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Learning from CAOS

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook
  • 42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
At the Air University's LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education, behind heavy steel vault doors, members of the Royal Netherlands Air Force are strategizing in a combined air operations simulation wargame conducted June 16-27.

The wargame takes place annually at the center's Wargaming Institute. Its primary purpose is to reinforce air doctrine principles for the RNAF staff officers before they begin their joint advanced staff course at the Netherlands Defense Academy.

"The point of wargaming is to allow the players, from noncommissioned officers to generals, to practice the art of war," Dan Novak, international wargame director, said. "It is a way to practice decision making in order to analyze the outcome, and to discover events and ideas that you may not have considered or dismissed as unlikely."

Wargaming is used by the center at the tactical, operational and strategic levels of leadership to educate and train. In real-world scenarios, planners use wargaming before an operation to simulate possible outcomes and decide the best course of action to take.

The center is a state-of-the-art facility designed to provide these simulations, Novak said.

"We come here to familiarize our students with the process of planning an air campaign," Lt. Col. Ronald Brunsting, director of the Netherlands advanced airpower course. "We don't have the same kinds of facilities that you have here, especially the sophisticated computer simulation programs. There are companies that offer something similar, but we try to come here because there is a lot to experience for our students just by being on Maxwell Air Force Base with its history of airpower."

This is a joint course from within the Netherlands military, involving students from its Air Force, Army and Navy, and a student from the Belgian Air Force. The training helps NATO members work more effectively together.

"The U.S. is the biggest NATO partner," Brunsting said. "The fact that we are here and exposed to everything the U.S. Air Force has to offer and making friendships is very important; it shortens the lines of communication. We might end up meeting each other again conducting war-time operations as partners. It's good to know each other, to know you can depend and rely on each other in those situations."

The wargame sets two opposing sides against each other. One side is the aggressor, and the other defender--red and blue teams, respectively. The game gives them resources to plan their strategy. Each team's plans are then run through a sophisticated computer simulation, where algorithms and formulas are used to determine the results of one side's plans against the other.

"It's very good training," Maj. Tienka Van Campenhout, aggressor team lead, said. "It's a very good scenario, there are a lot of different dimensions to it, and it's a lot to learn in a short time. You see the plan's execution at the tactical level, and you get to see the results of your plans. It's an excellent wargame."

Van Campenhout, a logistics officer by trade, said she gained very important perspective and experience in the different levels of leadership and the process of command.

"It was very difficult having to change your thought process from the tactical to the strategic level," Van Campenhout said. "I was chief of staff of a squadron of F-16s while deployed, and having to think in a completely new way was extremely challenging."