At Origins, last Friday and Saturday, I ran four demonstration games, using Flashpoint: Germany, Conquest of the Aegean, Battles from the Bulge, and Close Combat Marines (aka Close Combat: Modern Tactics) to demonstrate the use of games for military training.
First off: a very big thank you to Mark Graves, Paul Roberts, Jim Snyder, and Rob Crandall for operating the sims; to Brant Guillory for numerous forms of assistance; to the US Marine Corps for loaning me all the computer equipment; to Matrix Games for their support; and to Dave O'Connor for a last minute fix to BFTB!
I used Close Combat in close parallel to the USMC training plan, with slightly modified scenarios. Participants received a few handouts on a situation, with troops, map, and mission, and then had 5 minutes to write a fragmentary order for their force. One of the players on each team was chosen to be the commander and issue their frag order to their fellow players; then we set up and ran the mission. After running the mission, we discussed the mission's themes: topics such as support by fire, engagement areas, infantry-tank cooperation, and infantry anti-tank tactics; and discussed major decisions made by the various players.
In each of the other three, the participants were assigned to slots on a staff for one side of the scenario: Commander, XO (executive officer, or second-in-command), Intel, Maneuver, Future Ops, & Fires. After an introduction to staff roles and the MDMP (Military Decision-Making Process), participants received their mission briefing, and then conducted an abbreviated MDMP over the course of one hour. Trust me, this meant some very fast work! The sim operator put the plan into the computer, and then we ran the scenario, with the participants still acting in their staff roles -- so the Intel officer continued to try to track enemy capabilities and intentions, the Future Ops officer tried to concoct alternate plans to deal with potential events, and so on.
For Flashpoint: Germany, we had Jim Snyder and Rob Crandall as the sim operators for the two sides, using a modified version of the "Meeting of Titans" scenario. Three people took on the Commander, Future Ops, and Intel/Fires roles on the Blue team. They drove down the central valley on the Grafshcaft/Norderfurt map, with a company moving to cover the east flank. Both ran into large quantities of Red, and as time ran out Blue was working to figure out a new approach. A key realization by the Future Ops person in this scenario: "I don't need to watch the map so much!" This is true -- Future Ops needs to spend more time thinking about potential new plans than worrying about the details of what's happening now. If anything important happens, somebody else on the staff should tell you about it.
For Conquest of the Aegean, a team of seven assembled to take command of the 9th Panzer Division in First Clean Break. They planned to hook arund the British forces, encircle, and destroy them, then pursue south. (Un?)fortunately, the British retreated out of the encirclement quickly and established a very strong position in Perdika. The unexpected sudden success of their left hook threw the staff off-balance. Their pursuit to Perdika and subsequent assault wasn't the best organized action, but over the course of 12 hours they decimated and scattered the British forces in the city... and those forces were the bulk of the British forces on the map. The road to Kozani lay open, but the staff had become so caught up in current events that they lost track of their mission, and never quite realized the scale of their success. This is a real world phenomenon. "Catastrophic success" cost them a win, but the staff was determined to do better on the next scenario.
For Battles from the Bulge, we ran Mayhem on the Meuse, a hypothetical scenario in which 2nd Panzer didn't meet 2nd Armored near Dinant, but instead gained a bridgehead, and then was replaced by 9th Panzer. 9th begins the scenario poised to drive westwards to Charleroi and hook north to Antwerp, opposed only by two battalions of the 53rd Welsh Division and the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment (which, along with 9th Panzer, was making a repeat appearance from the COTA scenario). However, more elements of 53rd Welsh are on the way, and on the second day, 2nd Armored comes crashing into 9th Panzer's flank.
Most of the 9 players were on the staff of the Allied VII Corps, with the two maneuver staff slots set as the division commanders instead. Because they could not be certain what situation they would face when 2nd Armored arrived, this was the most complex of the scenarios, forcing them to plan multiple courses of action for 2nd Armored and decision points for choosing among those options. All but two of the players had taken part in a prior exercise, and those two were rapidly brought up to speed, one as the VII Corps XO and one as the commander of 2nd Armored Division.
53rd Welsh hung on grimly, suffering enormous losses in the largely successful defense, which they called "Operation: Don't Die", letting only the recon battalion of 9th Panzer slip past them. 2nd Armored then slammed into the flank of 9th Panzer in "Operation: Whoop-Ass", a grinding slugging match as the 2nd Armored advanced slowly towards 9th Panzer's supply line from the north while the remaining elements of 53rd Welsh advanced eastwards against the now-retreating Germans.
What was most impressive to me, Mark, and Paul, was the amount the participants had learned by this final scenario, both about their staff roles, about planning, and, above all, teamwork. The planning process was less chaotic than before, with more and better products produced. As the exercise commenced, the 2nd Division Commander sat down with his paper map, his force list, and a gridded worksheet, and created a synchronization matrix for the employment of his forces as they arrived on the map, paying little attention to the big projected screen until he'd spent around half an hour on this important process. When 2nd Armored began to arrive, its actions were planned and ready to go.
Since my overarching objective was to demonstrate training with games, I was pleased to see the participants clearly learning parts of the planning and staff process over the course of their games!