Scott Air Force Base News

USTRANSCOM hosts inaugural wargame

Leaders from across U.S. Transportation Command, its components, subordinate commands and distribution partners recently gathered at Scott for USTRANSCOM’s first wargame. This wargame was designed to bring together a variety of perspectives to examine mobility and distribution operations in a contested environment.

In fact, this wargame comes at a time when the Department of Defense is placing an increased emphasis on developing and testing solutions to potential future challenges. According to Commander Todd Mathieu, who was instrumental in organizing the event, wargames are a great way to stress systems, people and equipment and learn without actually jeopardizing assets.

“The purpose of wargames is to provide a safe environment in which to fail,” added Rear Adm. Larry Jackson, director, strategy, capabilities, policy and logistics at USTRANSCOM. “We are taking a look at our organization through a warfighting lens to determine how we apply the outcomes of our wargames to our future organization and capabilities.”

SETTING THE STAGE

“Contested environment discussions often fail to address the adversaries’ impact on discrete mobility and logistics operations,” Gen. Darren W. McDew, commander, USTRANSCOM, said in an email to event invitees. “We have a unique opportunity to shape our wargame effort to meet our specific equities and requirements.”

According to Mathieu, a lot of operational wargames are so focused on combat operations that they assume away logistics concerns.

I’ve participated in a lot of wargames. Most were automated, but this is designed to let us think creatively and outside the box.

Brig. Gen. Lenny Richoux, 18th Air Force vice commander

“There’s a tendency in wargames to make broad assumptions about logistics,” he said. “USTRANSCOM sends representatives to other DOD wargames to ensure a realistic transportation, distribution and logistics environment.”

That’s why USTRANSCOM is launching its own series of wargames with a focus on transportation and logistics concerns.

A SHARED UNDERSTANDING

Prior to the event, McDew outlined three wargame objectives. The first was to establish a shared understanding of the contested environment among all military distribution, logistics and transportation leaders. To support this objective, McDew invited senior leaders and one key staff member from the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, Military Sealift Command, Air Mobility Command, the Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, the Defense Logistics Agency and the Joint Staff J4 to participate.

“For our wargame to be successful, I need your expertise, insights and, most important, your participation,” McDew said in the email. “You are our most experienced and talented logistics and transportation professions, and you bring the right perspective to this fight.”

CHALLENGES AND MITIGATION

The second objective was to identify contested environment challenges and develop a prioritized set of mobility and logistics mitigation actions for USTRANSCOM implementation. Participants worked toward this objective through full-group and break-out sessions.

In the full-group sessions, participants were introduced to fictional road to war scenarios. These scenarios set the context for the discussions around identifying challenges and their potential impact.

In the break-out sessions, participants were divided into two groups: Senior leaders and O6-level staff. Both groups were responsible for identifying mitigation tactics based on the challenges, but the groups did have slightly different focuses.

“The senior leader group was asked to look at the challenges in terms of what needs to be in place before an event, in anticipation,” said Mathieu, “while the O6-level group looked at the challenges in terms of developing a deliberate response when the event occurs.”

Altogether, the group identified more than 200 challenges. By the end of the wargame, the group narrowed the challenges down to 13 high-priority challenges, which they merged into six categories.

“I’ve participated in a lot of wargames,” said Brig. Gen. Lenny Richoux, 18th Air Force vice commander. “Most were automated, but this is designed to let us think creatively and outside the box.”

After the break-outs, the two groups were reunited for a critique of the solutions. Together, participants explored the feasibility, desirability and sufficiency of the solutions.

AFTER ACTIONS

Altogether, the group identified more than 200 challenges. By the end of the wargame, the group narrowed the challenges down to 13 high-priority challenges, which they merged into six categories.

“As we narrowed down the challenges, it became more useful to look at categories of challenges and mitigation strategies and then prioritize the categories,” said Mathieu. “But, we prioritized the categories within the context of this wargame. The ordering is a function of the wargame in reality each of the six categories is a priority and doesn’t require ranking.”

In the end, the challenges and mitigation actions will be put into an after action report that outlines next steps.

According to Mathieu, both groups went back and forth between forward-looking and real-time mitigation strategies and even discussed how the challenges would play out after the event ends.

“In nearly every case, we ended up with more questions than answers that need follow up,” he said. “We gathered a tremendous amount of data, information and challenges that need follow-on research, staffing and additional work,” said Mathieu. “Some are taskers, others are engagements, and others need further study. We’ve also gathered key insights that have a broader impact to the DOD.”

The purpose of wargames is to provide a safe environment in which to fail. We are taking a look at our organization through a warfighting lens to determine how we apply the outcomes of our wargames to our future organization and capabilities.

Rear Adm. Larry Jackson, director, strategy, capabilities, policy and logistics at USTRANSCOM

MOVING FORWARD

McDew’s final objective for the wargame was to create a continuing USTRANSCOM wargame series that will inform assumptions, planning factors, strategic thought and policy development for the future.

According to Mathieu, the command plans to host its next wargame in the fall of 2017. The focus for that event is dependent on the analysis of the outcomes of this wargame as well as other relevant factors that develop over the next year.

In the meantime, Mathieu’s team is working hard to analyze the results and take lessons from this wargame to build an even better one next year.

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