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Army Gains Valuable Insight From Network

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2008 – An integration network called L2I, now in its second year of operation, is giving officials at the Center for Army Lessons Learned valuable insight from their forward-deployed theater observers.

L2I connects military and civilian analysts at across the Army and the other services. The analysts -- embedded in units conducting operations in Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan and the Philippines and at stateside units -- gather, analyze and disseminate lessons learned.

“Since I’ve been the director, we’ve given seven Combat Action Badges and a Purple Heart to our theater observers,” Army Col. Steven Mains, director of the Center for Army Lessons Learned, told online journalists and bloggers in a teleconference yesterday.

The theater observers, or analysts, go on patrols with soldiers and try to look at the broad issues they face -- not necessarily what a single company is facing, Mains explained. They share those issues to get the ball rolling in determining lessons that can be learned.

“We’ve put together a network of people that are supported by processes and technology,” the colonel said. “And those people are out at … every unit, both deployed and not deployed, as well as all of the Army centers and schools.”

Mains added that the analysts’ role in collecting data is critical to future missions.

“Each of those individuals, each of those analysts, is responsible to keep his eyes open and talk to a lot of people at the command to which they’re attached to collect up lessons that we’re learning,” he said. “It might be a new technique to do a particular mission, or it might be a modification to a vehicle that everybody else in the Army should really know about.”

With dedicated analysts at key vantage points, deployed soldiers are never more than two degrees of separation from the schoolhouse, which provides instructional materials directly to the field, Mains said.

The analysts’ observations have enabled the Center for Army Lessons Learned to publish a number of valuable resources used by deployed soldiers.

“We publish about 125 documents a year, everything from a-couple-of-page articles up to … thick handbooks and newsletters,” Mains said. “We wrote a handbook … called ‘The First Hundred Days,’ and we wrote that specifically for soldiers. It’s turned into a series of handbooks since then.”

Mains added that the analysts also perform other tasks. “The other function that those analysts perform is not just collectors, but they also push information; they’re embedded in the organization, they are able to keep the finger on the pulse of what the organization needs,” he explained.

Analysts in the combat theater don’t just observe and collect the best lessons learned.

“We always send them with a collection plan, to look at ‘big Army’ leaders or ‘big Department of Defense’ issues, in some cases,” said Army Maj. Ty Martin, who works in the Integration Division and is one of the key members putting together the L2I network.

The Center for Army Lessons Learned collects and analyzes data from a variety of current and historical sources, including Army operations and training events, and produces lessons for military commanders, staff, and students. The center disseminates these lessons and other related research materials through a variety of print and electronic media.

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg works in the New Media Directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)

Contact Author

Army Col. Steven Mains

Related Sites:
Center for Army Lessons Learned
Defense Department Bloggers Roundtable

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