30 September - 4 October: Yorktown, Interagency, and Theater Strategy


Monday, 30 September: Test review and Introduction to Campaigns

Last Friday marked the culmination of the Joint Force Fundamentals portion of the class. I’m happy to say that all students in the seminar passed the exam. The interesting feedback I received on the exam is that the students desire more short answer and essay questions in lieu of multiple choice and memorization type questions. I think this is the way all PME should go, students should apply critical thinking and analysis to what they learn in the classroom over simply learning definitions of key terms.

Over the weekend, prior to class, I sent the students a link to one of my previous articles on the personalities of an OPT. It serves as a structure to think about how they will work together to solve problems, no matter what personality they fall into.

The week began with a broad overview of theater strategy and campaign design. Over the next three weeks the seminar will work as an OPT to develop the framework of a Combatant Command Campaign Plan.

Tuesday 1 October: Yorktown Staff Ride

Today the seminar conducted the Yorktown Staff Ride. Personally, it’s my favorite part of the course, mostly because as a resident of Williamsburg, my commute to Yorktown is significantly shorter than the days I drive to Norfolk, and traverse the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT). Aside from the shorter drive, using the history of the American Revolution to tie in concepts to contemporary planning is useful. and if Thucydides teaches us anything, it’s that while the character of war may change, the nature of remains constant.


The seminar met at the Victory Monument, overlooking the York River. I arrived early, and was able to watch the sunrise, a peaceful moment to reflect. One of my fellow seminar instructors who leads the staff ride gave an opening lecture, pointing out some neat facts on the monument. For example, the decision to build a monument was made shortly after the revolution, but the funding and building of the monument didn’t happen until nearly 100 years later. Wanting something is one thing, getting Congress to pay for it is another. Some things never change.

One of the key areas of discussion was the alliance between France and the Americans. Coalitions are hard to build, and hard to maintain. This is true at the political or policy level, and also at the operational level of war. The French and the Americans had to make decisions together on the conduct of the battle, the chain of command, sectors, and even the terms of surrender towards the end. How to best fight as a coalition still matters today. We compared the coalition at Yorktown to the coalition in the Gulf War, and even the coalitions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

a second aspect we discussed was how Yorktown fit into the larger global campaigns of France and Great Britain. We talk today of Globally Integrated Operations. In some ways, our fight for independence was just another battlefield

As an aside, Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens get most of the tourists in this area. Anyone who visits should make the stop at Yorktown to see exactly where America earned it’s independence. My wife, my kids, and I spend each July 4th watching fireworks over the York River. It’s not quite the Macy’s celebration on the East River, but in my view there is no better place to celebrate than at the birthplace of our nation.

Wednesday 2 October: Global Integration and Campaign Design

We begin the day with a focused after action review of the first two weeks of the course. I lead a discussion, and try to pull out what went well and what didn’t. Naturally, the seminar zeros in on what they want to improve. I lead off the AAR with the overall course objectives (showing the objectives or what we intended to accomplish is something I do at every AAR I lead. For the most part we got there, but getting there had its own obstacles. The main thing the students look for or wish to have is a syllabus. We have an outlook calendar, we have all the course material by lesson on Blackboard, yet no syllabus, which is surprising to say the least. Further, as I speak to other instructors, they let me know that this is a request from nearly every student or seminar that passes through.

It’s not an exciting day, nor is it an exciting topic. As we are in the campaign design portion of the class I lead the seminar through a discussion of the various campaign plans at the CCMD level. We focus on Combatant Command Campaign Plans or CCPs. Further, we discuss the relationship between CCPs and Functional Campign Plans (FCPs), Regional Campaign Plans (RCPs) and the Global Campaign Plans (GCPs).

The current parlance of the joint force is CCPs. The CCP replaced what used to be called the Theater Campaign Plan or TCP. The big difference is that Theater Campaign Plans were focused on the Area of Responsibility (AOR) of the combatant command. TCPs tended to be geographically focused, while CCPs should also have a global perspective, and focus on the 2+3 threats. Moreover, we look to the CCPs as the documents that operationalize the Joint Strategic Campaign Plan (JSCP).

Thursday 3 October: Interagency Discussion

Quote of the Day: Stigma doesn’t always come from winning or losing, stigma can come from not taking risk.”

The highlight of today was a group discussion led by the State Department representative to the Joint Forces Staff College. The Department of State maintains representatives at each our our major Professional Military Education (PME) schools. What our representative discussed was the State Department perspective on U.S. Operations.

The discussion began with a description of the “3 Ds” of U.S. foreign policy; Diplomacy, Development, and Defense. Diplomacy is the State department, Development is USAID, and naturally, Defense is DoD. Further, we discussed the stereotypes of State and Military personnel, much in the same way we did when we discussed the stereotypes of each of the services. One person mentioned the view that diplomats are reluctant to take risk, and always looking to smooth over confrontation. This sparked some good back and forth on why that perception is there, and often the necessity of careful actions and words in diplomacy

A second part of the discussion focused on funding. When it comes to money, the Department of Defense (under the Defense pillar of the 3 Ds) currently runs an annual budget of over $700 Billion. Said $700 billion does not include the funds for the Department of Energy which manages nuclear weapons, nor does it include everything that is rolled up under the Department of Homeland Security. The budget of our diplomatic corps is paltry in comparison. Granted, the Department of State does not employ Carrier Strike Groups, Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs), or other high tech and high dollar items, but still, its quite the comparison.

I think a lot about how each service spends it’s budget which leads into how each service presents it’s force and capabilities. The Air Force tends to speak in Air Wings, or aircraft, the Navy in Ships, but the Army tends to speak of it’s formations in terms of people. Indeed, the Army speaks in terms of Companys, Battalions, and Brigade Combat Teams, all of which are measured by the number of people in them. People are our platforms, and people, when grouped together take the largest portion of our budget.

Friday 4 October: Finishing “Who Am i?”

Our last two Who am I? sessions occurred this morning. Overall feedback on the exercise seems positive. The seminar took the exercise seriously, reflected upon themselves, and used WAI to help build the group dynamics in the seminar. Personally, I see everyone who participated more as a person than just another student. A deeper understanding of how people think, and how people communicate within the seminar should pay dividends as the class continues over the next seven weeks. I understand who the introverts are, and that their reluctance to speak up is not because of a bad attitude, or not understanding the material, it’s just a reflection of their introvertedness. It’s now on me to develo ways to pull out their participation.