WPAOG Podcast

EP71 Inspiring Innovation with LTG Steve Gilland ‘90 and BG Shane Reeves ‘96

Episode Summary

This episode features a conversation between LTG Steve Gilland ‘90 & BG Shane Reeves ‘96. LTG Gilland currently serves as the 61st Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. BG Reeves currently serves as the 15th Dean of the Academic Board at West Point. In this episode, LTG Steve Gilland and BG Shane Reeves talk about encouraging conversation and fostering innovation at the academy, the exciting expectations for West Point’s brand new Innovation Hub, and announce this year's intellectual theme: innovation, technology, and the future of national defense.

Episode Notes

This episode features a conversation between LTG Steve Gilland ‘90 & BG Shane Reeves ‘96.

LTG Gilland currently serves as the 61st Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. A career Infantry officer, he has served in a variety of tactical assignments in Air Assault, Armor, Mechanized Infantry, Ranger and Special Operations units. He most recently commanded 2nd ROK-U.S. Combined Division in Korea, and has participated in numerous operational deployments to the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan throughout his career. 

BG Reeves currently serves as the 15th Dean of the Academic Board at West Point. He commissioned into the Army in 1996 as an Armor Officer. After law school in 2003, he transitioned into the Judge Advocate General’s Corps with assignments including Senior Trial Counsel, International and Operational Law Professor, and Deputy Staff Judge Advocate of Joint Special Operations Command. He has written over 30 articles and book chapters on the Law of Armed Conflict and national security issues and co-founded the Lieber Institute for Law and Land Warfare. 

In this episode, LTG Steve Gilland and BG Shane Reeves talk about encouraging conversation and fostering innovation at the academy, the exciting expectations for West Point’s brand new Innovation Hub, and announce this year's intellectual theme: innovation, technology, and the future of national defense.

**This episode does not imply Federal endorsement.


Key Quotes:

“And you mentioned the talent that we have here at the United States Military Academy, that doesn't just reside within our cadet population, it resides across the entire academy. And it lends to the term that you've coined as the intellectual capital of the United States Military Academy. And I think that's something that we've got to remember, is that there is intellectual capital residing across every academic discipline, both cadet in uniform, out of uniform, experts in their respective fields, that have some really creative minds and can come up with great solutions for complex problem sets.” - LTG Steve Gilland

“Necessity drives innovation oftentimes. I mean, it's risky not to innovate. It's risky to stay ‘status quo’. This is something that West Point can really offer, and thinking about the counter drone example makes me think about the high energy laser work that we're doing in an interdisciplinary way. There's 2nd Lt. Ashley Clegg and Cadet Mackenzie Arnes, both working on this counter drone effort with our higher energy laser program. But what's interesting about it is, one is a physicist, right, a physics major, and the other one's a law major, trying to think about how this works together. And I think that's the power of this place. I think the power is an interdisciplinary approach to innovation to get ahead of what we're perceiving as a future threat.” - BG Shane Reeves


Episode Timestamps:

(01:55) Defining innovation

(05:05) Innovation at the academy

(10:03) Encouraging conversation in the military

(18:20) Fostering experiential learning

(24:59) Cross functional teams at Futures Command

(32:16) Encouraging innovation at West Point

(41:39) The innovation hub

(46:01) Research as a form of education



LTG Steve Gilland

BG Shane Reeves

West Point Association of Graduates

Episode Transcription

[00:00:00] Narrator: Hello and welcome to the WPAOG Podcast. This episode features a conversation between Lieutenant General Steve Gilland, West Point Class of 1990, and Brigadier General Shane Reeves, West Point Class of 1996. 

Lieutenant General Gilland currently serves as the 61st Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. A career Infantry Officer, he has served in a variety of tactical assignments in Air Assault, Armor, Mechanized Infantry, Ranger, and Special Operations units. He most recently commanded 2nd ROC U.S., Combined Division in Korea, and has participated in numerous operational deployments to the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan throughout his career.

Brigadier General Reeves currently serves as the 15th dean of the academic board at West Point. He commissioned into the army in 1996 as an Armor Officer. After law school in 2003, he transitioned into the Judge Advocate General's Core with assignments including Senior Trial Counsel, International and Operational Law Professor, and Deputy Staff Judge Advocate of Joint Special Operations Command.

In this episode, Lieutenant General Steve Gilland and Brigadier General Shane Reeves talk about encouraging conversation and fostering innovation at the Academy, the exciting expectations for West Point's brand new innovation hub. And, announce this year's intellectual theme, Innovation, Technology, and the Future of National Defense.

Now, please enjoy this conversation between Lieutenant General Steve Gilland and Brigadier General Shane Reeves.

[00:01:54] BG Shane Reeves: So, sir, when you hear the word innovation, what do you think of? 

[00:01:56] LTG Steve Gillard: Well, I think of the human element. Technology. Leadership. 

[00:02:01] BG Shane Reeves: Disruption. Integrity. Advancement. UAVs. 

[00:02:06] LTG Steve Gillard: Cutting edge. 

[00:02:11] BG Shane Reeves: I think of SIGINT. Necessary. Future warfare, which is not one word. 

[00:02:16] LTG Steve Gillard: I also think that not a word, but a phrase ‘going back to basics’ can be innovation also, given our dependence on technology and when technology fails.

[00:02:29] BG Shane Reeves: I think of creative destruction. 

[00:02:32] LTG Steve Gillard: That's very good. Particularly when we think of what our respective line of work is. 

[00:02:38] BG Shane Reeves: An innovative leader can't be risk averse. 

[00:02:40] LTG Steve Gillard: Agreed. In order to develop innovative thoughts, people have got to be willing to go out on the cutting edge to lead, to experience failure, to be able to step back, regroup, consolidate and reorganize in some cases, and then push forward with the lessons that they've learned.

[00:02:57] BG Shane Reeves: To me, it has to be iterative. Innovation is iterative. 

[00:03:00] LTG Steve Gillard: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. What you end up with may not be anything of what you thought you were going to have when you started. 

[00:03:07] BG Shane Reeves: Which means you have to have enough space inside your organization to allow for that creativity. 

[00:03:13] LTG Steve Gillard: I think space, not only physically, but I think you also have it from a cultural perspective and from a mindset. Yeah. Because it's about adaptive learning. When you go into the innovation space.

[00:03:27] BG Shane Reeves: And that means we have to be able to innovate with Processes, bureaucracy, all of those things to be able to facilitate that innovative space. 

[00:03:35] LTG Steve Gillard: Agreed, and then I go back to integrity when we talk about the framework in order to innovate the right way.

Uh, or at least when whatever the innovation is, that it's in the framework of what, you know, we talk about winning, but it's really about winning the right way. So when we innovate, it's about innovating the right way 

[00:03:55] BG Shane Reeves: also. So I'm thrilled to announce this year's academic or intellectual theme, which is innovation, technology, and the future of national defense.

As you know, this is our second year of creating a intellectual theme that runs through the academic program. Last year was called to serve military leadership in a democratic republic, and we created that with an idea of start trying to ground the academic program in something that we thought was of contemporary importance.

Similar this year, as we move into this discussion on innovation, we are really excited about having the academic program, both at the dean's directorate, but also at the department level, talking about innovation, and we think this will translate into the entire academy. Taking an innovative approach to all the things that we're looking at.

And one of the great examples that came up recently was the army football team. They're being innovative. You know, Coach Monken recently changed our offense. This is his 10th year and he's changed our offense. And there's some risk in that. But he recognized that for us to be competitive, he had to be innovative based on some rule changes in, uh, college football.

And that same type of idea, I think, is permeating throughout the entire academy. Uh, and so... Again, sir, as we move into this, one of the questions I have for you is just, again, when we talk about innovation at the academy, what are you thinking about? 

[00:05:09] LTG Steve Gillard: Well, thanks, Dean. I think as we wrapper, really wrap our heads around the concept of innovation, and I remind you of our article.

That's going to be published in the, uh, West Point Magazine here this fall, where we break down innovation into three phases. First of all, identifying needs, developing solutions, and then integrating. And I think that integration, as you stated, our innovation has taken place across all of our academic departments.

So innovation doesn't just reside within a, you know, what I believe some people think to be technology or the STEM. environment. It's really across all of our academic disciplines. The team here has just done a wonderful job as you have laid out the themes of how everyone comes in and supports that effort of the theme being laid out for the academic year, which really causes.

I mean, bottom up development ideas, and it's not just a one person that's working on it, but everybody has a unity of effort in this space, which is really important as we think about the synchronization of the academy and then our efforts going forward, not only internally. But also externally in our effort to, uh, assist the Army with really complex problems or the Department of Defense working with industry and working with other Army organizations to innovate and really, really come up with some great solutions for complex problem 

[00:06:36] BG Shane Reeves: sets.

Sir, I like the way you framed that. Which is innovation isn't simply, you know, exclusively focused on just technology and there's, and you've even said this when we were doing the word association with innovate, you brought up the first one you brought up was the human element. And I think that's really important.

We talk about innovation, it's technology, it's structures, it's organizations, it's processes, but behind all of that is having. Innovative leaders, which is what we 

[00:07:01] LTG Steve Gillard: do here. Yeah, absolutely. And those innovative leaders having an understanding of the impacts of what innovation can do for their soldiers specifically, as we think about what our business is, which is people business, because that's our most precious resource, which is the people that are in our army, both in uniform and out of uniform, and how do we make advances in order to be more effective.

And more 

[00:07:26] BG Shane Reeves: efficient. Yes, sir. So, as we transition into discussing the three components of innovation, and you laid them out, sir. Identify needs, develop solutions, and integrate into these cross functional teams. I'll talk about identify needs first. We'll break them down. When I think about identify needs, I harken back to a situation where I learned a lot, and that's, I had an opportunity to be the deputy and at that, in that experience, I learned something really important, which is the senior leadership there were willing to invest.

And incentivize some of their, invest in basically a cell, call it X and they would incentivize their very best to go and participate in this and would fence them off and say, listen, I want you to think about the future. I want you to think about the gaps that we have. I want you to figure out how we can integrate and create some synergies and all these other things.

And to do that, I don't want you in the day to day operations. I don't want you focusing on this theater or this theater. Go into that room, you know, that figurative room, close the door. And go think big thoughts and then come back and inform me or inform us. And what I really learned from that experience is that to create an innovative culture, you have to invest in it.

I don't know, sir, if that's something that you, you agree with or see also is important. 

[00:08:43] LTG Steve Gillard: Absolutely. I mean, one is that we think about identifying the needs. I mean, There's needs all across our army. There's needs that are all across our academy. And the thing is, is that leaders may not be the ones who see those needs.

Everybody on the team has got to be willing to say, Hey, what about, you know, how do we do this better? How do we do something differently in order to achieve the end state? How do you create the environment of which. Everyone on the team has a voice and says, Hey, you know what? I think there might be a better way to do this.

And people, leaders that are willing to have an environment and a culture that says, Yeah, come on, you know, go into the room and start, whether it's the virtual whiteboard or it's the physical whiteboard, and let's start figuring some of these things out. And I think we absolutely need to, given where we're at in time and space, and we think about who our potential adversaries are, and what they're doing.

[00:09:43] BG Shane Reeves: So right, based on that, in your experience, how do we do that? How do we create a culture where it could be... You know, a very junior person sitting in a corner feels emboldened enough to raise their hand and go, Hey, I actually think something different. Or, I'm not quite sure that you're seeing it from this perspective.

Like, how do we do that? Because the military is such a hierarchical organization that we can stymie or stifle conversation sometimes. And so, I think that's a challenge. So, what do you think? How do we encourage that? 

[00:10:13] LTG Steve Gillard: Well, I mean, you know, you've got various things out there on television. You got the Shark Tank, but you know, 18th Airborne Corps did the Dragon's Lair and other, uh, divisions.

101st has got a, uh, innovation cell that's working and actually they've partnered, uh, with Vanderbilt University down in Nashville and some other, other units and organizations out there that are saying, Hey, come to this space. Let's. You know, get the creative juices flowing and identify the needs that we have.

And, and some people, you know, when you think about needs, it may not be a weapon system. It may just be, how do we get a process better that impacts our young soldiers, whether it's in the motor pool, it's on the gun line, it's wherever it might be in order to, you know, make them more effective.

You know, Robert 

[00:11:09] BG Shane Reeves: Gates in his book, uh, Passion for Leadership, he talks about that. He says that... You know, Secretary Gates was the Secretary of Defense, Director of CIA, and President at Texas A& M University, so he's, he had led in these really big, complex organizations, and very different ones, and he would say this, he said, he liked to get out and around and go up and talk to the people.

The secretary who'd been there for 25 years and be and say, so what frustrates you? What are things that you would do different? And it would be amazing the things he would hear back. And so what you're saying, sir, is exactly right. Like, you don't know where the, the solution might come from or the good idea.

And even if it might be a process or something else, you can find some innovative ideas at any place and from anybody. 

[00:11:50] LTG Steve Gillard: Well, and ironically, you bring up Gates, you know, when, uh, he was the SecDef, he was really the power behind the MRAP. In the fielding of the MRAP, and it was how do we develop a vehicle, uh, as we looked at our, uh, you know, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and really having equipment that was capable of withstanding, you know, large improvised explosive devices.

It was the V hole shaped. Vehicle, because then, you know, with all the respective experts out there that the V hole deflects the blast away from the body of the vehicle and allowing a higher probability of survival, uh, in the event of a strike in an IED and, you know, and it was hit, it was like, Hey, get the experts together and let's figure this out, uh, using science and understanding the impacts on human behavior, the human behavior being, we have missions to do.

We have soldiers that are, have to move from point A to point B in order to execute whatever the task may be. And he wasn't the one that came up with that. It was really, Hey, having the vision and having the network. of really smart people say, Hey, get, you know, get in the room together and let's sort this out and put some resources behind it in order to really, you know, take care of people, save lives in the wars as we were fighting them at 

[00:13:14] BG Shane Reeves: that time.

I think that's what makes the ability to identify needs at West Point doable and so exciting because we have this great concentration of immensely talented people and we have the ability to identify these needs in different ways. One example would be when I was in the Department of Law, we started the Lieber Institute for Law and Land Warfare.

For this very reason, we were identifying a need, which was the law of armed conflict had become increasingly restrictive for operators and practitioners because the space had been filled by either None of these groups or individuals are nefarious, but they just have a very particular perspective. So it'd be maybe an NGO or it might be European academics or, or others.

And there wasn't anyone to speak on behalf of the practitioner. So we created the Lieber Institute just to ensure there was a more balanced conversation between those who have a heavy emphasis on humanitarian considerations, which we all do. But also, so that a thing called military necessity, which allows for us to do what we need to in warfare to accomplish the mission, was also discussed.

And I think that's proliferated across the academy, both in the departments and the centers. But what's most exciting, I think, sir, is when we see our cadets working in some of these spaces. And so, I was going to ask you, sir, you, I wanted to bring up the discussion about, um, She's now a second lieutenant, Marley Waite, and you remember some of the things that Marley was working on, and I just remember, uh, she was at AUSA, I was talking to her, and she was really working on various things to help us have a more energy resilient military, and just watching her excitement, but really her One of the great powers that she had was the ability not to be stuck in, in a bureaucracy already.

She was creative. But I think we see this with cadets all the time. 

[00:14:53] LTG Steve Gillard: Oh, yes. And, and I think that, you know, with now Lieutenant Marley Waite, the power behind that was, you know, one, she's got a creative mind. But then there was also the advocacy and support that people provided, which is not discarding it because here it's a senior in college per se, you know, that's working on some research project.

No, I mean, this has got, it's got applicability today and what she's working on and really leaders at all levels there said, Hey, you know, we, we can support this. Which includes from, you know, not just resources from a monetary perspective, but putting her out in the field, giving her opportunities to go travel and do, uh, research.

Uh, and I think that's where, you know, when young people particularly, uh, or really it's when anybody gets the opportunity to have support and advocacy, how they really, their energy levels go up. Uh, and it's like, okay, hey, we can, I can do this. I think it's really about the support that one provides. I would also add, and you mentioned the talent that we have here at the United States Military Academy that doesn't just reside within our cadet population.

It's, it resides across the entire academy and it lends to the term that you've coined as the intellectual capital. of the United States Military Academy. And I think that's something that we've got to remember is that there is intellectual capital residing across every academic discipline. Both cadet in uniform, out of uniform, experts in their respective fields that have some really creative minds and can come up with great solutions for complex problem 

[00:16:35] BG Shane Reeves: sets.

So sir, that's a great point about Marlee being a senior or a firstie at West Point and she Potentially could be dismissed by some because of that, even though she did win the Marshall scholarship. But it's also what is the support system that's behind her. She's working with a number of very talented faculty, both civilian and military that have helped develop her research efforts that have really informed her education.

And in doing so you start to see some very, very senior individuals, um, in the Pentagon, for example, the assistant secretary of the army for installation. Energy and the environment, talking about how Marlee and the work she did with her faculty at West Point have really led to this, what they're calling the first efforts to creating a resilient, sustainable, and self sufficient system, which has great Thank you.

Impact on our military's ability to project force. Um, and so I think it's, Marley is the tip of the iceberg. Cause there's another thousand cadets of equal talent with an infrastructure below them of staff and faculty, all resourced with so many unique ways to, to help support. And I think it's what makes it such an exciting place for all this work to take place.

[00:17:44] LTG Steve Gillard: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think of it, you know, the unique aspect, and this goes to again, to identify needs. I'd even go back to this past summer where we had almost a thousand cadets across the nation and 39 different countries around the world, you know, working on different problem sets and how that they come back with those experiences and then how do they In turn, take those experiences and put it into the respective research and work that they're doing here as part of capstone projects or just part of, you know, class projects that they've got to do here for whatever, whatever department it 

[00:18:21] BG Shane Reeves: may be in.

That's a fantastic segue into the second part of how. In our article, we discussed innovation, which is developing solutions, and oftentimes, this is the part that most want to jump to right away, which is develop solutions without the identify the need part of it, and I think you made a great point about our cadets have gone off, roughly a thousand that went off this summer to these various Experiential learning opportunities, they bring this back and then they really do start to develop some of the solutions that they've identified while they've been out in the field or in various different places.

I think one of the things that it's our job to do and I think we're well on our way as an organization to be able to foster an environment where cadets and faculty. And it's not just faculty, it's staff, it's tax, it's coaches, it's everybody on the team has this innovative mindset. So talking about all these AIDs, there's so many great examples of our cadets who have been able to do some interesting work.

And I know you have some thoughts on that, sir. Well, 

[00:19:19] LTG Steve Gillard: we talked about experiential learning. I go back a few years to, you know, experience in Iraq in 2016 and specifically with ISIS and drone technology. And, you know, ISIS was taken off the commercial, off the shelf. Products, drones, uh, and they're modifying them and then they're flying them and they were armed and they're doing reconnaissance with them.

Now armament meaning, uh, you know, they're carrying one individual grenade or a small mortar round. You know, that type of system, and particularly I'll term it as the swarm of drones, so multiple drones that are programmed to go to one, you know, a location, identify where personnel or equipment may be, release The small, a grenade or a small mortar and what that does for them from a lethal perspective, but also what it does from a mindset perspective.

Back in 2016, as we were looking at, you know, how do you develop the counter drone technology? And the fact is there's a lot of science that goes into it, but the need, and so when we think about developing solutions, the solution needs to reside on the ground, you know, in the location of where you're either you're.

Partner nation forces are allies or your own soldiers and say, okay, here's the swarm of drones. And how do we interdict them, interdict or destroy so that they are not dropping these lethal munitions on our respective location or position. And again, it doesn't happen overnight. It's iterative, like you mentioned previously, and the ability to take some technology that resides out there.

And put it in the hands of our soldiers so that they can apply it on the battlefield in order to, you know, one, you know, go through the process of making gains and see what works and what doesn't work so that we can fully invest in those things that work, vise kind of taking a scattershot 

[00:21:21] BG Shane Reeves: approach.

That's fascinating because you just triggered a number of thoughts on my head about Mosul and ISIS's use of drones. They were cheap, they were easily available, it was a contested airspace, and it really started to make us think about what we need to do, which, which means that necessity drives innovation oftentimes.

I mean, it's risky not to innovate. It's risky to, to stay status quo. This is something that West Point can really offer, and thinking about the counter drone example makes me think about the high energy laser. Uh, work that we're doing in an interdisciplinary way. There's 2nd Lieutenant Ashley Clegg and then, uh, Cadet, uh, Mackenzie Arnes, both working on this counter drone efforts with our higher energy laser program.

But what's interesting about it is one is a physicist, right? A physics major. And the other one's a law major. Trying to think about how this works together. And I think that's the power of this place. I think the power is the interdisciplinary approach to innovation to get ahead of what we're perceiving as a, as a future 

[00:22:20] LTG Steve Gillard: threat.

Well, and, and that lends to what the Army has with the Army Futures Command, the respective cross functional teams that exist within it with across various disciplines so that we can. You know, the Army partnered with industry, partnered with academia, can develop solutions for these complex problems that we talk about.

And the other part of it is, when you think about when you're talking about the high energy laser process, it's not just in the, uh, the sterile environment of a laboratory or a classroom. We've got to remember. In order to develop solutions, you gotta get it out into the field, into the environment where you're gonna, you're gonna have to employ it.

And you gotta be willing to accept some failures. Because even though it may work extremely well in whatever, you know, the lab or the classroom may be, the fact is... Does the system withstand the environment? And understanding that our environments that we're expected to operate in vary. Whether it's intense heat of, uh, the Middle East and desert, and by the way, what desert effects have on equipment, which we know, significant impacts.

Vice versa to, you know, the Far East and potentially, you know, the subtropical jungle environments to the Arctic or Antarctic and extreme colds, uh, extreme cold weather and what those in each environment does to a system and you got to get out there. in order to really see what it does. And you may experience failure, which means you got to go back and redo some things and then get back out there.

And that goes to what you had said earlier, risk adverse. We need people who are willing to take some risk, who are willing to say, you know what? I mean, I'm not going to sit on my heels, but I'm going to lean forward and we together as a team are going to work. To come up with solutions that may entail risk in a whole spectrum of aspects, but just being willing to do that.

[00:24:22] BG Shane Reeves: That's one of the things that makes West Point so specially placed. Within all of DoD, and academia for that matter, West Point is really where operational considerations, the practitioner, but also the academic, the deep thinking that takes place comes together so you get these really well thought out, critically analyzed, objective objectives.

Approaches to something, but they're grounded in practice and the operational considerations. And you were mentioning how the high energy lasers can't be done just in a vacuum. They got to be implemented in the field. And so one of the great things about West Point is we've been able to shoot some of these lasers in snow to see what would happen.

You mentioned the cross functional teams at Futures Command. Sir, can you just Can you talk a little bit more about what the idea is behind those? 

[00:25:09] LTG Steve Gillard: Yeah, well, I mean, as we look at our cross functional teams, and there's various areas of which they're focused on, whether it's communication, soldier lethality, next generation combat vehicle, so there's mobility, uh, our future aviation.

Uh, lift capability and what that looks like, you know, it's not just an industry aspect or the requirements document of the Army, it's really, hey, we look at what we have today of which we've got really good equipment in our Army. But the fact is, is that our competitors are closing the gap, you know, with regards to technology and lethality.

And we've got to be thinking about 2030, 2040, and, and as we've talked about, even the second half of the 21st century. And what is it that we're going to need to apply? To be able to stay ahead of our competitors, uh, on a global scale, uh, we think of what cyber, you know, what cyber was and what it is today, and then what do we envision it to be in the future, and having, you know, again, a collection of minds from all different fields or disciplines to come together and work on these different teams to develop 

[00:26:20] BG Shane Reeves: solutions.

And as you pointed out, we can't have an aversion to risk, and we also need... A level of creativity, and there's this great quote from, he's now a second lieutenant, Josiah Gibson, where he talks about where he learned this, where he learned that you can't just be grounded in a textbook, it's not, you're not going to learn it just in the classroom, sometimes it takes stepping back in a team environment And come up with creative solutions.

And I have to read this quote. Second Lieutenant Josiah Gibson stated when he was talking about working with on hypersonic rockets, he said, I remember this is quote, I remember specifically sitting down with my partner at the hotel following a day. at Aviation and Missile Command, as we both opened an advanced rocket propulsion textbook.

We searched cover to cover trying to find a solution to an optimization problem on the rocket, which did not exist. And yet, the next day, together alongside Aviation and Missile Command's nozzle and propulsion experts, we determined a unique solution to help spur our design. This process has taught me the huge span of knowledge present within the Army.

If you know where to look, as well as how to solve emerging problems without known solutions. Together, these skills will aid my future as a future officer, as I begin to lead the next generation of soldiers. And when I read that, and hear him say that, I think of a couple of things, which is what we emphasize at West Point.

A team makes you better. Having a team. And the second part is we need you to be critical thinkers. We need them to be able to think broadly, to not be wedded to a particular idea or concept, but to like step back and think unique, be a unique thinker. 

[00:27:52] LTG Steve Gillard: Or a specific process, even. Maybe it's a development of a different process.

Yes, sir. Yeah. I think I said it earlier was the ability to also Maybe you have to go back in time and space and use something that was executed previously in order to solve new problems. I use the example of technology and how people are so reliant upon it. I've actually got a good example from this past week.

I'm in this airport, we're traveling, incredible thunderstorm is, uh, you know, dumping all kinds of water on, on, uh, the location and all the systems go down. So, of course, you know, we're all wed to our respective phones specifically with, you know, what's the QR code for my boarding pass and that, well, the system doesn't work.

You've got your QR code, but they can't scan it in order to, you know, really create the manifest as you board the aircraft. And what I saw, you know, what they had to do was they had to go back to a manual, you know, a hard copy manifest. But what I found incredibly interesting about it was that it wasn't printed on, you know, from a laser jet.

It was printed from one of those dot matrix printers where you had the perforated, the perforated paper on the, on the side that you rip off and it, and it's, uh, perforated across the paper. And I looked at it, I looked at my daughter and I said, have you ever seen that type of paper before? And what it was, heck, I didn't even know the dot matrix printers were still in the inventory, quite honestly.

But the fact that there's even perforated paper out there that's being used, I thought it was all laser jet, but. This is less about the paper and the printer and more about here's this airline employee that's trying to figure out how am I going to translate all of these, this pile of paper with names and seats on it into processing people on the plane in an efficient manner.

[00:29:48] BG Shane Reeves: Right. So sometimes innovation is going backwards. I mean, you and I have talked about it where you're like, Hey, Shane, with generative AI and what it's, how disruptive it is in higher education, you need to figure out some different ways to maybe Assess or present material, and that could be oral exams, which I'm sure cadets are extremely excited for.

It could be, uh, handwriting, you know, a test. It could be, it could be lots of different ways to, like, we need to be innovative ourselves in how we provide information, assess that information. But it also makes me think operationally, you're starting to hear increasingly about, for example, At F. A. Bullock, they no longer are saying, hey, just type in the grid when you're firing your artillery, like you need to actually understand the mathematics behind it.

Where you hear about the Navy as they eventually, when they get into certain areas, they go completely electronic dark. And they have to navigate through a lot of the traditional ways. And so I think you're on to something, sir, which is we, innovation always isn't something brand new and, and cutting edge.

It might be. Cutting edge because we've forgotten how to do it, but it might be back to the basics as you pointed 

[00:30:49] LTG Steve Gillard: out before. Well, I look at our dependence upon technology and I just look at communications specifically in the Army. And you know, we've got a few cadets working on hypersonic rocket that can, you know, go into, you know, across the Karmann line.

And I was talking to a cadet this summer, uh, and this is where, you know, we've got projects where they're working on, you know, it's the soldier or platoon portable system that can launch, you know, from individual platoons that can launch their own respective, you know, uh, satellite so they can reestablish communications because their communications have been, have been knocked out.

They're reliant upon some sort of comms in between units and that they're able to put a satellite into orbit, you know, even though it may be at a very low level, uh, and you think of Starlink specifically and what Starlink has done around the world and specifically over in the Ukraine, but having that capability that resides and how do we do that Internally as an army or down at the tactical level so they can reestablish communications.

The whole 

[00:31:59] BG Shane Reeves: conversation with the low orbit satellites and starlink and Ukraine, you really start to see how those who embrace innovation and not just from a technological perspective but in a broader, more holistic way, really can have great impact on the battlefield. And we watch how the Ukrainians have so far.

been able to counter what would be considered a conventionally superior military by relying on technology and integrating that with some other basic things like mortar tubes and you can counter. A lot of the Russian armor has been neutralized simply based on low orbit satellite, a small team of the mortar tube and triangulating on the top of that armor.

And I think that's where you start to see the real power of innovation. Lemme ask you this question, sir. I think this is something that is incredibly exciting. You know, as we talk about all of these different parts of innovation, the identify needs that develop solutions, and then we really get into this, integrate into whatever you wanna call 'em, cross-functional teams or integrate the efforts to help really drive some real innovation.

I think West Point is leading. In this space, and I think that's something I know, sir, that you've made a great emphasis. I know, like you said, we have our magazine article coming out that highlights our efforts in innovation. Again, our intellectual theme is all focused on innovation and technology and the future of national defense.

But this can be pretty complicated. Yes. It can be complicated to integrate. And so, back to this idea of basics. How do we encourage? 

[00:33:25] LTG Steve Gillard: You know, when we think about all the different entities that have to come together in order to integrate, as we think about, you know, there's not only the science aspect, there's the form factor of whatever it is that, you know, you're trying to, you know, achieve or create, really, there's a human dynamic aspect also, how you employ it.

X, whatever it is, and it may not be a piece of equipment per se, it may be, heck, it could be software, it could be coding, and then understanding what those different impacts are. So we think about, you know, you use the example of, you know, a physics major and a law major coming together in order to, you know, achieve an end state together.

And I think that's where The complexity starts to come in as the experts from various disciplines or fields of concentration come together on whatever project it may be in order to say, Hey, we've got to, we've got to achieve this end state and we've got to do it the right way also. That's why I mentioned integrity when we think about.

Innovation. Um, I mean, when people look at us, we've got to be able to maintain our integrity because that's what the people of our United States expect of us as citizens. But I think that what we have here in the, the cross functional team approach is that, you know, it breaks down barriers. One, because we're here together, we see each other all the time.

And I think for us, it's a matter of where we bring all this, you know, intellectual capital together to really leverage it and gain unity of effort. When we think about, uh, you know, in the integration phase, I mean, when you think about West Point, we're a microcosm of this very large ecosystem that exists out there from military to industry to academia, like we stated before, and we're just one part of it.

And how do we be, you know, one, we have our own respective network, but then how do we get brought into these other networks in order to integrate and achieve, really achieve solutions like we're talking about. It's a really hard problem sets that the Army and the Department of Defense have. So I'll give an example, you know, and this was years ago out in California.

I went to this design company. Really it's, you go there and it's people from all different disciplines and, you know, they've studied these, you know, different majors in that, you know, it's kind of the, let's go into the room. Uh, let's have the whiteboard up on the wall or whatever. And it was, how do we come up with these solutions?

And one of the solutions it's, it's historic. And for some people it's archaic. It was the wired mouse and it was the mouse to, uh, you know, and it was Apple at the time says, Hey, we got to. Figure this thing out. And it was really for the Macintosh, which, you know, for most people out there, nobody remembers, uh, because it was this, you know, small computer, but it was really, it's the first PC.

First one I remember is Commodore 64. Well, yes, that's because of where you were shopping at the time, but for those people that could get the Macintosh, uh, with the monochrome monitor, but it was, how do we move this cursor around without the keyboard? of, you know, up arrow, down arrow, and so forth. And if you remember, and it was the, the mouse, as they called it, and really, you know, the design of it, as I recall, was, they called it the mouse because of the tail, which was the cord attaching it to the, to the CPU.

And you see this thing, and, and of course, 30 years after the fact, you're like, I mean, that's not very impressive, but when you... Think about in the early 1980s and the development of it, the mouse, and we think about the human dynamics aspect, you know, I mean, one, I mean, remember it was, uh, people developed it.

I mean, they were probably right handed at the time because lefties, and it's the consideration of the left. The with index finger, because, you know, it had, you know, it had three or essentially two buttons that you click and you go back and forth, right? And you move this thing. And as I remember it, it was really, it was less about the form factor of being able to click, get the arrow, whatever the, the cursor was to move around on the screen.

It was really about the ball. Within, how do you move this thing so that it's easy, you know, for someone to sit there and get it around without having to exert energy and being pretty precise. And so when you think about how they did that, well, one, it was scientists that had to come together for it. And it was also, Hey, who understands how to use this thing or wants to understand how to use it and what we're getting at.

And the human The human dynamic. 

[00:38:10] BG Shane Reeves: Yeah, there had to be someone who said, this thing needs to be, like, useful. 

[00:38:15] LTG Steve Gillard: Right. Otherwise you default back to what? The keyboard with the arrows. Yeah. And so I just, I found that, you know, that was something that has stuck in my mind, very simple in nature. But when you think about what the mouse did for Not only Apple, but what it has done through, you know, through time and space with regards to technology.

And now what do we, what do we do with it? And what have we done with it? And you know, now it resides with just your finger to the screen, as opposed to having any type of device to manipulate. 

[00:38:49] BG Shane Reeves: That example is a great way to. Segue into really what we're trying to do here. I mean two things, like whoever thought of this had to first off recognize the need.

They had to identify it, they had to come up with here's a solution I think we can come up with. Now we have to get everybody together to try to work on it. Uh, now behind all that again is that human element. That, and that's what we do with our cadets. Like, we want our cadets to have that innovative mindset.

We want them to be able to do those things, identify and develop and integrate, which means they have to be leaders, but they also have to be critical thinkers. They have to be the type who have a sophistication to them, where they have this entrepreneurial and innovative spirit. And that's the whole purpose of the academic program, which is to push them and to force them to do these things.

That's why we don't intellectually coddle cadets. That's why we challenge them with lots of different disciplines. Uh, that's why they're pushed oftentimes, not just in the classroom, but with project based learning or experiential learning. Um, it is to create that, as you point out, sort of the human element or the human underlying this whole innovative.

process. And I think that's something that has been a really good evolution of West Point over the last 30 years is to really challenge the cadets academically and intellectually while they're also being grounded in the military so that they do have these practical solutions to real problems. 

[00:40:07] LTG Steve Gillard: I think it's important also as we think about What are innovative thinkers and our cadets now who are going to be junior officers very soon in that, uh, you know, to be creative.

I mean, the, the bureaucracy cannot hold them back and we all espouse creativeness, innovation and such, but at times we also, you know, our processes can become. Very burdensome in order to achieve innovation. And I think that's where we're thinking through this, the integration phase. Um, people comes back to risk again.

Hey, we can't put up this burdensome framework that continues, you know, that slows people down because then people aren't going to be willing to take a little bit of risk and do that. And I think that's where, and you've laid it out, Shane, for here at the Academy. You know, we think about our innovation hub, and I would ask you to really, you know, explain to our audience, you know, how we envision the innovation hub, not just, you know, from a physical perspective, but really from a temporal aspect.


[00:41:14] BG Shane Reeves: sir, the innovation hub is really getting at that integration component. Well, it's actually getting all of it. It's where you're going to, you can identify, you can develop solutions, but this is where we integrate the power of West Point. Especially inside of DoD is the breadth of our academic program, the depth of it.

And so we have this huge concentration of experts here that range from science, technology, engineer, math, humanity, social sciences, and they all come together. They're all working in oftentimes silos. And I like the catchphrase that's starting to stick in my head that was generated by Dr. Craig Sheets, who, who will be very instrumental in getting the innovation hub up is a sign that basically says.

When you walk in the door, silos break down here. And that's really the purpose of the innovation hub, right? Which is to break down our silos. Because it's so easy to get myopically focused on a particular, in a particular discipline, on a particular problem. But that's not the way the world works now.

We're not going to solve problems in a myopic way. We have to generate. Interdisciplinary solutions. And so the innovation hub geographically is going to be pretty much in the center of the academy in Taylor hall, right below your office or right by mine. Where it will be a place where everyone will be walking past it and can come into it and it will be built in such a way that it'll be very collaborative.

Somewhat modeled a bit on the software factory floor plan, um, which is very much, um, where there'll be LNOs and there'll be experts from various departments and centers coming together to generate what I would say is really, Interdisciplinary intellectual collisions where they're like, we need to, you know, spark ideas.

But then, this is how we solve the problems. And all this ties very closely into cadet education, faculty development, and solving the army's... You know, complicated or wicked problems and doing it in this not just interdisciplinary, but in a multifaceted way. And I think that is going to be a game changer for the academy.

An example, uh, where we're starting to see this already, where there's a number of departments and centers starting to work together in various ways. One great example from the summer is our engineering psychology program, uh, working with our robotics center. Took the four legged robot. Yeah, out to the CLDT, which is, for our listeners, CLDT is the culminating summer training for our rising firsties, which has got a mini ranger school component to it in terms of what they're being expected to do.

But it was this integration of technology with a operational problem and helping them understand how to integrate. Both human and autonomous systems in such a way that they see the pros and cons and it was taking these two different academic disciplines Real technology with the military training putting it together and then watching the cadets be able to work through some of the problems And we intentionally developed some problems the technology broke down The technology would do things that it was not supposed to do and you can just see the cadet development You can see also the faculty Who are behind this, working towards it, and of course, this will have great impact on our army, I think, going forward.

So the Innovation Hub is intended to generate all those type of opportunities. I think it's a really, really exciting effort because it's not just internal to West Point. I think there'll be a number of external... Entities or external agencies that will plug into the innovation, bring their problems to us and allowing us to use all this power of the West Point, you know, academic program to solve some of those.

[00:44:42] LTG Steve Gillard: No, I agree. And I think the key to that is what you said is the collaborative nature or the collaborative environment that really has to be emphasized. Uh, I appreciate, we definitely need to get the sign made and we've got to put it so where everybody can tap it as they come in the door, you know, it's a commitment that goes to it.

When we think about our team and they enter into the collaborative space, which of course everybody, and we know this, it's human dynamics, it's human behavior. I need to have my respective cubby or something like that. I've been in places with cubicles in a very, you know, what seemed to be open space and intended to be collaborative.

And people don't even know who's next in the next cubicle next to them or the next cubby over. And it's like, Hey, wait a second. What are you doing? The person that wrote that sits right there. And, and it's one of those things like, really? I mean, I, I didn't realize that. Yeah. I mean, cause you can't just sit here and look at a computer all day long.

I mean, you got to go out and have some interactions with people in order to understand, you know, what the respective task may be or, or what's the intent and then what the outcome is. And I think that that's where we look at this space specifically, we've got to really make sure we emphasize the collaborative nature.

of what this innovation hub is supposed to be, and everybody has 

[00:46:05] BG Shane Reeves: a part of it. I think that's why hub is a good name for it, because it is exactly that, no matter where you're at, you can get stuck in your cubicle, but you can be stuck in your department, you can be stuck in your center, you can be stuck on one side of the road, and it is to break all of that down, and it really takes some humbleness by individuals to say, hey, you know what?

I know how the physics works on this, I don't really know about the law or the ethics on this. Or it's the historian saying, hey, this historically is how it's worked, but maybe this is something different. I mean, but bringing everyone together and being willing to listen to others, I think that's the key to us getting to real solutions.

[00:46:43] LTG Steve Gillard: Yeah, and I think what it also does is it, you know, it forms the network. And, and, and in many ways it will expand the network because I think that people will want to come. Visit and be a part of it once they see what it is. Let me ask you this, Shane. I, you know, there's a bunch of folks out there who, who may be in the camp of, you know, Hey, should West Point, I mean, you're an undergraduate degree producing institution.

Should you be doing much research? What do you think about that? 

[00:47:13] BG Shane Reeves: I have a couple of thoughts on that, sir. So it all depends on how we do the research, right? We're not an R1 research institution. We're not intended to be, we're not trying to be doing research from, for a theoretical, you know, just for theoretical purposes, our research that is done is again, directly connected to developing cadets.

Particularly their education. And the day of, you know, for anyone who went to West Point a while ago, they may have a memory of you as a cadet, you'd walk into a classroom, we'd have the Thayer method, they'd ask you what you've done, you might take boards and you'd leave and you'd walk out and you go back to your room and study.

That is just a small part of the cadet's education. Now, it's much broader. There's, we've talked about the, the experiential learning that comes through AIDs and other experiences, whether it's. You know, Second Lieutenant Waite at AUSA presenting her work, or, you know, Second Lieutenant Gibson talking about hypersonic rockets to DEVCOM.

And then there's such a projects based component to this also. There's, you know, so many of our cadets are doing capstone projects that is generating not just intellectual capital for the Army, but it's also encouraged them to be lifelong learners who, and we're satisfying their intellectual curiosity.

And what we're doing is we're taking away Intellectual superficiality to the way they think and giving them depth and that is very much connected to our ability to fight and win. Because as you and I have talked about, sir, the potential future large scale military operations, it's not going to be most likely our economic might or our demographic strength or even potentially Our, you know, ability to fight close with.

We might be expeditionary, fighting against some, you know, a nation state that has internal lines of communication, logistics, all of those things. Our clear advantage is our officers with their NCOs being able to think their way through problems and being able to navigate the fog of war, if you want to call it that.

And solve problems, which gives us, being in this proactive approach to warfighting, gives us a great advantage. It always means we're on the offensive, because we're out thinking our enemy, and we can't do that without this connection to research based learning. And so, there's another... I'd coin from our head of our chemistry and life science named John, Colonel John Burpo, who says, we educate through research.

There's a direct connection between the two. Now that spins off some amazing things, which is the purpose of the innovation hub. That research spins off amazing work that's affecting the army. For anyone who would say that, they probably don't see this as the natural evolution of how cadets need to be educated to help us fight and win in today's world.

[00:49:46] LTG Steve Gillard: And I think it's also, when we think about research, it can't be, I think a lot of people envision it as, here I am in the lab, I'm looking through a microscope, and I'm, you know, with the Petri dish. But really, the Petri dish is, it's the academy, it's our operating environment, the Petri dish is the world.

And we think about, we've already said this, I mean, it's collaborative nature, it's coming together as teams. Which is absolutely character development and leadership. And that's where, you know, I mean, bringing people together from different disciplines to a team. One, how you contribute to that team as, you know, you're in your respective, you know, expertise or discipline.

But the other is, in some cases, You're going to have to be the leader of that team, and that is important as we think about our cadets that come together to do their respective research projects, or they're working for, you know, different entities of the government to come up with solutions to complex problem sets and being part of a team or leading that team, cadet or, you know, sometime down the road as we expect them when they graduate from here to be really leaders of character for not only our Army, but our 

[00:50:58] BG Shane Reeves: nation.

So that's, I had an opportunity to go to, um, Stanford to look at some of the various programs. I went to Stanford Medical School and there's a class of 1983 graduate named Constance Chu and she's there. And this is exactly what she, we talked about, which is she went to West Point. She served, uh, five years as an MI officer, got out, went to Harvard Medical School.

And now she's, and she was like, I thought I would be a doctor and I was going to do research. And she said, I very quickly. Every single time it seemed like I gravitated into leading these teams and I think you just hit it sir I think that the West Point graduate isn't just supposed to think a certain way but they're supposed to lead these efforts and they're gonna find that they do because of How we inculcate them with with all the things that makes us the premier leadership institution 

[00:51:45] LTG Steve Gillard: Yeah, absolutely.

That's I mean, that's why I always go back to, I've said, Hey, you get a, you get a bachelor of science degree in character development and leadership. You study physics, you study law, you study a host of different academic disciplines, but you are immersed in character development and leadership every single day.

And that's what we're expecting. That our nation expects us to deliver that leader of character, you know, every year about a thousand of them that are going out and serving our, uh, the citizens of our nation in our army. 

[00:52:18] BG Shane Reeves: Along those lines, that is another one of the many innovations that are taking place here, which is, as you've laid out, character is the foundation for everything that we do.

I can have an academic program, I can have a physical program, I can have a military program, but underlying all of it is character, and character is not just... It's the foundation, but it's thematic, thematic to everything that we do at West Point, whether it's focusing on the professional ethic through the academic program, whether it is cadets being introspective.

But as you pointed out, sir, I mean, it's all about developing these leaders of character that can operate in this innovative space. Yeah. 

[00:52:52] LTG Steve Gillard: And then we think of our cadets that are here today, you know, they're going to, they're going to graduate and they are going to, in 2040, the Army of 2040, they are the battalion commanders.

Yes, sir. in our army for those that remain in service in in the army. There will be brigade commanders out there. There are also going to be leaders in both in industry, in both the private and public sector, and it's the fundamentals, I would say, of leader development, character development, that this institution provides them as they go out and and really You know, we talk about the critical thinkers that we need.

We don't need them, we need them in the Army, but we need them in all different sectors, uh, across America, so that we can maintain our position as being, you know, the number one nation in the world. So, I think, we've, we've talked about a few teammates out there, when we think about industry, we think about academia, uh, and then, of course, we think about the institution here.

Also, there are many supporters out around the world who, you know, are willing to, you know, support in various ways. And 

[00:53:59] BG Shane Reeves: those partners are also reside in the Pentagon. The Department of the Army clearly believes in what's happening at West Point, as you can tell by all the construction around here and the Investment that's being made to ensure West Point, as you point out, remains the premier leadership institution and really at the tip of the spear in producing the officers we need to fight and win for the next 50, 75 years.

And again, I highlight the SEAC and all the things that are going to come out of it, whether it's focused on autonomy and AI and robotics and, and the engineering integration to all of those, but it's really all of the, all the academic buildings and the upgrade that's taken place that is, um, that's really going to change, uh, West Point for the better.


[00:54:39] LTG Steve Gillard: And that's how I see we've got to, uh, you know, it's not just today, but the future is the second half of this century of which we're all of the upgrade that's taken place here over the next 10 to 15 years. I mean, that's where we're going to really see the tangible results. And it may not be you and I seeing it.

Our nation will certainly see it and reap the 

[00:55:00] BG Shane Reeves: benefits from it. Sir, you and I will be at the ribbon cutting for the SEAC in two years. That's the goal. Yes, absolutely. I'm there. Sir, thanks. Thanks for the conversation. Very excited about our theme this year, uh, innovation, technology, and the future of national defense.

I think it's going to, I think it's going to ground our academic program. I think it's going to ground it in the sense of it's tethered to this theme. And so I, all, most of our guest speakers, most of our, our fireside chats, our podcasts, a lot of the, uh, scholarship that's being produced is going to be in this space, but I think it's going to be.

I think it's going to set West Point up to be actually perhaps lead the army in thinking about innovation. Well, I'll tell you, 

[00:55:39] LTG Steve Gillard: I'm inspired by the lineup of events, activities, and people that are coming in over the next academic year to lend, you know, their respective perspective in this space. And one, it's going to make us better as an institution.

Two is that, you know, that will deliver results out in our Army and for our nation. And three is, I mean, when you think about, uh, unity of effort and, and bringing everybody together on the team, I mean, what better way to do it than, uh, you know, having folks from all over the nation and in some cases all over the world coming in and contributing to the character development and leader development of our cadets.

But really contributing also to this institution as the United States Military Academy and in our army as we think through different things. I'm excited for it. It's going to be an awesome academic year. There's no doubt about it. 

Narrator: This has been a production of the WPAOG Broadcast Network. Please take a moment to rate and review the show and join us each week for a new episode. Thank you for listening.