Using drones: For today's generation, the training paradigm has changed

      At a recent training conference, we were discussing new recruits and their idiosyncrasies. Most of the attendees were training managers at various academies throughout the state. The conversation began with the texting and gaming mentality...

   We quickly discovered that, for many of this generation, what goes on online is important to them. We began recording our observations and applying them. Our training plan had to work efficiently if we were going to continue mission.

   These younger folks long for social networking. They want to build teams. Make everything a team effort, including driver/co-driver and shooter/observer. When we taught them anything, we used drones. We put something in their hands and put them under stress, then added the social factor. For the Millennial, drones and teamwork is the best work.

   We quickly recognized how the Millennials have learned to learn. When old folks like me were tasked to learn something, we practiced and practiced it correctly, shrugging off the agony of defeat. We learned how to do individual tasks correctly before assembling the consolidated task as a whole. Often, we would lock ourselves into our rooms or practice at the skating rink when no one else was around, exiting only when the skill level exceeded the embarrassing stage.

   The new learners have trained on games ranging from Super Mario to Halo 3. Video games are executed in a particular sequence until the gamer reaches a level or task which they cannot accomplish at the time. They re-spawn or are resurrected in order to continue play. How do they learn? By failing. The learning paradigm is different. For the new generation, failing is an essential part of learning. Not only that, Millennials "practice" failing publicly, either with their virtual public or their f2f (face-to-face) contemporaries. For this generation, failing in front of a peer is not an embarrassment; it is a badge of honor. After all, spawning has taken away the finality of death or failure.

   Now, back to the "21 foot rule." First, the recruit has to understand that the variable is not the distance, it is the threat. Therefore, they must first be able to read what the subject is doing, not what piece of real estate they are occupying. Give the role player a drone appropriate for the scenario and make the officer react to the situation. Change the distance and the cover and the layout of the scene. Ask them why they responded that way in the AAR. No recruit observing the AAR should be allowed to be there without entering a comment. When the role player/trainer could potentially injure the new recruit in "real life" they should poke them a bit in training. I am not going to get into a labor debate here; to a Millennial, training mistakes should literally hurt or no training value has been transmitted.

   A recruit needs to swing a baton drone with full force at a role player in a fully padded suit, just to get a taste of what it's like to have a baton strike that is completely ineffective. The knife drone hidden in the suit should be appropriately fed to the recruit.

   Using drones is the best training for active shooter scenarios. The recruit should know that sweeping a couple of hallways in one building is only one fraction of what he or she needs to clear. In training, their calves and shoulders should ache the next day. Use shotgun and handgun drones and real ballistic shields. Role players should have moulage (injury-simulating) kits.

   Capitalize on their communication skills. Successful Halo players can talk their teammates into negotiating difficult mazes "under fire." In an active shooter or homicide in progress scenario, use a training channel and communications team.

   Is there a place for the "game cheat" mentality in all this? In fact, there is. The new recruits will be the first ones to discover an effective template for a particular type of call. It is a one-size-fits-most solution, but it is often effective. For example, several students were repeatedly writing the same report narrative format for a certain type of call. They discovered they could store a "DUI arrest" or "DV format" report on a thumb drive and plug it in when they needed it.

   Training should incorporate multi echelon principles. If the individual recruit is training on clearing a mass casualty, the administration should be rolling out for Incident Command training while support staff is visibly active at the scene. Multi echelon training serves a whole new purpose for new recruits. They need to clearly be exposed to the magnitude of the incident.

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