April 5, 2006:
There is an annual inter-service academy gaming competition called Warlords where three-service academies (Army, Navy, and Air Force) compete in a two-day multi-game event. Sponsored by the Defense Modeling and Simulations Office, Warlords has been an annual event since 2001. Although the games they play aren't exactly as complex as professional military simulations, it is a great event for the cadets and midshipman.
This years Warlords competition took place in late March at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). Technically it was the Army's turn to host, so it was decided to push the competition in a direction that would provide the most exposure. We approached the President of AEgis Technologies, Bill Waite, and asked him to help sponsor the event. Bill ended up enlisting the help of UAH and put together a first class event.
Three teams, with 10 competitors each, competed in America's Army, Battlefield 2, and Command and Conquer Generals. The event was supported by the Army's Command and General Staff College with the help of James Sterrett, who administered all of the games, including the development of the tournament rules. Personnel from the UAH computer sciences department also supported the event as system administrators. In addition to the great competition, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center was gracious enough to offer us a free tour of the center.
Ok so who won this thing? Well if you guessed the Navy or Air Force, you would be wrong. On 3 April 2006, the Mayor of Huntsville presented the trophy to the United States Military Academy Warlords team. The Army won a decisive victory by winning all of their events. The final score was Army 18, Navy 6, and Air Force 3. Many of the spectators were very impressed with the Army team's ability to communicate, plan, and execute.
In the past, the Warlords competition was about getting together to play games. One of the things CPT Haveron and I wanted to do was to add a training element to the competition at least for the Army team. For each game, we assigned a team captain who was responsible for developing a training plan for that game. They developed courses of action to include wargaming enemy COAs (Courses of Action), they did terrain analysis, developed named areas of interest (although they didn't know that's what they were doing), task organized according to mission requirements, made adjustments after each round, and conducted detailed AARs (After Action Reports) after each match. During the competition, they went as far as conducting AARs with the opposing teams to help them improve. You may think that there's no way they could have done all that given the games they were playing, but I can assure they did. In fact, all of our team captains have been tasked to submit a formal written AAR for each of their matches. Make no mistake, everything we do in our Warfighting Simulations Center or WARCEN has some training value attached to it; it's never just about playing games. Although winning the competition was satisfying, the most satisfying thing was to watch the cadets perform.
Feel good anecdote. On our flight from Charlotte to LaGuardia, the flight attendant was able to seat four of our guys in first class (the cadets were traveling in uniform), there were 11 of us in all. A few minutes before takeoff one of the cadets had to give up his first class seat due to some error in seating. Upon seeing the cadet give up his seat and move to the rear of the airplane two passengers from across the aisle volunteered to give up their first class seats to the cadet who was bumped as well as another cadet who was sitting in coach. Both gestures, from flight attendant and the passengers who gave up their seats, were very generous. -- Vincent "TJ" Taijeron