Educate or Train Leaders?
SPC Xu HaitongJoint Base Lewis–McChord (JBLM)
BLC Class 18-09
Roster # 21
Educate or Train Leaders?
When talking about the development of leaders, education and training go hand in hand. They constitute two of the three components for developing leaders, according to the Army Leader Development Strategy published in 2013. However, education and training are two different concepts, and it is vital to distinguish between these two terms. They are different processes, which produce different results. Understanding the difference between education and training, their respective effects on developing leaders in the Army, and the means of balancing education and training in order to develop better leaders is very important.
Merriam-Webster provides a specific definition of training: train is “to teach a person the skills for a particular job or activity”, so as “to make fit, qualified, or proficient”. Training is like battle drills. It focuses on specific skills that help improve performance and productivity. It is all about proficiency. Training establishes the foundation for education. As for the Army developing leaders, according to AR 350-1, Chapter 1-10, training is what the Army does every day. Leaders gain useful experience through practice. Training builds “confidence and competence, while providing essential skills and knowledge, resulting in unit readiness”. The experience gained from related leadership training helps implement such skills through their practical applications to everyday Army operations, making it easy to pass these on to the next generation, in line with Army traditions. Besides, training is a way to make sure Soldiers and leaders’ warrior skills are finely tuned. In addition, training is an everyday event that does not require any specific time or location and can be accomplished without too much additional cost.
Educate, according to Merriam-Webster, is to “develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction”, such as at “a school, college or university”. Education is an investment. It helps develop “a sense of reasoning and judgement”, and builds the ability to think critically, be creative, stay open-minded, and to find better and new solutions. The Army definition of education is of “a structured process to impart knowledge through teaching and learning”, “to enable or enhance an individual’s ability to perform in unforeseen situations”. Education also helps develop the general awareness and character of a Soldier “through exposure to theories, concepts, and information”. The Army provides various ongoing education opportunities, through genuine educational institutions – Basic Leader Course (BLC), Advanced Leader Course (ALC), Senior Leader Course (SLC), and all other related courses in the Non-Commissioned Officer Education System. Unlike training, education provides opportunities for students to learn the condensed, essential part of the experience gained by all other successful leaders. It helps exploit Soldiers’ potential, equipping them to better understand themselves, their abilities, and their role in the great Army team.
Both training and education are used throughout the three domains of the Army’s training and leader development process – institutional, operational, and self-development. Balancing training and education in an Army leader’s development is both an art and a science. If the Army were to provide only education without proper training, leaders would not know how to use the theoretical knowledge acquired from books. On the other hand, training without balanced education would lead to a lack of independent and critical thinking in unknown situations, and leaders would take the easy way out and blindly follow a prescribed set of procedures. Therefore, it is important to be both educated and well-trained. Combining education and training is of the greatest importance to develop effective Army leaders. During the early stages of an Army career, training in specific skills such as warrior skills training, Basic Combat Training, and Advanced Individual Training dominates. However, education dominates at the more senior courses, as senior leaders gain much more practical experience through years of training and practice and are in need of more comprehensively integrated and theoretical support. Most senior courses are heavily weighted towards education, as compared to training. The ratio of education and training changes throughout the timeline of leadership development, because the learning and development process requires different percentages of both at different times.
The role of Non-Commissioned Officers in the Army is important, considering that they are the recruiters, the drill sergeants, the military school instructors, the first-line supervisors, the platoon sergeants, and the ones who take charge of equipment and Soldiers. Consequently, the Army provides more guidance to the Non-Commissioned Officer Corps on the process of developing leaders, to help them understand the difference between education and training, how these affect leader development in the Army, and how to balance education and training in order to develop more effective leaders. Combining training and education judiciously and balancing both aspects scientifically for the benefit of Army professionals in the operational, institutional, and self-development domains will improve the enlisted force and make them more professional. Leader development is always challenging. It takes time and effort to take care of every Soldier mentally and physically so as to build a better Army.
Department of the Army, Department of Defense of the United States of America. (2017). AR 350-1 Army Training and Leader Development.Turner, L. J., MAJ. (2016). The Art of Balancing Training, Education.Training (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved from www.merriam-webster.com
Education (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved from www.merriam-webster.com