16 - 20 September 2019 We begin a New Class


Monday 16 September: Arrival of the New Class

Today marked the beginning of JCWS 19-4. Students from all of the services, and from multiple allied and partner nations walked into the building to begin their JPME II education. We started the day with all students, from all seminars attending an opening ceremony. we followed this with an introduction to our students in our seminar classroom. Our seminar has 18 total students. They represent all services (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines), and also includes a Thai Air Force Officer who happens to also be a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, and an Austrian Army officer.

The previous week, as all faculty were preparing for the next course, we had a luncheon with the international students. Here is where I first met the Thai and Austrian officers. My conversation with the Austrian officer centered around who he considered the most famous or prominent Austrian soldier throughout history. He offered General Count Radetzky and Field-Marshal Karl Schwarzenberg. I countered with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who served as a tanker in the Austrian Army, where his weightlifting career took off (one of the best 30 for 30 Shorts out there).

When the seminar first sat down in the classroom, we conducted the standard military introduction, of name, hometown, and previous assignments. As the class will be together for 10 weeks, we made and effort to break the ice. We had everyone pair off with one other student, and describe their answers to a series of questions. With each new questions, the students paired off with someone new. The questions we had them answer to each other:

-What do you see as a successful leader? What do you see as a failed leader? Describe one of your mentors? What is your greatest athletic achievement? What was your favorite course in college?

Getting IT and other administrative requirements became the focus of the rest of the day. We went in detail on the readings for the next couple of days, which was a bit of shock to the students.

Some thoughts as we prepped for the new class:

-Our seminar uses Slack as a primary means of communication. It allows for controlled discussions outside of the classroom, and is an excellent way for instructors and students to pass information to each other. Some subjects that we created on our Slack page include “Short Bios” for each of us to get a sense of one another, “Book and Movie Recommendations,” and “Faculty Instructions,” to name a few.

Tuesday 17 September

“People don’t make decisions from data, rather they make decisions through a story.” I agree with this sentiment based on my experiences as a joint planner.

To begin the day, I spent about 10 minutes discussing my background with the “Who Am I” (WAI) construct. This is a technique I learned at the Red Team Course, is described in the Red Team Handbook, and is a fantastic way for students and faculty to get to know each other, and to build a deeper sense of empathy and understanding of our perspectives. Further, the WAI exercise provides an opportunity to reflect on beliefs, and turn the reflection into a story. Over the next two weeks, each member of our seminar faculty and each student will talk their “Who Am I” to the class.

This was our first day teaching the course material. To lead off the instruction, I led a discussion on how we will build and develop knowledge on joint doctrine. Often, learning new doctrine is learning a new vocabulary. Words that services use may not be appropriate, and terms that joint commands use are not in use in Army, Air Force, or other service doctrine. To break the ice, I played this short clip from Renaissance Man. It’s an underrated movie from the mid-1990s, but ranks as one of my favorite.

The formal instruction began with an introduction and overview of the material we will present over the next two weeks. The big focus of my class was to introduce the ideas of Unity of Effort, Unity of Action, Whole of Government, and Global Integration.

Today we also discussed service cultures. It’s a useful exercise in a joint environment, and serves as an unofficial ice breaker. We have a discussion on the views or stereotypes of the various services. This ranges from fitness levels of the Navy, to coloring books and crayons of the Marine Corps. The class discussed the cultures of each of their services, and discussed whether or not there is such a thing as a joint culture. Most agreed there is, but one student pointed out how a joint organization such as a joint task force often takes on the culture of the organization that is the core of the command. This could be a service component command, or an army corps/division headquarters. Valid point indeed.

Other discussion was interesting, even at the field grade level, people form other services still do not understand the badges, tabs, patches and other elements of flair that we put on our uniforms. One officer described the flair as an informal handshake, and a fast way to judge what another soldier or sailor has done throughout their career.

In the afternoon, I gave an an introduction to the Joint Functions. A Bridge Too Far served as the scene setter. There are seven joint functions, which are similar to the Army’s six warfighting functions, but with a different term for one, and the addition of information as a joint function by Secretary Mattis in September of 2015.

The seven joint functions are Movement and Maneuver, Intelligence, Sustainment, Command and Control, Fires, Protections, and Information. The Army substitutes Mission Command for Command and Control. Today was simply an introduction, we will be going into more detail on the joint functions next week. To prepare for that portion of the course, I assigned the students Chapter 1-8 of Crusade in Europe by Dwight Eisenhower. The book is remarkable, and offers the use of history to discuss various ideas in current doctrine.

Wednesday 18 September: DSCA and the Icebreaker

Day two of WAI was conducted by our Seminar Team Lead (STL), the senior instructor of the seminar. Beginning on Thursday, students will begin their WAI presentations.

The course instruction today is on Homeland Defense and Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA). The paramount points in the classroom discussion was the differences between State Active Duty, Title 32, and Title 10. The law is clear, and the policy strict on what service members can do when activated under each authority. For example, Title 10 (active duty) can not conduct law enforcement. Further, the funding and chain of command is different for each authority. State Active Duty and Title 32 answer to their respective governors, although the latter receives funding from the federal government. Title 10 is when forces are on federal active duty and answer to the President.

Following the classroom discussion, all seminars met for a panel of DSCA experts. The panel included a local emergency manager, a representative from FEMA, a retired Coast Guard Vice Admiral, to name a few. Without discussing their exact comments, the themes of their discussion focused on the importance of building relationships between the military and other government organizations such as FEMA, as well as relationships with the private sector (businesses who may contribute to recovery for example). Further, all panel members stressed the importance of understanding authorities in a DSCA mission. Moreover, understanding how military actions can upset the local economy in a recovery is an important aspect (leads to the joint principle of restraint).

In the afternoon, we had an opportunity to attain some class unity. The first week of each course the students participate in a Defense Support to Civil Service exercise. It was an opportunity for students to plan and develop some courses of action within a DSCA environment.

In the evening, our seminar had an informal icebreaker at a local brewhouse/restaurant. We tried to choose a place with an open atmosphere as opposed to everyone sitting down at a restaurant. The ability to walk around and talk to other students was first in considerations on where to hold the icebreaker.

Thursday 19 September: Strategy, the JSPS, and the USTRANSCOm Commander

Following the morning portion of Who Am I?", the seminar was led through a discussion on strategic theory. There are a ton of ways to think about strategy, and no shortage of thinkers and strategists who have developed their own definition. For example, Colin Grey, author of The Strategy Bridge defines strategy as “the direction and use of force for the purposes of policy as decided by politics.” Sir Lawrence Freedman, defined strategy as the “the art of creating power.” Further, Freedman presses the aspect that “Strategy is a noun and not a verb, something one has rather than does.” Further, Freedman is clear that “There is therefore a difference between having a strategy, which suggests a plan, and acting strategically, which suggests flexibility and responding to events.” However, for JCWS, we use the Yargar model of defining strategy as Ends+Ways+Means, balanced over risk. Often, this theory is displayed by a 3-legged stool (the Lykke depiction) , with the imbalance being the strategic risk.

Not everyone is a fan of the Ends/Ways/Means model of strategy, however, nearly every strategy document that the joint force produces falls within this paradigm. The advantage to it is that a planner, or leader can pick up any published strategy and recognize the formula and the language of the product.


Talking through the Joint Strategic Planning System, and all the documents that are a part of it, to include the NSS, NDS< NMS, JSCP, The best way to describe how I approached the introduction was that the JSPS represents a forest, and all the documents within represent trees. The introduction part of the course was flying over the forest and pointing out the trees from a distance. Next week, the plan is to walk up to the trees and examine them (read them) up close.

One of the best aspects of teaching at or attending Professional Military Education, is the opportunity to listen to senior leaders speak at a guest lecture. This afternoon, General Lyons, the Commander of U.S. Transportation Command spoke to all seminars, to include the JAWS (Joint Advanced Warfighting School) class for a little over an hour.

I told the class my theory about guest speakers, and it goes something like this. Anytime a guest speaker comes in, ask a question. Never worry about getting labled as the guy/gal who always asks questions. There is a good chance that you will never have the opportunity to ask or even communicate with the speaker again. I gave them anecdotes about the times I asked Neil DeGrasse Tyson a question at the Pentagon Library while he was promoting his latest book. Further, I have asked questions to retired General Zinni and even Conan O’Brian, the latter while he was on a USO tour. Take advantage of opportunities you know you will never get again.


Friday 20 September: Ethics

I find that Fridays are best spent outside the schoolhouse classroom at an offsite location. This morning, for our discussion of ethics, I held our class at the MacArthur Memorial in downtown Norfolk. It is about a 15-minute drive from the school, and offers classroom facilities for our use. We met up at 0830 to begin our discussion of ethics in the classroom, followed by a guided tour of the memorial at 1030. The tour took about an hour, and we released the students to begin their weekend.

For the ethics discussion I led the discussion with by asking who had the fewest years of service in the class. One person had 11, and the most experienced person, a former enlisted Marine has over 25 years. With this in mind, I asked why we needed to discuss ethics at this point of their careers. We came to somewhat of a consensus after talking about Fat Leonard, and other ethical and moral failings by flag level officers that ethics is something we must continue to think about and discuss. I added that thinking about ethics as a staff officer, and at the operational level of war would take a little brain power.

I had the entire class go strait to joint doctrine (Appendix B of Joint Publication 1) to understand the Joint Values. The joint values of Duty, Honor, Integrity, Courage (physical and moral), Integrity, and Selfless Service, are important in the same sense that each service has their own respective values. The joint values provide for us a common denominator in thinking about ethics.

I had the class divide into four groups, each of whom had an essay to read (the previous night’s homework) and discuss with the larger group. These essays included Dr. Wong and Stephen Gerras’s Lying to Ourselves, Ludwig and Longenecker’s “The Bathsheba Syndrome: The Ethical Failure of Successful Leaders,” and Lay Phonexayphova’s “Lessons from Yusufiyah From Black Hearts to Moral Education.” The latter author was a student in our last course. Further, as a member of the Blackheart Brigade in the 2005-2006 deployment, I have published my own thoughts on all that occurred in South Baghdad over the course of that terrible year (the original was a 5-part series on the Foreign Policy / Best Defense site, the link takes you to the entirety on The Decisive Point)..

The “Lying to Ourselves” monograph introduces the idea of ethical fading, an concept highlighted by a recent article in Proceedings. According to the Wong and Gerras monograph, ethical fading is dishonesty becomes an acceptable practice, creating a culture where decisions that would normally require moral soul searching, or reflection become a decision based on pragmatism or self interest.

The hard part of the discussion was in how we translate joint values and ethics to the role of a planner on a JTF or Combatant Command staff. It’s easy to discuss Mai Lai, or Yusifiya, or other aspects from the tactical side, but values and ethics at the operational level of war get more complicated. The discussion brought to light some ideas:

-Ethics is important in how joint planners develop and recommend courses of action, especially in the manner of collateral damage.

-Assessments, it’s easy to brief a 3 or 4 star what they want to hear, rather then be the messenger with bad news. Effects Based Operations failed, and sooner or later so does Effects Based Briefings. Officers on JTF and CCMD staffs must have the moral courage to speak truth to power.

-Planners at the operational level develop and recommend policies to leaders at strategic levels. The Blackhearts article led into this insight. Indeed, Steven Green should never have been in the army to begin with. The institutional force allowed people with low moral character to serve in the army, and to deploy into combat. The army in the mid-2000’s increased it’s authorized end strength to nearly 570,000 active duty soldiers. This meant that the standards to join went down, and men and women who should have never been in the army were placed in situations where they controlled the lives, and made life or death decisions of other people. We have yet to account for this.

Next Week: In depth strategic guidance, more on joint functions, grading the first exam, and our unique way of conducting After Action Reviews.