Joint war game takes students to the brink
Students from five military senior-level colleges take part in seminar discussions as part of Joint Land, Air and Sea Strategic Exercise held annually at Maxwell. The exercise kicks off today. (Courtesy photo)
Joint war game takes students to the brink

4/18/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Using the theme "World on the Brink," students from five military senior-level colleges unite at Maxwell to train the way they fight.

The 28th annual Joint Land, Air and Sea Strategic Exercise, or JLASS-EX, war game kicks off today at the LeMay Center's Air Force Doctrine Development and Education's Air Force Wargaming Institute and runs through Thursday.

George Daniels, senior controller JLASS-EX, said the war game was originated to promote joint professional military education. He said students from Air War College, U.S. Army War College, Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Marine Corps War College and U. S. Naval War College will participate in the five-day engagement addressing key issues of strategic and operational levels of war.

Army Col. Sam White, this year's JLASS-EX war game director from the Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pa., said the major objective for all the senior-level colleges is for students to address key issues at the strategic and operational levels of war and enhance awareness of the interagency process, combined/joint staff and unified command issues.

"The students will be using diplomacy and combined forces to execute national and theater-level strategies, which also helps each school meet their specific learning objectives," he said.

Steve Crawford, senior war game program specialist, who is in his 18th JLASS-EX game, said 109 students and 30 faculty members from the senior-level colleges and more than 100 controllers, administrators, technical and support staff members are teaming up to tackle the tough issues the students will face in the future.

He explained the exercise is a two-sided, computer-supported war game that takes place 10 years in the future. This year, with the addition of four lesser contingency scenarios, homeland security events and issues will have increased emphasis, as will mobility and reserve mobilization issues.

Mr. Crawford emphasized that JLASS-EX helps future senior leaders develop strategic and operational skills and also enhance student-to-student interaction, which is consistently listed as one of the high points during student and faculty feedback sessions.

"Players gain a significant amount of knowledge about the adaptive mission-planning system," he said. "They are getting a chance to meet face-to-face and may be working with each other down the road."

Mr. Daniels noted that just as their war planning is instituted to be real-world, the students will also face real-world obstacles, such as media and public pressures.

The "World on the Brink" is the theme of news covered by the fictional Global News Network, which airs daily news broadcasts. An "Early Worm" news brief, similar to the "Early Bird," is published each game day. In addition to their morning situation briefings, these are elements that students watch, read and react to that will affects their game play.

"The purpose of GNN is to expose the students to the media and help them develop the tools they need to be effective strategic communicators," said Col. Ruth Latham, the JLASS-EX media control chief and director of curriculum and faculty development for the U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Center of Excellence at the Spaatz Center for Officer Education.

Colonel Latham said approximately 20 reservists, civilians and National Guard public affairs specialists and broadcasters from all over the United States travel to Maxwell each year to role-play the media and develop realistic news products in support of this exercise.

According to Mr. Daniels, participants began the academic phase of JLASS-EX at their home station between October and January. During this phase, they exchanged planning data with students from other schools and discussed staff planning, operations and actions with the actual command staff that they are portraying through the internet, video teleconference, telephone conferences and face-to-face briefings.

Students then come together at Maxwell-Gunter to put their planning to the test in a high-pressure environment in the midst of several strategic-level crises stretching across the globe. They execute campaign plans developed during the academic phase. To help make scenarios more authentic, the JLASS-EX steering group not only keeps real-world situations in mind, but also utilizes current research on future trends to bring tomorrow's threats into play.

"The steering group is instrumental in making the game come off without a hitch," Mr. Daniels said. "A lot of planning and coordination goes into making JLASS-EX successful. Each steering group member has a vested interest in making this a great educational experience."

He said the JLASS-EX steering group is the brain trust of the game, consisting of a board of senior faculty from each senior-level college. They are responsible for planning and conducting the exercise and coordinating their school's elective courses.

"The steering group holds frequent meetings throughout the year, beginning immediately after the previous war game concludes," Mr. Daniels said.

"The steering group will look ahead at next year's game and discuss ways that the JLASS-EX program can be improved. Based on student and controller surveys, the game has gotten better every year. However, there's always room for improvement, and we strive to ensure that happens."

Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Center of Excellence