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Demystifying the Art of Assessment & Selection – smallwarsjournal



sfas 1
Soldiers attending Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) participate in a team event during Team Week. (Taken from DVIDS)
Photo by K. Kassens
United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School

Whether it is a Fortune 500 company or an elite military unit, good or bad, every organization has some type of systemic process to recruit, assess, select, and train its personnel. Although these processes vary widely in their design and implementation, all organizations ultimately have the same goal: field the force with the right people and accomplish the organizational mission. During the summer of 2020, SWCS embarked on an ambitious initiative to holistically overhaul its training pipelines, paying particular attention to information management and the inclusion of data analytics in order to improve overall efficiency of assessing, selecting and training ARSOF. In the midst of this overhaul, a simple, yet highly relevant question was posited: “Why?” Why do we do it? What does Assessment and Selection accomplish that other job search methods cannot? The purpose of this article is to address this question, to reflect within the ARSOF community on why this process is so important, and to demystify a process that to others may seem like some sort of obscure ritual or rite of passage.

Soldiers attending Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) participate in a team event during Team Week. (Taken from DVIDS)
Photo by K. Kassens
United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School

The Art of Risk Management

Talent acquisition is a constant balance between the need to fill the force with exceptionally qualified individuals and the need to ensure the force is adequately manned to serve the nation. This sets up what appears to be a direct tradeoff between maintaining quality (or standards) versus achieving sufficient quantity. We cannot and do not accept this notion. As the Special Operations Forces (SOF) maxim states, SOF cannot be mass produced; each individual is hand-picked and carefully trained for their job. Further, Special Operations leadership cannot risk leaving the nation unable to respond with SOF capabilities. The stakes are simply too high to accept risk in sacrificing quality or quantity. The goal, then, is to cast as wide a net as possible in recruitment, then enabling the risk management process to unfold from there.

fig 1

Figure 1 illustrates how to conceptualize the ARSOF talent acquisitions process. It includes four phases: Recruitment, Assessment, Training, and Operations. At recruitment, the talent population is random and at low probability of seeking and finding the right person for the job. As the process progresses, the population moves through a series of filters that serve as  key decision points necking down the talent pool at each phase, increasing the probability of finding the right person for the job. The “input”, or recruitment, side (far left) includes a pool of potential recruits, some of whom are truly a good fit for ARSOF (denoted with green dots) while others are a poor fit (denoted with red dots). A “good fit” in this case means someone who will perform at or above the unchanging operational standards of exceptional ethical and moral judgement, and with high physical, psychological, and cognitive fitness throughout their career. By filter three, there is little to no possibility that the ARSOF talent acquisition process is vulnerable to random chance. Nearly every individual is a “good fit” for ARSOF.


Army Special Forces soldiers conduct shooting range at training support activity Europe
Photo by Jason Johnston (Photo taken from DVIDS)

Importantly, we cannot actually know this truth about any individual in advance, we can only infer it through process. Although a soldier could look good on paper during recruitment, there is no way to inherently know from the outset (at recruitment) whether someone is a good or poor fit. This requires the organization to estimate “goodness of fit” based on collected evidence. Depending on the amount and type of evidence, a poor fit can look a lot like a good one, so the goal is to separate the two populations as much as possible. Each of the three major filters during talent acquisition is defined on the collection and processing of evidence, designed according to each phase to cut as many of the poor fit cases as possible while having minimal impact on the good fit population. In statistics, this is referred to as precision (in our case, rejecting only poor fit cases without impacting good fit cases) and recall (finding as many of those poor fit cases as possible). Ultimately, the details of the filter design — both with respect to evidence collected and analytics performed — reflect the artistry of risk management.


The process starts with recruitment, where the goal is to have a blunt filter to remove as many clearly poor fit cases as possible with effectively no impact on the pool of potential good fit candidates; that is, aim for high precision, but with an acceptable level of sub-optimal recall. This filter has to be balanced by reality: what is readily available in routine service records and what recruiters can realistically accomplish with their resources across an array of non-standardized recruitment locations around the globe. Most of this filter is practical in nature, identifying those potential recruits who are at least minimally physically fit, have promotion potential based on rank and time in grade, etc… The available evidence at this point is not particularly effective at sorting the two populations, but it does allow SWCS to rule out a lot of definite poor fit candidates.


At A&S, SWCS standardizes the assessment and conducts targeted examinations to focus on those qualities that do a great — though not perfect — job at distinguishing between a good and poor fit. Moreover, this can be done at relatively low cost in both time to the candidates and resources to the organization. Thus, A&S becomes the primary phase to sort good fit from poor fit after the more pragmatic filter of recruitment is applied. This much tighter filter at A&S results in a population that is generally of very good fit with only a few missed cases of poor fit making it through. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of some good fit cases, though there is always a concerted effort made to limit the impact on this population. In the future, as data collection and analytics improve, SWCS will be able to better differentiate the poor fit from good fit cases, allowing better rejection of poor cases while impacting fewer of the good. The inset in Figure 1 illustrates how analytics can both lower the ceiling for poor cases and raise the floor for good cases. This results in better distinction between the two populations and a smaller homogenous region in the center.


When the soldiers get to training, most of the population will be a good fit, as A&S has filtered out the poor fit candidates. The filter points in this phase are usually relegated to significant and uncorrectable failures in academics, behavioral issues that were previously unobserved, or unforeseeable circumstances such as major injury. This phase helps remove the last few poor fit candidates that are still functionally differentiable from good fit candidates.


The last phase, operations, focuses on the operational force, where the goal is to assume minimal risk – more specifically, a soldier failing standards and/or harming the mission and/or nation. At this point, it is expected that ARSOF personnel have the necessary knowledge, skills, and attributes to perform their jobs and represent the enterprise. Unfortunately, no effort to predict long-term human behavior is perfect. Some poor fit candidates will make it through the entire process regardless of the A&S system used, translating to a certain level of risk assumed by the respective organization and its leadership. However, this level of risk is acceptable and unquestionably better than the alternative of not utilizing an A&S course at all.

Special Forces candidates assigned to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School exit a Blackhawk helicopter during Robin Sage training exercise. 
Photo by K. Kassens (Photo taken from DVIDS)
swcs hQ
Bryant Hall – Headquarters to the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School located at Ft. Bragg, NC. 
Photo by Maj. Stuart E. Gallagher

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Home + Away artwork opens in Vancouver’s Hastings Park



A new art installation now towers over Vancouver’s Hastings Park fields in celebration of the city’s history of spectators and sports.

Home + Away is a sculpture by Seattle artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio, which opened Monday in the southeast end of the historic park.

It’s a 17-metre-tall structure that resembles a narrow set of bleachers — similar to the stands of the Empire Stadium, which stood on the site of the park from 1954 to 1993 and hosted The Beatles, among many others. It recalls a covered ski jump that stood there in the 1950s and the nearby wooden rollercoaster at the PNE.

The city says the public is invited to walk the stairs and sit on the benches.

“In addition to being visually striking, this artwork is intended to be ascended, sat on and experienced. It offers exciting experiences of height and views and provides 16 rows of seating for up to 49 people, making for a unique spectator experience when watching events at Empire Fields,” the city said in a release Monday.

The idea for the park to include public art was outlined in the Hastings Park “Master Plan,” first adopted by the city in 2010. The city says Han and Mihalyo first presented their design in 2015.

“It’s wonderful to see this piece realized within the context of such a well-used public space,” said Han.

Home + Away was inspired directly by the site history of spectatorship, and we hope it will connect Hastings Park users to that history and the majestic views of the environment for many decades to come,” added Mihalyo.

The artwork features a large light-up sign, in the style of a sports scoreboard, that reads “HOME” and “AWAY.”



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Bill Viola, Video Artist Who Established the Medium as an Integral Part of Contemporary Art, Dies at 73



Bill Viola, whose decades-long engagement with video proved vital in establishing the medium as an integral part of contemporary art, died on July 12 at his home in Long Beach, California. He was at 73 years old. The cause was complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. The news of his passing was confirmed by James Cohan Gallery.

Viola’s works are centered around the idea of human consciousness and such fundamental experiences as birth, death, and spirituality. He delved into mystical traditions from Zen Buddhism to Islamic Sufism, as well as Western devotional art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in his videos, which often juxtaposed themes of life and death, light and dark, noise and silence. These explorations were achieved by submerging viewers in both image and sound with cutting-edge technologies for their time.

“I first used the camera and lens as a surrogate eye, to bring things closer, or to magnify them, to experiment with perception, to extend vision and make lengthy observations of simple objects,” Viola said in a 2015 interview. “Once you do that, their essence becomes visible. So I suppose I was always interested in the inner life of the world around me.”

Beginning in the 1970s, Viola created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast—all of which expanded the scope of the medium and established Viola as one of its most notable practitioner.

Video still of a man diving into water that has been reversed. The image is mostly black and teal.

In 2003 the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Tate, London; and the Centre Pompidou in Paris jointly acquired Bill Viola’s 2001 three-channel video installation Five Angels for the Millennium.

Photo Kira Perov/©Bill Viola Studio

Bill Viola was born in 1951. He grew up in Queens and Westbury, New York, and attended P.S. 20 in Flushing, before receiving his BFA in experimental studios from Syracuse University in 1973. There, he studied with visual art with the likes of Jack Nelson and electronic music with Franklin Morris.

Following his graduation, between 1973 to 1980, Viola studied and performed with composer David Tudor in the music group Rainforest, which later became known as Composers Inside Electronics. He also worked as technical director at the pioneering video studio Art/tapes/22 in Florence, Italy from 1974 to 1976. During that time he encountered the work of other seminal video artists like Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, and Vito Acconci.

Viola was subsequently an artist-in-residence at New York’s WNET Thirteen Television Laboratory between 1976 to 1983, wherein he created a series of works that premiered on television. He traveled to the Solomon Islands, Java, and Indonesia to record traditional performing arts between 1976 and 1977. Later that year, Viola was invited to show work at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, by cultural arts director Kira Perov, with whom he married and began a lifelong collaboration.

He was appointed an instructor in advanced video at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 1983. He was the Getty Research Institute scholar-in-residence in Los Angeles in 1998 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000.

In 1985, Viola received with a Guggenheim Fellowship for fine arts, and later that decade, in 1989, he was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. His work was also featured in some of the world’s most notable exhibitions, including Documenta VI in 1977, Documenta XI in 1992, the 1987 and 1993 editions of the Whitney Biennial, and the 2001 Venice Biennale.

In 1995, he represented the United States at the 46th edition of the Venice Biennale. For the pavilion, Viola produced the series of works “Buried Secrets,” including one of his most known works The Greeting, which offers a contemporary interpretation of Pontormo’s oil painting The Visitation (ca.1528–30). The Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and New York’s Guggenheim Museum commissioned the digital fresco cycle in high-definition video, titled Going Forth By Day, in 2002.

Viola’s work was the subject of a major 25-year survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997, which subsequently toured internationally. His work has been the subject of major museum retrospectives in the years since, including at the Grand Palais in Paris (in 2014), the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2017), the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain (2017), and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia (2019), as well as an exhibition pairing his work with that of Michelangelo at the Royal Academy of Art in London in 2019.

Viola is survived by his wife Kira Perov, who has been the executive director of his studio since 1978, and their two children.

“One thing that’s very exciting about video that has turned me on since I first saw this glowing image way back in 1970 is that it can be so much,” Viola said in a 1995 with Charlie Rose on the occasion of this US Pavilion at the Biennale. “Furthermore, what’s really exciting is I don’t think it’s been since really the Renaissance where artists have been able to use a medium that one could say is the dominant communication form in society.”


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Couple’s winning art projects adorn overpass



Annabelle Harvey and Corbin Elliot are partners: in life, love, and art. Thanks to their creative pursuits, now they are also joined in the recognition of their work along the Lakeshore overpass.

The City of North Bay, in collaboration with the Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC), recently held an event to acknowledge the successful applicants for the Lakeshore Drive overpass banner project. This initiative features 14 artworks created by local artists, highlighting the ongoing commitment to bringing public art to the community and celebrating local talent. The banners were installed early last week.

On behalf of PAAC, Katie Bevan noted that 71 submissions were received for the banner art project. “Selecting just 14 artworks from such outstanding submissions was no small feat. It truly highlights the incredible creativity within our community — and it’s only growing.”

Bevan acknowledged all who submitted their work and congratulated the 14 winners:

  • Caitlin Daniel
  • Corbin Elliot
  • Adam Fielder
  • Ian Gauthier
  • Ruby Grant
  • Annabelle Harvey
  • Penny Heather
  • Robert Johannsen
  • Robyn Jones
  • Gerry McComb
  • Victoria Primeau
  • Tessa Shank
  • Rana Thomas
  • Claudia Torres

“This is the first time I’ve participated in something city-wide, and I’ve been really interested in getting more involved in the art community,” said Harvey, a teacher by vocation when not helping to beautify North Bay. “I’ve worked a lot with the WKP Kennedy Gallery and I’ve been putting in submissions for some of their group shows. So, this is a cool opportunity to try something new. This is the first time I have done digital work. Usually, I like painting and collage. So I was interested just to try something new.”

In September 2023, public art gained more prominence in North Bay as 12 pieces by eight local artists selected by the Public Art Advisory Committee were placed on aluminum panels mounted onto the public buildings in both Champlain and Sunset parks.

Harvey’s partner Elliot is an emerging artist and a Fine Arts graduate from Nipissing University who says his passion for bringing his vision to life has only grown, thanks, in part, to these public art initiatives.

“There is so much opportunity to have a lot of different public art in different spaces,” he says. “So, when I saw that there was a variety of different artists and voices being accepted, of course, I wanted to have my vision out there in the city, to make my mark and be a part of that kind of trajectory of building the art scene within the city.”

The couple share a studio space, often working on separate projects at the same time while collaborating with encouragement and ideas.

“We are working on different mediums, a lot of the time,” Elliot said. “We have our own corners set up in the studio and I’ll usually be on my easel and Annabelle will be doing something…”

Harvey picked up his thought, “I’m usually at my desk doing pottery, jewellery, collage — I do a lot of different things.”

Couple Annabelle Harvey and Corbin Elliot each earned a spot among the 14 winning banner art projects. Stu Campaigne/BayToday

For Harvey, working so closely together is her “favourite part, especially watching his creative process.”

Elliot added, “I think I’m more non-verbal as I’m creating. I often hear you saying, ‘Oh, I think I like this.'”

Both have active Instagram pages featuring their artwork, Harvey’s can be found here, and Elliot’s here.

Elliot has a show at the WKP Kennedy Gallery, entitled “Upon a Star,” opening Sept. 13. “I’ll have my own solo exhibition. I typically work in painting. I have a big body of work with paintings,” he said.

The City of North Bay and PAAC encourage everyone to take a moment to appreciate these works of art when passing by the overpass.

Harvey and Elliot are thrilled about the banner art project.

“It’s like seeing your vision come to life. We’ve had lots of friends, even before we saw them today say excitedly, ‘I saw your work on the overpass,’ it’s just a proud moment to have so many eyes on our work.”



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