On 9 November at 13.00 Tõnis Männiste will defence his doctoral thesis „Measuring military commanders’ decision making skills in a simulated battle leading environment“.
Professor Margus Pedaste (PhD; University of Tartu)
ssociate Professor / Lieutenant Colonel Anders McDonald Sookermany (Dr. Philos.; Norwegian Police University College / Norwegian Defence University College, Norway)
The events in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine in 2014 have led to a situation, where many European countries are focusing on strengthening their homeland defense capabilities by reintroducing conscription and looking for ways to improve the performance of their reserve soldiers and reserve commanders. The Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), modest in size, are also built on the principle of reserve army. It means, that EDF can only rely on excellent tactics during combat situations, thus soldiers and commanders with the best decision making skills are crucial. It follows, that the training of reserve officers is important for EDF, however, there is only 11 months training time available for this purpose. During that time, young men, who have no earlier military exposure, have to get the preparation to lead the military unit during the time of war. The situation is even more complicated, because unlike in the case of other professions, in military profession, commanders cannot practice their job during peacetime other than in military exercises. This however may not provide sufficient authenticity. The same applies to the assessment of learning outcomes – it cannot be done with sufficient credibility. This in turn does not allow to take adequate decisions for enhancing training, selecting right personnel for different jobs and it also discourages research and development in the EDF. Thus there is a need for a suitable instrument for measuring platoon leaders’ decision making skills in critical battle leading situations. The goal of this PhD project is to develop and validate an instrument for measuring low level military commanders decision-making skills in battle leading situations. To accomplish this goal, firstly a systematic literature review was undertaken to determine, what instruments and how had previously been used for the purpose of our interest. It came out, that the most suitable and also widely used instrument is Situational Judgement Test, however, none of found instruments was focusing on decision-making in battle leading situations. Thus, suitable instrument for measuring decision-making was designed and applied using a sample of cadets (134) from land forces basic course and conscripts (80) from the reserve commander basic course of the Military Academy of EDF. It came out, that the test developed was found to produce reliable results, that enabled to distinguish well between the test takers on the basis of the level of training and previous experience. It was thus concluded, that developed test were well suited to measure the decision-making skills of small unit commanders in battle leading situations. As a result of current PhD project, EDF will be able to use the instrument for a variety of purposes, including for example the evaluation and improvement of training as well as for research and development. Future research could focus on finding out how well the test results predict commanders’ actual battle leading performance.