Paper No. 32
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


STEWART, Alexander K., Department of Geology, St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY 13617,

In the current counterinsurgency (COIN) battlefield environment, unimagined missions are occurring faster than traditional military schools can prepare the fighting force. The military, therefore, would be better served if recruits entered the armed forces with an intellectual agility to execute missions with limited time, resources and support. Geological-reasoning training at the high school and college level could be the answer.

Despite the U.S. Army’s realization that they need to train and equip a modern thinking army, they are not in the “game” of developing critical-thinking skills. This dilemma can no longer be ignored, for COIN doctrine expects soldiers to have an adaptable and flexible mindset with the ability to constantly learn and adapt. Geological-reasoning, therefore, is well suited for modern COIN operations because it is based on value assessment of observations, re-evaluation and honing in on plausible explanations, which are placed in a four-dimensional context. Kastens et al. (2009) suggest geological reasoning is unique and founded in four areas (which support COIN expectations): a) deep-time thinking, b) understanding the Earth as a complex system, c) using the field environment as a learning tool and d) the requirement of spatial thinking. This multivariate approach to problem solving is paramount in solving tactical and strategic problems, which rarely have a “correct” answer. As a foundation, geoscience training at the high-school/college level can be vital in preparing recruits to be ready-made critical thinkers. High schools, however, are not preparing students in geology the way they do chemistry or biology, thus, reducing the attraction to take courses, or even major in geology if/when they go to college. Soldiers (geologists), as a part of small, specialized, COIN teams, such as the joint U.S. Army-National Guard Agriculture Development Teams are beginning to demonstrate to command personnel the potential of a thinking warfighter. These thinking warfighters (geologists) are making quality observations and interpretations in restricted spatio-temporal environments where data are lacking and, probably most importantly, are able to effectively communicate the results to their commanders.