Monday, 23 September: Strategic Guidance and AARs
In the first week of class, we introduced the students to the overall structure of our national level strategic guidance. This week we did a deep dive on each of the documents which include, the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, the National Military Strategy, and the Joint Strategic Campaign Plan. This morning, the class did a deep dive into each document, using the actual NSS, the unclassified summary of the NDS, and an instructional NMS developed for the course. The seminar broke into different groups, and provided a summary along the ends/ways/means/ risk construct on the white boards. Further, the discussion delved into the regional and country descriptions found in the NSS and NDS, which provide for the basis of a threat based planning model in lieu of a capabilities based planning model.
Other aspects of importance include the Global Operation Model (GOM), which the NDS lays out the different layers of the force (contact, blunt, surge, and homeland). However,most importantly, we ingrained into the seminar that when they are tasked to lead a planning team to write a theater strategy, a contingency plan, or any other joint planning, these documents often serve as the first source to think about objectives and endstates.
Over the first week, and into the second, at the conclusion of each class, or seminar asks the students to fill out an index card on sustains and improves for the class. It’s rapid feedback, but provides us with good ideas on what we need to improve on as instructors. Often, a student has an new idea on how to present the information. It is a sincere belief of mine that everybody knows something I don’t. Everyone can teach me something new. This could be a commander, a general officer, a new private, or the building janitor. Never limit where you can receive new information from, or who you can learn from.
Tuesday, 24 September: Joint Functions and Multi-National Briefs
We begin the day offsite at a local restaurant in Norfolk. Over breakfast we take two hours to discuss each of the joint functions. To enable the discussion, I had assigned 2-3 students to a chapter in Crusade in Europe. Each team discussed what they observed in the chapter for each of the seven joint functions. Two aspects of this lesson come out, first, students appreciate any time away from the classroom. Sitting behind a desk and reviewing PowerPoint slides, although appropriate for some lessons, is not ideal every day. Second, the use of history as a method to explain and comprehend current doctrine and operations. Although Eisenhower doesn’t frame his writings with the joint functions, or in an operational approach, the elements are certainly there. We can find examples of current doctrine in every past conflict if we look hard enough.
Looking into the future, we may continue to use Crusade in Europe to help instruct the elements of operational design, and as a way to explain the elements of global integration.The decision making at the national level during WWII, included prioritization of Europe over the Pacific. Even at the operational level, decisions on where to focus forces and capabilities was a constant factor in fighting the war. In some respects, WWII may be the best example we have of the concept and ideas behind global integration.
Following our offsite discussion, we moved back to the classroom where our international students presented a brief on their native counties and armed forces, which for our seminar includes Austria and Thailand.
As a backdrop for the presentation, I took the time to read the English versions of their respective national security strategies. Looking at how other nations view the world, and their relationships to other organizations is a way to develop a comprehensive view of the world. Austria’s strategy for example discusses the relationship to NATO and the EU.
Each international student talked for about an hour, which is incredible when you think about it. Their presentations were in English, and to a foreign audience, and understandable to the entire seminar. The ability to hold court in a second language is
Wednesday, 25 September: Global Force Management, JSCP, JCIC, and Exam Review
The morning began with all the students attending a brief from the Joint Staff J35 on the topic of Global Force Management (GFM). We are lucky in the sense that the J35 GFM shop happens to be across the street from the Joint Forces Staff College. This allows us to have the true experts on GFM talk on the subject matter.
What is important to know for a joint planner is that there is only so much “stuff'“ or capabilities for the joint force to distribute to joint force commanders. GFM is about balancing risk, looking at problem sets globally, and ensuring that capabilities allocated or apportioned to joint force commanders meet the Secretary’s intent. The global view at the joint staff level is paramount, as Geographic Combatant Commanders (GCCs) tend to have a parochial view, prioritizing their respective area of responsibility (AOR).
The Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning(JCIC), is now coming into fruition in the form of joint doctrine. We talked about the ideas, the continuum of conflict, and how the JCIC was the first tool to break the mental model of the 6-Phase planning model. I liked the idea of introducing joint concepts to the seminar, but we must keep in mind that concepts (joint, multi-service, or service) are only ideas. They provide a vision of how we will operate in the future, but is not a description of what we do today.
An aspect of the JSCP and JCIC instruction was the attendance of a peer mentor in the back of the classroom. Each new instructor at JCWS is assigned to a senior member of the faculty who acts as a peer mentor. I introduced mine at the start of the class, and received his feedback on Friday, which I detail below.
The problem sets the joint force faces today can no longer have a regional perspective. Enemies and adversaries have global reach. This reach may not be in the form of tanks, airplanes, or aircraft carriers like we have, but through other domains such as cyberspace and space. Moreover, other nations have looked to asymmetric means to attack America globally. Once again, this is not a new construct (organizations such as Red Army Faction targeted U.S. service members in Europe), but one that joint planners and strategists must consider moving forward.
Thursday, 26 September: Reading Strategic Guidance, Exam Review, and lunch with an author.
In the afternoon, I had the opportunity to have lunch with one of the JAWS seminars who invited retired Colonel Frank Sobchek to speak to their class. Frank is the primary author of both volumes of The U.S. Army in the Iraq War. I read both volumes earlier in the year. Every officer should take the time to read them. More than a dry history, the story looks at key decisions, innovation, and a myriad of other aspects of how the U.S. Army fought for eleven years. The book confirmed much of my thinking and perspective from what I saw on the ground as a young captain from 2005-2008. Faulty assessments, asinine decisions and guidance, and moral failings were a staple. The latter, from Abu Ghraib to Mahamidiyah involved war crimes by individual soldiers, but often was set up by failings of the institution. My personal view is that the Army as a service has yet to acknowledge its role in these types of events.
Friday, 27 September: Peer Feedback and the First Test
An uneventful day as students took their first exam, a combination of multiple choice, short answer, and short essays. Students were dismissed from class for the weekend once they completed the exam. I did play for them my all time favorite exam from Spies Like Us.
At the completion of the exam, I sat with my peer mentor to get feedback on how I conducted the class. He offered some great insights to instruction to include:
-The instructor owns everything on the slide he/she presents. Instructors do not develop all the slides, but must be careful to review everything, and not present information they can not discuss to any degree of intelligence. I see this as similar to any other briefing in front of a senior leader. I have been witness to many staff officers get crushed on an obscure bullet point on a slide that they had little to zero knowledge of. The same can happen to an instructor with students. Indeed, credibility is at stake.
-be careful in how I move about in the classroom. Some movement is good, as hiding behind a podium can indicate a lack of confidence in presenting the material. Our classrooms have the students sitting in a U type setting, making the middle of the U a place to walk up and down. I refer tothis as “my cat walk.” I am an ambiturner, although I have never been a male model.
-State up front why the class needs to understand what they are learning. War stories are ok to stress the importance of a subject. This is in accordance with andragogy, the method and practice of teaching adult learners.
-Know the 2 or 3 big ideas within each lecture. State them up front and consistently hammer on them.