Escape rooms test leadership, communication skills

Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), go through an escape room, July 24, at the Fort Campbell Ready and Resilient Performance Center, A Shau Valley Road, as part of tryouts to become Scouts, testing their leadership and communication skills during challenging situations.

The Scout Platoon of 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), used a unique training and leadership evaluation tool during their battalion scout tryouts, partnering with Fort Campbell Ready and Resilient Performance Center to test the Soldiers in an escape room scenario.

The Fort Campbell R2 Performance Center, A Shau Valley Road, is a tool for strengthening individual and unit readiness by providing training and resources for Soldiers to enhance resilience and leadership. The center offers various creative training resources for units on Fort Campbell including two escape room scenarios.

“This was something one of the cadre at the Warriors in Transition unit put together,” said Steve Cohen, lead performance expert for 3rd Brigade Combat Team. “He brought the idea and equipment to us because he thought this was something we could use as a possible training tool. It’s two scenarios to run the games with, and we’ve been using for about five years.”

R2 works with units across the installation with different training exercises and resources.

“We linked up to R2 a few weeks ago and they were able to incorporate it into our tryouts,” said Sgt. 1st Class Cullen Tierney, 2-506th Inf. Regt. Scout Platoon sergeant. “We’re looking at how leaders step up and how they work with different Soldiers. It’s groups of different Soldiers from different companies across our battalion working together to solve a difficult task, so we evaluate how an individual leader steps in situations where he’s not normally the team leader.”

Fourteen Soldiers went through the escape room scenario, Tierney said. They were tasked with searching for clues to solve puzzles that would lead to receiving codes to unlock a lock box that would give them the ability to exit the room and complete the escape.

“We had some teams that didn’t do so well, some teams that went really well,” he said. “I think it’s a great tool to measure how the Soldiers and leaders were interacting, who steps up and takes charge, and how well they do. I think it’s a great tool and we’ll definitely be using it again in the future, it was very beneficial for us.”

The design of the escape rooms is simple, but the results are impressive.

“It’s a really good tool that we use to highlight team dynamics,” Cohen said. “It highlights whether or not individuals can work together and problem solve to come up with creative solutions. They are evaluated on how they search and delegate tasks, they need to be able to not be overwhelmed with a lot of information or get frustrated in lack of progress. We also look at how are they communicating to each other and what level of leadership is starting to emerge over the course of the time period.”

The escape room can serve as a showcase for the strengths of a group of Soldiers, or it can be an evaluation for what needs improvement. At the end of each escape room scenario, the Soldiers and their cadre are debriefed and they discuss what worked and what needs improvement.

“A lot of the good doesn’t come from the escape room itself, it comes from the conversation we have afterward,” Cohen said. “It all depends on the training requests that we receive. For the Scouts, they wanted an assessment on how well these Soldiers perform by just running them through the scenario and then evaluating to determine if these individuals would be a good fit for the scouts.”

The escape room is not a recreational activity, Cohen said. The rooms are strictly for training or evaluation purposes, and the R2 team can help determine if the escape room is the best fit for the outcome goal each unit is seeking.

“It’s a unique opportunity,” Cohen said. “Being out in the field and training is a great avenue, but if they want to look at how they are strictly communicating with each other and how they step up as leaders, I think this is a great comprehensive look at these dynamics that is different than the normal training units perform daily.”

To learn more about training resources and opportunities at the Fort Campbell R2 Performance Center, call 270-461-0691.

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