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Attention Soldier: Your Page Needs Editing

2009 August 15
by Richard N. Landers
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Members of the US Army are being asked to update army field manuals in a wiki format, so that any soldier anywhere in the organization can help write Army doctrine.  Now that’s a pretty big change – the Army is traditionally a very rigid top-down organization, with commands coming from the top, and orders being followed at the bottom.  That also reflects a very strong culture strength, such that getting soldiers to participate in such a system is going a bit slowly.  And of course, another barrier is that anonymity is not permitted.  Soldiers need an ID card that allows them access to Army online resources, and then any edit they make is quite publicly tied to their real name.

However, there is support.  One officer, for example, expanded on a vague description of his role (“as collectors of combat information during the platoon intelligence activities.”) by providing an example of this role from his tour in Iraq.

From a training perspective, this is an interesting tactic.  The argument is that the over-500 field manuals currently in use in the Army are simply too big a logistical challenge to keep up-to-date.  Because of this, most soldiers are essentially getting on-the-job training anyway, learning from the others in their own units.  Why not convert this information so that it can be shared across the world?

As for the effectiveness of this kind of procedure for training purposes, we’ll see.  The possibility of a field manual changing from moment to moment may have unintended consequences.  For example, who is responsible when Soldier B takes advice that Soldier A has entered into the wiki and a civilian or squadmate gets killed?  Some guides are being kept un-editable, perhaps for exactly that reason.

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