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Graduation exercise at the Armored Officers’ College – outcomes and issues

Graduation exercises are practical activities which aim to comprehensively enhance command, leadership and tactical abilities of cadets at all military schools, and those at Armored Officers’ College (AOC) are no exception. From these exercises, the College has learnt a lot of experience to complement training methods and curriculum to improve its training and education quality.

Fully grasping the importance of graduation exercises, in recent years, AOC leadership has constantly focused on the implementation of these exercises and proposed numerous systematic methods and approaches to fulfill this task, seeking to fundamentally improve the College’s training and education quality. Notably, during the past few years, many renovations have been made in the planning and implementation of graduation exercises. These changes have greatly contributed to the work of developing both “red” and “expert” officers to fulfill the task of building the military in the new situation.

Sr. Col. inspects the work of practising the exercise

Every year, the College’s Board and Party Committee always closely monitor and instruct the preparation, organization and implementation of graduation exercises. Also, Party committees at all levels and responsible units always consider the work of conducting these exercises as a key task in their respective resolutions. Naturally, graduation exercises are conducted in the field, in a very large area, over many locations and on various types of terrain, they also consist of many different activities such as: maneuvering, combat preparation for two or three types of tactics and conducting mounted combat live-firing drills; that said, the College has always proactively and carefully made preparation for the exercises; developing and issuing guidelines, plans and instructions for the task, and assigning specific tasks for each responsible unit. Besides, it has implemented many methods to improve College members’ awareness toward the importance, objectives and requirements of the task. In addition, AOC leadership ordered its subordinate units to study and revise exercise plans to identify core issues and weaknesses to propose effective solutions. Other focuses of exercise preparation work are the selection of suitable officers and instructors participating in the task; the organization of Steering Board for the Exercise, Director Groups and support teams; and the development of exercise monitoring plans and scenarios, etc. Accordingly, responsible offices and faculties have proactively made preparation and focused on mentoring theories and exercise implementation methods for director groups (officers, instructors) and acting groups (cadets). Under the requirements of AOC, director groups have to clearly understand exercise objectives and processes, and its training issues; directing methods for acting members, situation predictions and their respective solutions under different tactical forms; and evaluation and marking methods, etc. With regard to acting group members, they must have deep understanding about command and staff process in accordance with their roles in the exercise such as: platoon commander, company commander, company commissar, deputy company commissar and commander; they also have to be ready to play the role of most junior participants such as vehicle crewman or supporting infantry. To further ensure the success of exercises, AOC leadership has proactively organized mentoring activities for cadets to improve necessary skills such as: command and staff, long range loaded marching, combat readiness shifting, river crossing, etc. Notably, in developing tactical scenarios, the College focuses on designing and choosing practical situations and updating latest issues in military operations and armored tactics under combined arms formation. Due to the limited condition of training facilities, AOC has closely worked with local authorities, organizations and individuals to select appropriate maneuvering routes, rendezvous areas and staging points, etc. With strong efforts, presently the College has successfully developed systematic exercise documents and infrastructures, avoiding repetition in exercise scenarios.

Besides preparation work, the College has employed many innovations in exercise implementation, and they are considered as a tool to make breakthroughs in improving training and education quality. To ensure comprehensive training, exercise roles are randomly selected instead of being pre-assigned. This requires cadet to have comprehensive knowledge and skills in every training aspect. To make training process become self-training, the College requires exercise directors (instructors) to preferably focus on suggesting and directing cadets in action to encourage them to play more active roles and become more flexible in any situation. Also, Situation Teams always closely monitor cadets’ actions to issue additional challenges to make the exercise more practical or secondary objectives to redirect cadets who have made mistakes in their training tasks. Besides these adjustments and innovations, to determine the most effective timing for exercises, AOC has made several changes in training procedures. For example, graduation exercises are now conducted before cadets do their internship in combat units instead of doing internship before exercise like previous years. As a result, after participating in the exercise, cadets are able to significantly improve their command and combat skills, capable of fulfilling leadership roles during the internship at their assigned units.

The encouraging results mentioned above have greatly contributed to the improvement of officer training quality at AOC. They have also been highly appreciated by military units, Armored Corps Command and Ministry of National Defense. Every year, there are over 97% of cadets graduating with credit and distinction degrees; most graduated officers are capable of fulfilling all their assigned tasks and responsibilities.

Besides those achievements, there are several issues which emerged from the implementation of graduation exercises and need to be dealt with to improve the College’s training and education qualities.

Graduation exercises for armored officer cadets require vast and complicated areas of operations for the performance of combat vehicles and implementation of all types of tactics. However, under local economic development policies, nowadays, many hilly and forest areas have been put under the management of civilian organizations and individuals. This has posed many challenges for the College in choosing areas of operation for exercises (this is also a challenge for other military schools). Due to this limitation, AOC was not able to fully implement training activities for combat maneuvering, combat preparation, various armored tactics, etc. This issue has existed for many years, but there have not been any complete solution to it; and in fact, solving this problem is out of the College’s reach.

Another issue is that in our military combat manual and combat experience, armored units and infantry are the assault element of a combined arms formation, but graduation exercises of our officer training schools are conducted separately, so that these exercises have not been close enough to combat reality and cadet from different schools have not had the chance to actually perform their coordination ability in combat situations. Besides, due to the limitation in training infrastructure and budget, the number of vehicles mobilized for graduation exercises is still somewhat insufficient. This has led to the fact that not all cadets have the opportunity to directly command vehicles in maneuvering, deploying, capturing objectives and performing live-firing drills – the most important exercise activity. Other cadets were only allowed to play crewman, infantry or observer role. These downsides and limitations have had many negative impacts on exercise results and the training quality of the College.

Therefore, in the past few years, AOC have actively proposed many solutions to ensure graduation exercises to have the best outcome possible. However, these are only situational solutions. To fully realize “fundamentally and comprehensively renovate the work of education and training” principle, responsible branches of Ministry of National Defense should study and propose appropriate plans to build a general training facility to meet all requirements for exercises of all military schools. At the same time, a sample combined arms graduation exercise with the participation of several different military schools should be conducted; in this exercise, Infantry Officer Training College No1 should play the main role. Needless to say, to organize such a complicated exercise, there are huge efforts need to be made, especially the construction of a general training facility mentioned above. However, if this proposal is successfully implemented, it will be not only a significant breakthrough in graduation exercise activities, but also a dramatic progress in the work of improving the education and training quality of our military schools.

Senior Colonel, Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Linh, AOC Rector

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