I am an admirer of the United States Marine Corps. Whenever I have an opportunity to read something or learn about them I take advantage of it. My desire to learn about some of their best moments even spilled over into my military studies when I was in Oklahoma State University Army ROTC. I did a battle review of the Battle of Belleau Wood during World War I, much to the dismay of the Army cadre but even they were fascinated by the bravery and tenacity of the Marines in battle.
So, when I had heard about a book called the Small Wars Manual, I jumped at the opportunity. I bought it on Amazon. As I poured over the table of contents to best target my interest, I flipped to the section on training and began reading. In it, I found a paragraph buried about small unit training at the company level (the manual was written in 1940, the language is a bit dated but the concepts are the same) and the best use of centralized training centers. Quoting the manual:
“Instruction in centralized classes, whether they be company classes or those of a higher unit, does not relieve the subordinate commander from further training of troops under his command. It is his duty and responsibility to so organize his unit that each individual is placed where he may contribute most to the efficient working of the combat team. Thus, a scout may recieve instruction in scouting and patrolling in a centralized class, returning to his organization upon completion of the course. Upon his return, his training is continued under his squad leader and officers of his own unit in order that the unit may gain the advantage of the training he has received while attending the centralized class for scouts.” Small Wars Manual, 4-6-c.
This means a lot to those of us in the fire service or EMS, or both. In the days of budget cuts and those cuts including training resources, it would seem more efficient to send a few people from each fire company to a centralized class (the manual calls this a “troop school”). These attendees need not ALWAYS be the company officer, but can be someone with a desire to learn and teach.
Upon the return of the individual to his company, the company officer makes it that person’s responsibility to instruct the others in the methods that he learned. This maximizes the training and creates effective distribution.
Of course, this application to emergency services meets with some opposition. The desire of trainers to create a corps among themselves or the desire for control blocks efficiency. This can create inefficiency as instructors try, usually in vain, to instruct large numbers of people in important concepts in an environment they themselves can not control. Training at the company level by individuals from within that company allows for a slightly informal and in my opinion more effective training that is more worthwhile, as well as creates a resource for members within that company to go when they have questions.
In smaller organizations like some volunteer and small paid fire and EMS department, the troop school idea may have to be taken outside of the organization. A conference or classes held by a state or local training organization qualifies, but the concept remains the same.
In conclusion, we should be focusing on empowering individuals with the knowledge to train their own units as opposed to creating centralized training that is costly and inefficient. I am a big believer in searching out and empowering individuals for the betterment of the team.
To those people that attend those conference, share what you have learned with others as it will better your team and make your work both smoother and more efficient. Leaders, guide and encourage your people to do a little extra and build those people that display the desire. Too much talent is wasted by an organization that does not foster those desires and it creates general dissatisfaction with work and the work environment.