NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- The Joint Military Operations (JMO) department at U.S. Naval War College (NWC) conducted its first capstone educational event employing a new, more maritime and exercise-focused curriculum this month.
The coursework for the JMO trimester has been updated this year to include more wargaming and active-learning events. These changes enabled students to gain a deeper understanding, receive better feedback, and have a more interactive learning experience of naval warfare, according to Capt. Richard LaBranche, JMO head and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Colin L. Powell Professor of Joint Military Studies at NWC.
This was the first time JMO had asked students write an operations order for a wargame and also get feedback on how well that order achieved objectives.
The goal of the new curriculum is to empower students to have a better understanding of naval theory, naval tactics, operational art, critical thinking and naval warfare.
For the capstone wargame, the 300-plus students in the intermediate-level Spruance course were divided into 10 separate Operational Planning Teams of about 30 students each. The teams, or seminars were then asked to execute their operations that required them to synthesize all they had learned throughout the course.
"We wanted them to be able to organize naval forces in order to achieve sea control against a peer competitor, which by their very nature are very skilled and well equipped," said LaBranche.
The wargame was aimed at achieving objectives, including sea control, in order to conduct an amphibious landing. This required the students to organize and synchronize their task forces to neutralize an enemy, using all their assets including sea, air, subsurface, cyber and others.
The seminars were paired so there were 10 separate wargames operating for the capstone. After all the teams produced their operations orders, they then produced multiple fragmentary orders based on the results of the combat action.
The wargame team from NWC then processed and adjudicated the orders, and the teams were advised on how they had performed. They then made adjustments for the next round, according to LaBranche.
"After the first round, the feedback to the teams was things like 'One of your surface action groups sustained damage by anti-surface cruise missiles,'" he said. "Students then wrestled with issues including fighting with less ships, towing, casualty evacuation, and protection of the damaged assets. Issues such as personnel recovery, shifting of flagships, and retasking were common."
"When you get feedback like 'You lost a national military asset,' or 'A ship has gone down and there are Sailors floating in the water,' that's feedback that makes an impact," added LaBranche.
The seminars went through three major clashes at sea, each of which required assessment and the writing of orders.
The course throughout the trimester was preparing the students for this exercise by using wargames that grew in complexity, scope, and ambiguity. Educating students with this enhanced curriculum enabled the department to more completely fulfill two missions of NWC -- to educate and develop leaders and to support combat readiness.
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