The United States Army has long led in the development of what some call “serious games” – war games and simulations used for training. In keeping with this tradition, each spring the College of International and Security Affairs (CISA), Fort Bragg, offers a class whose purpose is to design, execute and resource a strategic level exercise. This year, saw an exciting new development. Thirteen TISS students were invited to join the twelve Joint Special Operations Masters (JSOMA) students (officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, special operations personnel, and civil affairs specialists), taking this class.
Together they developed a hypothetical scenario which focused on Venezuela, a once strong democratic country and U.S. ally, now on the brink of political and social instability. They developed exercise outcomes and training objectives along with supporting documentation – to include a very impressive “Road to War” paper and website. They coordinated logistics, working with helpful staff at North Carolina Central University’s Law School, to provide space and food. On the day of the event, they provided guidance to the 86 participants who, in the morning were charged with creating a U.S. government policy for Venezuela. Then, in the afternoon, they had to react to unfolding events. Participants were a mix of JSOMA students and students from our four consortium schools.
The TISS/CISA partnership allowed us to benefit from the input of a wide range of experts. Though he was in Peru on the day of the simulation (24 March), Patrick Duddy, former United States Ambassador to Venezuela, who famously was expelled from that country by President Hugo Chavez in 2008, briefed the Control Team ahead of time. And, both before and during the simulation, Ambassador David Litt provided his wisdom and insights at every stage of the process.
On the day of the event, thirteen other persons – faculty from CISA, Duke, NCSU, and UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as several students – provided additional support to include role playing and providing guidance to players. There were many lively moments, chief among them being the encounters with members the “Press,” – notably the fiery representative of the International Workers Press (played by Russel Burgos).
All in all, the collaboration was richly rewarding. The simulation provided participants with a deeper understanding of the challenges currently faced by American policy makers. It gave them a feel for the very real frustrations of trying to deal with crises in a complex environment. For members of the Control group, it meant finding a way to collaborate long-distance, and learning to work across a cultural divide. It was an interesting exercise in civil-military relations. This was an exceptionally worthwhile effort, and launched what we hope will be an ongoing venture. Thanks go to all, especially Corey Rose (lead of the Control group), Dr. David Walton, Chair of the JSOMA Program, and Carolyne Davidson, the moving force behind this collaboration.