FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (July 24, 2015) — The Center for Army Lessons Learned, or CALL, celebrates 30 years of service to the Army. Established Aug. 1, 1985, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the center is responsible for collecting, analyzing, disseminating and archiving lessons and best practices throughout the Army, other services and coalition partners.
CALL Director, Col. Paul Reese, said, “CALL is the one Army directorate completely dedicated to making sure the Army does not repeat the same mistakes twice and to save Soldiers lives in future conflicts.”
With primary responsibility for the Army’s Lessons Learned Program (ALLP), CALL observes strategic, operational, tactical, and institutional lessons and best practices to develop print and digital products that help units, training centers, and proponents improve training, education, doctrine, and leader development programs.
Following Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983, General John A. Wickam, Jr., the 30th Chief of Staff of the Army, saw a need for an organization to collect lessons from training and combat operations and share them across the Army. He tasked the head of the Army Studies Group (ASG), Colonel Wesley Clark, to look at the requirement. In June 1984, Clark reported back to Wickam with a draft regulation and proposed the establishment of an organization devoted to recording and sharing lessons learned — CALL.
CALL’s initial focus was on units undergoing training at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. The first collection effort in a combat zone was in Panama 1989, during Operation Just Cause.
Its mission and scope have expanded over the years to include all the three maneuver Combat Training Centers (CTCs), the Mission Command Training Program, interagency partners, multinational training exercises, and contingency operations throughout the world including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and the Philippines.
CALL has embedded liaison officers (ELOs) deployed at major Army headquarters to observe operations in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. The ELOs serve as CALL’s “eyes and ears forward” to collect what these headquarters are seeing on the ground and then pass them back to CALL for analysis and dissemination to units getting ready to go into those environments.
All this information is used to produce handbooks and newsletters as well as posted in online databases that incorporate Google-like search features. There are also decision-making forums in which senior decision makers are brought together to decide how to best move a lessons learned forward, rapidly adapting it to the operational level to save lives and accomplish the mission.
For example, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle was deployed to Afghanistan to counter Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) which caused U.S. casualties. After receiving the vehicles units were experiencing rollover accidents resulting in the death and injury due to the inexperience of drivers and leaders in using these unfamiliar top-heavy vehicles in rugged terrain. In response, CALL facilitated a network of organizations and subject matter experts to quickly analyze the problem and implement a solution.
The Army sent MRAPs to training centers so troops could practice driving on specially designed courses that replicated Afghanistan. Drivers and vehicle commanders were designated to ensure that only experienced and trained Solders got behind the wheel of an MRAP. Rollover simulators were developed along with handbooks to show Soldiers how to properly stow equipment and emergency actions to take in case of a rollover. This collaborative effort across the Army resulted in reducing casualties due to rollover accidents.
In order to operate effectively in a complex world, the Army needs to be a versatile learning organization and possess a wide array of capabilities across the range of military operations. A networked lessons learned program provides a way to give leaders and units the flexibility to rapidly adapt and share knowledge with the operational and institutional force due to this challenging operational environment.
To support the lessons learned network, CALL conducts a five-day course designed to train multiservice officers and non-commissioned officers serving as lessons learned officers at battalion, brigade, division, or corps levels. CALL also deploys training teams to other countries such as Jordan, Uganda, and Kosovo to assist them in establishing lessons learned programs, CALL hosts conferences, seminars and forums to promote the exchange of knowledge and lessons learned, and publishes handbooks, reports and newsletters to assist Soldiers and units execute a variety of tasks and missions.
“The basic mission of CALL has not changed over the years,” said Mr. Marvin Decker who works there as a civilian Senior Military Analyst, but was a Captain with the original team that stood up CALL in 1985. “Our methods of storing and sharing information have moved from paper products in filing cabinets to digital files via the internet, but we still strive to provide valuable information at the right time to Soldiers so they can be successful in their mission and come home alive.”
Photo credit: Combined Joint Task Force-10 and Regional Command-East Commander Maj. Gen. Stephen Townsend and Command Sgt. Maj. Ray Lewis travel to Forward Operating Base Lightning with ISAF commander Gen. John Campbell, Sept. 27, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Kap Kim, Combined Joint Task Force-10 Public Affairs) (Released)