A driver of change within the United States Marine Corps is the generational divide between new and old ways of learning and leadership. During the redesigned Infantry Weapons Officer Course using appreciative education methods to transform the development of the curriculum, and overall student learning experience, we discovered several key findings. The work required a shift in thinking and behaving, to include the practice of openness and trust. The culture of the Marine Corps traditionally embraces familiarity and compliance; however, we pushed the envelope on unfamiliarity and discovered appreciative education is linked to self-awareness and consciousness on learning and leadership.
The purpose of this proposed presentation is to discuss the key findings of a redesigned Infantry Weapons Officer Course (IWOC) using appreciative education methods to transform the development of the curriculum, and overall student learning experience. The results provide evidence that change can be dynamic, rapid and managed when leaders alter the focus of the team versus trying to change the habitual or cultural processes and practices. The research was conducted over a 120-day period as the team prepared for and delivered a five-day course on unit readiness planning to a group of nineteen Marine Corps Infantry Weapons Officers, titled Marine Gunners. The Marine Gunner is an expert in the art and science or weaponeering and is perceptive- seeing the nuances often missed during environmental scans. Their depth and breadth of infantry experience makes them equally capable in the application of tactics and design associated with the concept of operations and employment. Yet the greatest impact of a Gunner's work will rest on their ability to train and develop his/her people. As the premier trainer within the ground combat element, the Gunner must overcome training obstacles in creative ways while navigating both individual and collective personalities. The goal is to create combat proficient and effective Marines who are driven to learn and grow. To develop this program and develop Gunners who could see beyond the process, we had to change the conversations, reorient the focus of both the trainers and the trainees, while simultaneously maintaining the tension between the known and unknown. Within the military, there are significant challenges in solving the problems of today and tomorrow which shatter the traditional models of leadership and thinking. Daring to lead is about courage, which is the manifestation of the interconnectedness of leadership, learning, understanding and the generation of will and worth.