Teaching JCWS 12 - 16 August 2019

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Monday, 12 August 2019: Predicting the Future

Quote of the Week: “Physics doesn’t move mountains, Chemistry does.” In relation to how a planning team works.

Over the weekend I spent time preparing for two classes. The first was Joint Futures, which is a discussion on documents such as the Joint Operating Environment (JOE) and the Chairman's Concept for Joint Operations (CCJO). The second class was on step 7 of the Joint Planning Process, plan development. I gave the seminar a choice of which one to begin with. They chose Future Force, as I explained it was more interactive and require some creativity.

Taking a step back, over the weekend I posted two videos on Slack to get the students thinking about the future of war and armed conflict. The first was a clip from a a short film titles “Slaughterbots.” The second was a short summary on what the future operational environment may look like. It seemed a nice setup to spur discussion. finally, I began the class with clip from the 2014 reboot of Robocop. What I enjoyed about the clip from Robocop was the interaction of advanced technologies with the human aspect of war. On a side note, most people tend to stay away from movie reboots, especially classics as Robocop. However, the dialogue on the ethics of AI and autonomous systems throughout the movie is terrific.

The futures class provided an introduction to the Joint Concepts that the Joint Staff J7 and the services produce. My intent was not to make them experts on capabilities development, but rather to show each student where said documents reside. Moreover, introducing them to the 2010 CCJO, whose central idea of Globally Integrated Operations, and how concepts drive what we aim to achieve today. We also discussed how each service produces similar documents, and in their own way support the Chairman’s vision, albeit through a service lens.  


Following the introduction of the concepts I broke the students into three groups, and asked each group to identify major trends stretching out to the year 2039. Then taking all the trends together, I asked for one solution from each of the DOTMLPF-P categories. this was my method of introducing the DOTMLPF-P language to the group.

Tuesday 13 August: Applying Military History to a Fictional Scenario

At the end of Monday, we split the seminar into teams of two. Each team was told to research a previous conflict, how the conflict ended, and to apply the conflict termination lessons learned to the course fictional scenario. With this method, the military history aspect is not only a part of the course, but the students understand a way in which to apply history to current scenarios. Each team presented for approximately 20 minutes. All included a short video found on YouTube with a slide depicting lessons learned, and a slide depicting application to the course scenario. These conflicts included: 1) Kosovo/Serbia 2) U.S. Civil War 3) Japan Post WWII 4) Desert Storm 5) South Africa post Apartheid 6) 2006 Israeli - Lebanon War 7) El Salvador Civil War 8) Tamil Tigers 9) Nicaraguan Revolution.

There are other conflicts that we can add to the list, and my first thought was Columbia and FARC, as well as Britain and Argentina.

What some of these conflict brought to the forefront is that the decisive phase of a military operation can be the post-combat phase. This was true for the 2006 Israeli - Lebanon War, and true for U.S. military operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel/Lebanon also flushed out the necessity of information operations post major combat operations, both on the battlefield and to the international community.   

In the afternoon, we had the same teams look at their planning scenario for post conflict or post MCO operations. To develop options on what the battlefield would look like, we used the Red Team method of alternative Future analysis. I walked the seminar through an example, then had teams examine the possible futures through a local, regional, and global actor perspectives.  


The alternative future technique is useful when trying to envision a complex scenario, or to provide a range if visions should the outcome of an operation be uncertain. We used this as a method to determine Most Likely and Most Dangerous scenarios following the major combat operations phase of planning.

Briefing Technique: There was a total of nine quad charts per group, I detailed how I wanted each group to brief the quad, to ensure all followed the same method (start at the top left and go clockwise). It’s useful when briefing similar products or charts to use the same method to avoid confusing senior leaders.

Wednesday 14 August: Post MCO COA Development

The seminar began their planning for post combat operations. We asked them to update their operational approach and to develop a COA sketch. Again, we broke up the seminar into three planning teams, each developing their own COA. Some issues that I observed:

-Post Combat Operations need to have it’s own plan. this means revisiting each step of the Joint Planning Process. The center of gravity can shift, facts and assumptions change, and new lines of effort can appear., and naturally, the command may be solving an entirely new problem. Diving head first into COA development is not the best way to build the post combat train. 

-Planners tend to operate at the level of war where they are comfortable. This translates to a flushed out COA at the lower operational or high tactical level. We consistently have to help students to think at the theater level and focus planning across the entire CCMD Area of Responsibility.  

Thursday 15 August: Post MCO Wargaming

Each of the three OPTs conducted a short wargame (1 turn) for their post combat operations phase. What is clear in the post combat phase is the value of command relationships. Often, the battlefield becomes more congested with an almost infinite amount of actors. This ranges from other government agencies such as USAID/OFDA, to Non-government agencies (NGOs) such as Doctors Without Borders and The International Red Cross. Further, more nations may participate in the rebuilding or reconstruction of a nation. All these actors place an emphasis on formal coordination elements a joint force commander requires. A good command relationship chart in the post combat phase should consider:

-Combined Coordination Center / CCC

-Joint Air component Coordination Element / JACCE/ACCE

-Special Forces Liaison Element / SOLE

-Civil Military Operations Center / CMOC 

-Liaisons at any other organizations as required.

Moreover, transition into the post combat phase of an operation will often require activities in conjunction with a host nation’s security forces. More than the military that resides under a Ministry of Defense, security forces could include the Police and Border Patrol who reside under a Ministry of Interior. There must be a method and capability to coordinate actions with each of these elements.


Post combat planning should receive the full attention of planning efforts, on par with or greater than the planning for the combat operations phase. Indeed, the post combat operations phase could be the decisive phase of a military campaign (see Iraq and Afghanistan). This means going through the entire planning process from operational design and mission analysis (the COGs changed, the mission changed) to COA development (the force list will change) to COA analysis (more actors on the battlefield to wargame) to the production fo a new plan and issuance of orders.

NEXT WEEK: the seminar moves into their capstone exercise. During this time, and over the next three weeks I will be in the Faculty Development Course that the school runs in house. This will be an introduction ranging from the course materials, to adult learning models, and various teaching methods.