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WPNP Director and Members train deploying Army Unit
by 2LT Doug Cannon
Fort Sam Houston, Texas –14 May, 2009
The West Point Negotiation Project recently sent four First Class Cadets and Instructor Major Aram Donigian to Fort Sam Houston in order to teach negotiation tactics and better gauge the Army’s overall understanding of the subject. While working with the interrogators of the 14th Military Intelligence Battalion, Cadets Doug Cannon, Curtis Cullen, Chris Hardeman, and Mike Lavelle all practiced teaching the subject they had just learned that semester. With the knowledge fresh in their minds they were able to act as the supporting cast for MAJ Donigian by teaching lessons, role playing during practical exercises, and gathering feedback from the unit about the subject itself.
As graduates of the MG390, Negotiations for Leaders, and Founding Fellows of the WPNP, the cadets found themselves immersed in exactly what they were looking for: a venue in which the course lessons could be transformed into simple guidance for Army leaders to follow when preparing for negotiations of any kind. Based on feedback from both the officer and enlisted ranks, there has not been enough emphasis on the subject in the past. The reason for the current emphasis comes from the current struggles the Army faces when dealing with people on the battlefield. The applicability of the WPNP course ranged from interrogating detainees to negotiating with local clerics or civilians to achieve mutual goals.
After just three days of instruction, the Soldiers were giving the Negotiations team from West Point invaluable comments which were added to the growing collection of stories and data from which tactical tools can be created. Currently, the WPNP course consists almost entirely of business related case studies but with opportunities such as this, the intent is that both the cadets and officers working with the WPNP will create Army based cases.
The training team succeeded in creating tremendous value with the existing material for the Soldiers from Fort Sam Houston. When discussing the material and its applicability to today’s battlefield, SSG Michael O’Neal said, “There will be ample opportunity to apply the material and the course concepts have opened the door to excitement about possible future follow-on courses.” The feedback from the unit was overwhelmingly in support of more lessons and an increased awareness for the skill of negotiating.
The team left Texas with very useful data and knowledge. Not only does this type of training improve the ability of soldiers to interact and gain helpful information in combat zones, the cadets were also able to increase their knowledge of the subject through teaching it themselves. Firstie Curtis Cullen said, “After taking the course I felt very confident in my abilities as a negotiator, but by teaching the material I was able to further improve my grasp of the subject.” The overwhelming support from the unit only furthered the ambitions of the WPNP fellows as they attempt to produce material that can ultimately help build relationships while creating value with regard to substantive issues.