From Air University Public Affairs Center of Excellence
April 10, 2013

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Al -- Imagine a worst case scenario for the world 10 years from now. What if -- almost simultaneously -- the major military powers of the world find themselves in situations that could rapidly escalate beyond control? Terrorist attacks once again rattle America's cities, refugees flee across borders while pandemic diseases ravage mega-cities and cyber and space attacks disconnect major sectors of our information-driven world. Too extraordinary to happen? In fact, none of these events is beyond the realm of possibility.

On Monday, Lt. Gen. David Fadok, commander and president of the Air University, will welcome 132 students from six senior-level military colleges and the National Intelligence University for the 30th annual Joint Land, Air and Sea Strategic Exercise, or JLASS-EX. The wargame runs through April 19 at the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education.

The event provides future leaders an opportunity to confront these kinds of serious issues in a learning environment before dealing with them in reality. JLASS-EX is a showcase wargame that integrates all the senior-level colleges across DoD, according to Maj. Gen. Walter Givhan, LeMay Center commander.

During the five-day exercise, students and faculty from the Air War College, Army War College, Marine Corps War College, Naval War College, National War College, the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy and the National Intelligence University 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 Eisenhower School and National War College students role-play national-level policy makers. In addition to the students, more than 100 faculty members, subject-matter experts and technical and support staff keep the game focused and on track.

The exercise director, Army Col. Jim Muskopf, emphasized that 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 multiple global contingencies, students will wrestle with issues related to anti-access and area denial, homeland security, weapons proliferation and information operations.

The exercise occurs in two phases: a distributed phase at the parent senior-leader colleges' home station and an execution phase at Maxwell. During the distributed phase, students communicate via web contact, telephone and videoteleconferencing to develop theater strategies, select courses of action and request initial force laydowns.

One of the highlights of the execution phase is the face-to-face, student-to-student interaction, where students collaborate and plan in a time-compressed environment, said Steve Crawford, JLASS-EX senior wargame specialist.

The exercise environment isn't limited only 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 that recaps events leading to a world on the brink. Daily updates by GNN and an Early Worm news digest inform and impact how the students play the game, said George Daniels, JLASS-EX senior controller.

"Simulating press coverage exposes students to some of the public 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."

The PACE team is supported by approximately 10 total force public affairs volunteers from all over the United States, who role play the media and develop realistic news products based on the progress of the exercise.

Once the students return to their respective schools, the multi-service JLASS-EX Steering Group immediately begins to plan next year's exercise.

"The steering group is instrumental in making the wargame experience an exceptional one," said Daniels. "The group meets on a quarterly basis, which is crucial in fostering an ongoing discussion between the schools as we strive for continuous improvement."

JLASS-EX and its earlier iterations have graduated nearly 3,000 senior leaders since the initial exercise in 1983. The list of graduates includes 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.

Posted by Dan Marciniak
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