Military News

Monday, April 13, 2015

Critical thinking: you can decide

by Air Mobility Command Enterprise Learning Office

4/13/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- According to the Air Mobility Command Enterprise Learning Office, Airmen who practice effective critical thinking skills accomplish the mission more safely and effectively, while also saving resources.

AMC's goal is to foster an environment where Airmen are encouraged to learn how to think critically and then use those abilities at work and at home.

What is critical thinking? Many Airmen may not fully understand what critical thinking means, or how they can incorporate it into what they do.

The AMC ELO defines critical thinking as using one's mental skills and strategies in a way that contributes to the richness and accuracy of understanding.  It's a disciplined form of thinking that is rational, open-minded, informed by evidence, purposeful, reasoned and goal oriented. Critical thinking can apply to all facets of life and is one of the key traits to good problem-solving skills and resiliency.

Critically thinking is a learning process. It requires practice and experience.

"AMC Airmen are accomplished warriors, but sometimes with the high ops tempo they forget to stop and take the time to make the best decisions, both personally and professionally," said William Hammerli, AMC ELO strategic planner. "Thinking critically adds to an Airman's capabilities and allows every Airman to give their best."

He also added, "In another sense, critical thinking makes you a juror of your own actions and thoughts."

Critically thinking allows you to understand a situation and equips Airmen to consider all possibilities. Every Airman is essential in accomplishing the Air Force mission. Critical thinking may be the difference between life and death, on or off duty.

To facilitate the development of critical thinking, the AMC ELO developed a critical thinking toolkit with a series of tools and modules that challenge all Airmen to enhance their skills.

The toolkit was sent to AMC wings October 2014 and is available on SharePoint.

In addition, ELO is adding a Critical Thinking toolkit within the Advanced Distributed Learning Service enterprise.   

Hammerli spoke with AMC community support coordinators and master resiliency trainers from across the command, about the toolkit during the most recent AMC Comprehensive Airman Fitness conference at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. 

The toolkit lesson plans cover a wide range of topics, including how to become an improved critical thinker.

One toolkit example is the 'quality of information' check. This diagnostic technique helps an individual form a solid foundation when making a decision.

Another method asks individuals to challenge ideas, which helps to prevent groupthink.

"It's imperative that our Airmen are empowered to be effective leaders and problem solvers with top-notch critical thinking skills as we continue to navigate the challenges in providing unrivaled safe and efficient rapid global mobility for the nation," said Gen. Darren W. McDew, AMC commander. "Our Airmen are up to the task and it's our job to create a positive culture and provide opportunities for the highest quality of learning - such as these new AMC critical thinking skills modules."

The toolkit also contains several exercises aimed at applying the knowledge gained from these techniques at the technical, tactical, operational and strategic levels.

"I am excited about what the AMC CAF Conference attendees accomplished," said Ivera Harris, AMC Community Support Program Manager. "The entire conference focused on enhancing or adding tools to our CAF toolkit."

Upon return to their respective units, coordinators and trainers will be vital in deploying this capability throughout AMC wings.

According to Mr. Hammerli, "The bedrock of the critical thinking toolkit is the self-development tool.  For the toolkit to be effective, each individual must want to improve these skills."

By answering eight simple questions in the self-development tool, individuals can assess their abilities and track their improvement as they progress. These tools will help Airmen determine areas in which they struggle or could use additional practice and development, while also allowing them to practice critical thinking to maximize efficiency.

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