Wargaming And Military Culture
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A presentation on the values of wargaming in achieving unit cohesion and in inculcating a bias for action in military culture.

A presentation on the values of wargaming in achieving unit cohesion and in inculcating a bias for action in military culture.

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  • If we think of shared experience in combat as something that both teaches combatants about warfare and strengthens the bonds between unit members, it’s natural to assume that shared experience in exercises and wargames could do something similar, if not quite as well. I am Professor Eric Walters of the American Military University, here to discuss how wargaming can help inculcate military culture in unit members and indeed the entire military as an institution. My focus is on two aspects—how wargaming educates servicemembers and builds cohesion in units.

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  • 1. Wargaming and Military Culture: Education and Cohesion-Building Eric M. Walters, MA MSSI Professor of Land Warfare, Military History, and Intelligence American Military University
  • 2. Agenda
    • Some Definitions
    • The Goals of Military Culture
    • Symptoms of an Underdeveloped Military Culture
    • The Cultural Paradox
    • Wargaming Parables
    • Wargaming and Education
    • Wargaming and Cohesion
    • Future Wargame Requirements
  • 3. Definitions
    • Culture : …4.a) development, improvement, or refinement of the mind,…b) the result of this, refined ways of thinking, talking, acting,etc….6. The ideas, customs, skills, arts, etc., of a given people in a given period.
    Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition , p. 345.
  • 4. Definitions
    • Education : 1. The process of training and developing the knowledge, mind, character, etc., especially by formal schooling; teaching; training 2. Knowledge, ability, etc., thus developed 3.a) formal schooling at an institution of learning b) a stage of this 4. Systematic study of the methods and theories of teaching and learning.
    Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition , p. 444.
  • 5. Definitions
    • Cohesion : 1. The act of condition of cohering; tendency to stick together...
    • Cohere : 1.a) to stick together, as parts of a mass…2. To be connected naturally or logically, as by a common principle; be consistent 3. To become or stay united in action; be in accord.
    Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition , p. 276.
  • 6. Definitions
    • Wargame : 1. Same as KRIEGSPIEL 2. Practice maneuvers involving actual troops and military equipment.
    • Kriegspiel : a game for teaching or practicing military tactics by the use of small figures representing troops, tanks, etc., moved about on a large map or representation of the terrain.
    Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition , pp. 783 & 1601.
  • 7. The Goal of Military Culture
    • “The essential thing is action. Action has three stages: the decision born of thought, the order or preparation for execution, and the execution itself. All three stages are governed by will. The will is rooted in character, and for the man of action, character is of more critical importance than intellect. Intellect without will is worthless, will without intellect is dangerous.”
    Hans von Seeckt, Thoughts of a Soldier, p. 123
  • 8. Symptoms of an Underdeveloped Culture--in Planning
    • “The clearest evidence of…deficiency is too much communication--reams of orders and directives which in the planning stage are little more than generalities and exhortations, and which defer too much to the moment of decision.”
    CAPT Wayne P. Hughes, Jr., USN (Ret.) Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat, Second Edition, p. 31
  • 9. Symptoms of an Underdeveloped Culture--in Execution
    • From “A Band of Brothers? Multi-Player Games”
    • “ If you hold the chief command, among other things you will learn that:
    • 1) Your subordinates cannot read your handwriting.
    • 2) Your subordinates cannot tell left from right.
    • 3) Your subordinates cannot grasp the simplest concepts of maneuver.
    • 4) Threats of physical violence are often necessary to secure compliance with your orders.”
    S. Craig Taylor, “Fighting Sails,” The General Magazine, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Jul-Aug 1976), p. 5.
  • 10. Symptoms of an Underdeveloped Culture--in Execution
    • “ If you hold a subordinate command, you will learn that:
    • 1) You cannot read the commander’s handwriting.
    • 2) The commander keeps issuing orders to turn left when the situation obviously calls for turning to the right.
    • 3) The commander must think you can read his mind to even attempt such complex maneuvers.
    • 4) The commander has a nasty temper.”
    S. Craig Taylor, “Fighting Sails,” The General Magazine, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Jul-Aug 1976), p. 5.
  • 11. The Cultural Paradox
    • “Draw any good naval leader…into a conversation on his experience…and it will quickly come out that the tactical plan imposed by his seniors was to his mind too rigid. He will tell you how he maneuvered more cleverly and fired his weapons more effectively than…prescribed.”
    CAPT Wayne P. Hughes, Jr., USN (Ret.) Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat, Second Edition, p. 31
  • 12. The Cultural Paradox
    • “In the next breath he will tell you how when he was in command his units moved together like clockwork. He will swear to you that all his captains knew exactly what each teammate would do as instinctively as a basketball player knows from body language which way his teammate will cut. It will never occur to the speaker that there is the slightest inconsistency in his account.”
    CAPT Wayne P. Hughes, Jr., USN (Ret.) Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat, Second Edition, p. 31
  • 13. Coping with the Paradox
    • Education: Learning about “the game” (i.e., War)
    • Cohesion: Learning about “the team” (i.e., the unit)
    • What does wargaming/kriegspiel offer?
  • 14. What wargaming offers:
    • Individual experience: Education
      • The “environment”
      • The “opposition”
      • What works, what does not work (?)
      • Self-confidence
    • Collective experience: Cohesion
      • Collective knowledge & wisdom resulting from individual education
      • Trust in each other
  • 15. A Wargaming Parable Available in Military Literature
    • Daniel P. Bolger’s: The Battle For Hunger Hill: The 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment at the Joint Readiness Training Center (1997)
      • “ Laser tag” team competitions used to train all hands
      • Two JRTC “rotations” demonstrate improvements in individual education and collective cohesion
  • 16. A Wargaming Parable Available in Science Fiction
    • Orson Scott Card’s Nebula and Hugo Award Winner: Ender’s Game (1977)
      • Computer wargames and 3-D zero-G “laser tag” team competitions used to train future commanders
      • Used for individual education and building collective cohesion
  • 17. Wargaming and Education “ Nine-tenths of tactics are certain, and taught in books: but the irrational tenth is like the kingfisher flashing across the pool....It can only be ensured by instinct, sharpened by thought practicing the stroke so often that at the crisis it is as natural as a reflex.” Colonel T. E. Lawrence, “The Science of Guerrilla Warfare,” 1926.
  • 18. Wargaming and Education: One Problem To Be Solved
    • “ I have often seen how pathetic those general staff officers are who draw their advice from their own observed data, how indecisive and timid they are to accomplish anything that…the circumstances demand. Such people do not know the risks which must be taken in war…They probably never risk a bold idea, since no similar situation crowned with success in the past give them the necessary self-confidence.”
    General Gerhard Scharnhorst , quoted in Rudolf Stadelman, Scharnhorst: Schicksal und geistige Welt, ein Fragment, pp. 155-156
  • 19. Wargaming and Education: And Another….
    • “… art can be developed, but like hitting a curve ball, it takes a bit of innate talent, too. One day, if you have it, you look at a situation and you get the picture. Some folks, even very senior officers, never get it. These men, often very bright, insist upon learning all the proper buzz words, and chant them repeatedly, as if saying them enough would somehow impart understanding. Despite Benning, Leavenworth, and all the books, such people never quite bridge the gap between theory and practice. They look, but do not see.”
    Daniel P. Bolger, The Battle For Hunger Hill , p. 88.
  • 20. Historical Antecedents: Wargaming and Education
    • Ancient Games: Chess and Go
    • The Prussian Army game: Reisswitz’s kriegspiel
      • “ It’s not a game at all--it’s training for war!” Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Von Muffling
      • Lots of rules and tables
    • Verdy du Vernois’s Simplified War Game
      • Relied on umpire experience/judgment
  • 21. Historical Antecedents: Wargaming and Education
    • Commercial Games/Miniatures (H.G. Wells, Fred Jane, Fletcher Pratt, Charles Roberts, Jim Dunnigan, et. al.)
    • Naval War College wargames
    • WW II wargames
      • German wargames
      • Soviet wargames
      • Japanese wargames
  • 22. Educational Wargaming Today
    • Commercial Gaming
      • Paintball and Laser Tag
      • Board wargames and miniatures
      • Computer wargames
    • Department of Defense Gaming
      • Field “Laser Tag:” NTC, JRTC, and CTC (USA)
      • “ Red Flag” (USAF)/”Top Gun” (USN)/WTI FINEX (USMC)
      • Adapted commercial games
      • Command Post Exercise (CPX) drivers
  • 23. Educational Wargaming Issues:
    • Entertainment versus realism
      • Commercial paintball, laser tag, and many computer games suffer here
    • Game design bias versus realism
      • DoD games most prone
      • Acquisition imperatives
        • C4I system limitations
    • Difficulties in translating experience obtained from artificial environments to real situations in the future
  • 24. Wargaming and Education: Worst Case Outcome
    • Attempts at “realism” can be a distraction for contemporary situations:
      • “ It worked when we did it in [substitute exercise name here], so it will work again.”
      • “ [Insert exercise name here] validated our concepts….”
    • To mitigate this, include many variables on conditions, weapons performance, unit morale, and a host of other imponderables…and play it more than once!
  • 25. Wargaming and Education: Best Case Outcome
    • Fighters gain self-confidence from their successes and learn from their failures/mistakes.
    • Unintended bias is kept to a minimum. Compare outcomes to history/combat experience.
  • 26. Wargaming and Cohesion “Four brave men who do not know each other will not dare attack a lion. Four less brave, but knowing each other well, sure of their reliability and consequently of their mutual will attack resolutely.” Colonel Charles Ardant du Picq. Battle Studies, p. 110
  • 27. Wargaming and Cohesion: One Problem To Be Solved
    • “ The men lacked true battle drills to act on contact. Again, home station training, heavily laden with live-fire exercises, exacerbated this tendency. On the range one could merely leapfrog along, with one group shooting while neighbors alongside inched forward. The fixed targets always obediently remained to the front. Real enemies do not so oblige. A big bold flank cures that.”
    Daniel P. Bolger, The Battle For Hunger Hill , p. 132.
  • 28. Wargaming and Cohesion: And Another….
    • “ Tiger and Griffin soldiers were reduced to chanting catcalls, while their commanders argued about whether to try to use their overwhelming force to attack Dragon Army….Momoe was all for attacking--’we outnumber him two to one’--while Bee said, ‘sit tight and we can’t lose, move out and he can figure out a way to beat us.’”
    Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game , p. 152.
  • 29. Historical Antecedents: Wargaming and Cohesion
    • Admiral Horatio Nelson, his captains, and his victories
      • Tactical wargaming/seminars
    • Prussian reformers and the victories of 1813, 1815, 1866, and 1870
      • Kriegspiel
      • Staff rides
      • Tactical Decision Games
  • 30. Contemporary Efforts: Wargaming and Cohesion?
    • National Training Center (NTC), Combat Training Center (CTC), and Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC)?
    • Top Gun (USN), Red Flag (USAF), and Weapons Tactics Instructor Course (USMC)?
    • GAUNTLET training at Fort Knox: U.S. Army Armor School?
    • Computer-driven CPXs
  • 31. Wargaming & Cohesion Issues:
    • “Training objectives” lead to scripted/canned scenarios
      • The group is not sufficiently stressed
    • Opportunities to practice are limited
      • Resource limitations (time, space, & tools)
        • Simulation availability
        • Training area/range availability
        • The “tyranny of the unit training schedule”
    • Keeping “the team” together
      • Personnel system doesn’t encourage this
  • 32. Wargaming and Cohesion: Worst Case Outcome
    • The game is “rigged” for success each time--the team is not seriously stressed.
    • Small local teams can win at home, but it doesn’t always mean they are ready to win the championship in the “Big Leagues.”
  • 33. Wargaming and Cohesion: Best Case Outcome
    • Individuals within the unit learn under stress how each other think and perform; they begin to trust all members of the team IAW this understanding.
    • Close personal bonding makes it harder for individuals to “let down” their teammates.
  • 34. Future Wargame Requirements:
    • Strive towards realism (especially for historical situations), but include entertainment where you can
    • Allow changes in performance parameters and algorithms, especially in contemporary scenarios
    • Include a wide variety of scenario/situation types across all conflict spectrums and environments
      • Land, Air, Sea…Strategic, Operational, Tactical
      • Ancient through Near Future, even Sci-Fi
  • 35. Future Wargame Requirements:
    • Ensure “free play” force-on-force
      • Always maximize fog and friction; rheostat/”toggle” down enemy strength and capabilities to “work up” new units at first
    • Maximize available resources
      • Obtain commercial solutions; put them to work
      • Integrate competitive team wargames & training
      • Allow unstructured practice and play
    • Stabilize the unit
      • Identify the “playing season” and keep the team together throughout
  • 36. Best References/Resources
    • Rudolf M. Hofmann, General der Infanterie. German Army War Games. Carlisle, PA: US Army War College, 1983.
    • Peter P. Perla. The Art of Wargaming: A Guide for Professionals and Hobbyists . Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1990.
    • James F. Dunnigan, MILGAMES listserv: http://members.aol.com/jfdunnigan/private/index.htm. Also check out his Professional Wargamers Page at URL: http://www.strategypage.com/prowg/default.asp
    • Annual CONNECTIONS conferences, coordinated by Matthew Caffrey: e-mail at <Matthew.Caffrey@MAXWELL.AF.MIL>
  • 37. QUESTIONS??