratory and the LINK33 Distance Learning projects. He has a bachelor of science degree in Computer Studies from the University of Maryland. Readers can reach him at commercial (520) 538-4753, DSN 879-4753, and E-mail [email protected]