A dozen participants gather around a laminated U.S. map, with square and circle pieces in various colors being moved about the board, dice and numbers ever present. It takes on the appearance of a game but carries serious ramifications. Those present are involved in a Wargame conducted from Oct. 16-20 at Carlisle Barracks, Pa.
Maj. William Mahan, who designed the game, described it as “an analytical wargame to assist First Army in the course-of-action step of the military decision-making process.” Samuel White, deputy director center for strategic leadership at the U.S. Army War College, added that First Army Commanding General Mark Landes had “asked us to help him examine a series of questions dealing with contested mobilization in the United States with a particular focus on Compos 2 and 3.”
The end state is to make First Army more proficient at its mission of ensuring the nation has mission-ready Reserve Component Soldiers ready to mobilize, deploy, and win. That requires more than just First Army, noted Rick Fink, the organization’s G3/5/7.
“This draws in a lot of our enterprise partners. We’ve got folks from across the spectrum,” he said. “All are involved in some way in mobilization…and it gives different points of views on issues.”
Mahan cited Philip Fijalkovich and Matt Wechsler, both operations research analysts at the War College, for their contributions to the development of the wargame, and its successful implementation.
During the game, attendees were hit with a series of injects and challenges related to mobilization that they had to respond to. Successfully navigating it required cooperation, compromise, and team building.
“First Army is designed to increase the readiness of the Reserve Component,” Fink said. “But we don’t completely understand how IMCOM, MEDCOM, or any of the other agencies work, so it’s helpful for us to have their points of view. When you put 15 people in a room, you’re getting different viewpoints and experience. So one will say, ‘Yeah, but you’re forgetting about this,’ or ‘If you’re going to do it this way, you’re going to have logistics issues.’”
It's all part of a common goal to facilitate efficient Large Scale Mobilization Operations.
Fink explained, “We want to get better at answering the questions. Where is the training equipment set going to come from? What are the authorities that enable this? Success is a way ahead that is a logical process to solve some of the problems, shortfalls, and gaps, with the understanding that the Army will continue to modernize and there will still be constraints on money and time. We’re not going to get a blank check that says go solve all these things overnight. It is better to think about issues now rather than show up on the battlefield and think, ‘I wish I had trained on that.’”
So, First Army key leaders joined subject matter experts from various organizations and disciplines to feed in information, and a resulting algorithm yielded a problem set for attendees to grapple with.
Col. Frank Scherra, Wargame exercise director, explained, “First Army asked us to help them as they looked at mobilization efforts in the future. They were looking at, ‘What are some updates we can do to improve our planning process’ and ‘Do we have the right structure and how do we move forward?’”
To facilitate getting after those and other crucial questions, more than 90 subject matter experts were brought in from across the mobilization enterprise. “They really explored the process and asked, ‘Are we postured for our next potential large-scale mobilization in a contested environment,” Scherra said. “The wargame attempted to model a lot of those aspects and really helped people see the magnitude of their decisions and choices, and how it affects other parts of the enterprise.”
For as Mahan noted, participants had to consider, “How does a specific inject…reverberate in the larger structure? You might have an inject that impacts an MGFI…but then, how does that web work? You’re looking at the rail lines, the seaports, the airports, and you also have the inclusion of the training equipment sets all converging to make sure people get trained and validated.”
Beyond that, he continued, participants looked at, “Do we have all the right units and support structure in place in order to effectively and efficiently mobilize and get the people and equipment into theatre to that combatant commander in a timely manner?”
Through it all, a respectful and professional dialogue aimed to get at those crucial questions.
“When you have the brigade commanders and the subject matter experts present, it leads to rich discussion and insights,” Scherra said. “Understanding the inputs and outputs and where people fit in was very helpful and enlightening.”
It all added up to a week well spent.
“The intent of the wargame was met,” Mahan said. “The goals were to analyze the LSMO models, identifying key friction points, and foster critical strategic discussions.”
This means the lessons learned from the wargame will enable First Army and its partners to more efficiently execute a Large Scale Mobilization Operation if called upon.