I had military duty this weekend and since we’re in the holiday season, the training schedule was a bit light. So, I took advantage of some free time and experimented with the use of tactical decision games (TDG).
The idea was prompted by the folks at Defense and the National Interest publishing a new TDG manual that focuses on Afghanistan and the issues surrounding the adoption of counterinsurgency concepts into modern conflicts.
I thought the use of TDGs would have some value for our unit for a couple of reasons:
- One of our primary missions is to train other units and many of our simulations still have a ‘conventional’ army feel to them. Got a sniper on the roof? Call in artillery support and level the block. Not particularly realistic or helpful in preparing units that might mobilize in the future.
- While our unit is non-deployable, many of our soldiers get ‘tapped’ (so to speak) to fill out other units. It’s not uncommon for our soldiers to have little or no experience serving in such units and therefore may face a steep learning curve in getting ready to deploy, especially if they are in a leadership position.
I had about twelve soldiers as my guinea pigs, ranging in rank from private to captain (the majority being NCOs). The training took place after lunch (which wasn’t the best) and consisted of me giving about 20 minutes on the need for this training (points 1 and 2 above) as well as a very general overview of how counterinsurgency is different from conventional warfare and the additional considerations one needs to take into account in order to be effective.
It took almost 2 hours to give the introduction and run through most of the first scenario. To my (pleasant) surprise, the scenario maintained the interest of all of the participants (which was nice considering the variation in ranks and experience) and raised a number of valuable discussions.
The concluding AAR was overwhelmingly positive with calls for this to be part of the regular training schedule and calls for increasing complexity as proficiency increases.
The really nice thing about these games is that once everyone knows the groundrules, you can run them in virtually any time frame you desire.
In my desire to find a grand, unifying theory to my life I began thinking if there were some way to translate the idea of these TDGs to analysts in the non-military field but I’m still working on that.
If anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them.