Future joint leaders wrestle with mock crisis
Students from multiple senior service schools conduct planning during execution of the 2011 Joint Land, Air and Sea Strategic Exercise. More than 120 students from these schools arrive Sunday to begin the 2012 event. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Juan Torres)
Future joint leaders wrestle with mock crisis


4/13/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Starting Monday, 122 students from five senior-level military colleges will participate in the 29th annual Joint Land, Air and Sea Strategic Exercise, or JLASS-EX.

The wargame runs through April 20 at the Curtis E. LeMay Wargaming Institute. The event provides future leaders an opportunity to confront serious issues before becoming decision-makers who have to deal with them in reality. According to George "Ollie" Daniels of the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education, JLASS-EX is the only major educational wargame that integrates brainpower across the war colleges.

During the five-day exercise, students and faculty from the Air War College, Army War College, Marine Corps War College, Naval War College and Industrial College of the Armed Forces, or ICAF, will critically analyze key issues at the strategic and operational levels of war. Students from the service-specific colleges generally represent geographic combatant commands, while the ICAF students play the role of national-level policy makers. In addition to the students, more than 120 faculty members, subject-matter experts, and technical and support staff keep the game focused.

Exercise director, Army Col. Sam White, emphasized not all the simulated problems require a U.S.-only military solution. "Students will use diplomacy and combined forces to execute national and theater-level strategies, which also helps each school meet their desired learning objectives," he said.

Reggie Harper, JLASS-EX intelligence director, said the in-depth fictional scenarios are designed to challenge this select group of future senior leaders to their limits. While addressing four global contingencies, this year students will focus on anti-access and area denial, homeland security and information operations.

Steve Crawford, JLASS-EX senior wargame specialist, explained the exercise occurs in two phases: a distributed phase at the parent senior-level college home station and an execution phase at Maxwell. During the distributed phase, students communicate via web, telephone and video teleconferencing to develop theater strategies, select courses of action and request initial force outlays. One of the highlights of the execution phase is the face-to-face and student-to-student interaction, where students collaborate in a time-compressed environment.

Daniels noted the exercise environment isn't limited to adaptive mission planning processes. Students also face simulations of real-world challenges, such as media and public pressures. To set the stage, students view a "special report" by the fictional Global News Network, or GNN, which recaps events leading to a "World on the Brink."

"Simulating press coverage exposes students to some of the external pressures they face while responding to complex situations," said Lt. Col. Don Langley, JLASS-EX media cell chief and deputy director for the U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Center of Excellence. "Our goal is to show them the need to be effective public communicators and identify the skills they need to develop in that area." Langley is supported by about 20 Reserve and National Guard volunteers from all over the United States, who travel to Maxwell each year to play the role the media and develop realistic news products based on the exercise.

Once the exercise ends, the multi-service JLASS-EX Steering Group immediately begins to plan next year's exercise.

"The group meets quarterly. This helps us clarify and focus a continuous discussion between the schools to make the exercise even better next time," Daniels said.

JLASS-EX and its earlier iterations have graduated nearly 3,000 senior leaders since the first exercise in 1983. The long list of graduates includes the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey and at least 30 general officers still on active duty in each of the service branches.

Courtesy of Public Affairs Center of Excellence