Learning the Joint Mindset

December 2002
By Maryann Lawlor
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Military officers, agency personnel study cooperative operational planning.

While all of the services continue to transform the ways they operate, one of the armed forces’ primary institutions for advanced education is leading the way to joint transformation. In recently renovated, technologically advanced classrooms, students delve into the challenges the military faces today to discover innovative joint approaches to tomorrow’s problems.

Although much attention has been focused on joint operations in recent years, in reality it was World War II that brought to light the advantages of joint action in the battlespace. In 1946, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, USA, in his role as Army chief of staff, and Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, USN, then chief of naval operations, laid the groundwork for the school that prepares tomorrow’s leaders to operate in a joint environment.

The Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC), Norfolk, Virginia, operates under the auspices of the National Defense University, Washington, D.C. Each year, hundreds of senior officers attend courses at the college to enhance their ability to think in joint terms, to meet and get to know members of other services and to learn through virtual war games and exercises.

The JFSC’s goal is to instill a primary commitment to joint, multinational and interagency teamwork, attitudes and perspectives. The school prides itself on teaching service members not what to think but rather how to think.

The college comprises three schools. The Joint and Combined Staff Officer School (JCSOS) and the Joint and Combined Warfighting School (JCWS) make up the Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) program, which is the second phase of a two-phase approach to officer education. Individual service schools and colleges provide phase-one coursework.

JPME students attend a 12-week session that includes up to 70 lessons and 350 classroom hours. Course participants average six hours a day in class with an additional two to three hours per day of class preparation time. The college offers three sessions annually from January through September.

The Joint Command, Control and Information Warfare School (JCIWS) completes the triad with coursework in classified topics. The school offers four courses of varying length—from the three- to five-day Joint Information Warfare Orientation to the four-week Joint Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence Staff and Operations course.

For the JPME program sessions, teams of students, each called a seminar, comprise officers from each of the services. The college also strives to have at least one international participant and one civilian from the interagency community in each seminar.

The JCSOS, which has 15 seminars each term, offers seven core courses, and students also may select one or two of 46 electives. Coursework consists of case studies, war games and simulations, and field research. Areas of study include joint/service doctrine, current lessons learned, future warfighting concepts, and campaign, deliberate and crisis action planning. Students explore scenarios that range from an embassy evacuation and disaster relief to a show of force and a small-scale contingency.

According to Col. J.C. Calvert, USAF, dean, JCSOS, the school’s focus is at the operational level, and the curriculum is based heavily on material that relates to joint doctrine. “We use joint doctrine as the foundation, but the creative part is how to adapt joint doctrine to the situation that you’ve been thrust into,” Col. Calvert offers.

The JCWS, which has two seminars each term, presents five courses. Students prepare for senior-level joint duty assignments as branch chiefs and department directors. Classes focus on crisis action planning, case studies, collaborative joint critical analysis, interagency coordination, joint applications and operational art. Working in groups of three or four, students prepare a critical analysis of an evolving joint or multinational issue.

The deans and faculty of the various schools work together to create a collaborative environment for each of the classes, and recently the JFSC facilities underwent a technological facelift that enhances learning and allows students to gain valuable hands-on experience. The effort is part of the electronically enhanced education, or E3, initiative and involves modeling and simulation, videoconferencing and Internet/Web-based applications.

The $2.6 million project brought high-technology capabilities to an auditorium, 17 seminar rooms, 20 war-gaming cells and four distance learning rooms. Primarily, Audio Visual Innovations (AVI), Tampa, Florida, was responsible for the audiovisual upgrades. In general, the technologically revamped rooms feature touch-screen technology, large-screen monitors, two-way communications for videoconferencing and capabilities to share data in a myriad of forms.

John P. Gregory, regional director, systems integration group, AVI, explains that three types of cable structure were installed to provide signal distribution for the new capabilities. Radio frequency distribution works like a cable station. It takes the signal from the on-site satellite then demodulates and remodulates it to deliver the programming to the channels the JFSC desires. The number of drops in the building was doubled to more than 80, and each drop can be a source point for broadcasts to be seen throughout the facility as well as transmitted to other sites.

Baseband configurations of hybrid copper and fiber optic cable connect all of the distance learning rooms and all of the war-gaming rooms through a series of routers and patch panels. By configuring this infrastructure as a baseband, classified information can be shared between designated rooms, providing multiple levels of security within the facility, Gregory explains.

Internet protocol (IP) distribution runs throughout the facility as the third infrastructure type. Students and faculty can call each other across the local area network (LAN) from one classroom to another using voice over IP, he offers.

“In the communications room, we have a server that allows an individual to monitor all the video on the LAN so they don’t eat up the bandwidth,” Gregory explains. “Next to the server is a gateway that allows the user to get an outside line and dial out on a phone line. We have a multipoint capability so many people can talk each time.”

While computer-assisted war games play an important role in the educational experience at JFSC, Col. Frederick Kienle, USA, dean, JCWS, points out that students also learn from a series of tabletop war games in which they role-play U.S. force commanders, interagency representatives and enemy forces.

Traditional research and study also continues to take place in the JFSC’s new library facility. Dr. Gail Nicula, chief, library division, relates that students regularly use the library’s extensive military historical collection to conduct research and prepare for classes. The library’s computers feature access to subscriber-only databases that students use to find various documents, and the shelves are abundantly stocked with collections not found in public libraries.

Col. Kienle maintains that the JFSC plays an essential part in joint transformation. “Through current, relevant and high-quality joint education, JFSC addresses joint doctrine, joint organizations, interagency processes, multinational and combined operations, information operations and joint command and control in great detail. These components of joint transformation are integral parts of the JFSC curriculum.

“Two other important pillars of joint transformation are joint training and education and innovative leadership and education. JFSC has a huge role in these two pillars as it provides tomorrow’s joint leaders with the intellectual tools and knowledge to move all of our armed forces toward new ways of thinking and working together,” Col. Kienle says.

And collaboration extends beyond the joint and combined forces on today’s battlefields. The colonel contends that interagency coordination and cooperation is a key component of all military operations today. At the college, interagency awareness and understanding is fostered by extensive student exposure to representatives and processes from a variety of government and nongovernmental agencies.

“Inclusion of interagency representatives both as students and as invited subject matter experts is essential to ensuring a complete understanding of operational planning and execution by our students. It is very difficult to imagine transformational education occurring without interagency involvement,” Col. Kienle says.

Although terrorism, asymmetric warfare, homeland security, domestic interagency processes and military support to civilian authorities have always been a part of the JCWS curriculum, last year’s terrorist attacks increased the time and resources that are devoted to these lessons, the colonel shares. “Elements of asymmetric warfare, increased interagency coordination and enhanced responses to terrorism are stressed more than in the past. JCWS is completing the development of a two-day computer-assisted homeland security war game that encompasses all aspects of homeland security and a multitude of responses to terrorism at home and abroad,” Col. Kienle adds.

The JFSC also is changing other coursework. The curriculum of the Joint Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) Staff and Operations course, which is part of the JCIWS, is reviewed biennially by a committee of representatives from the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Command, Control and Communications Systems Directorate, the military services and defense agencies. The most recent review took place in May 2001, and committee members found that the program was technologically current and placed high value on Joint Vision 2020 and joint interoperability as well as Global Information Grid and Joint Task Force planning, Capt. Walter Spearman, USN, dean, JCIWS, says.

Of the six recommendations made by the committee, four have been instituted. Blocks of instruction have been resequenced or modified to provide a more orderly progression and flow of information to the students. The field trip to Washington, D.C., has been extended so additional sites can be visited. To heighten awareness of the course, it is now being advertised in C4I-related publications. Finally, the C4I course practical exercise has been renamed and refocused. It now includes work to build a joint task force, a focus on joint task force J-6 planning and interoperability, an expansion in U.S. Marine Corps participation and incorporation of Joint Warfighting Center/Joint Distance Learning Center assets.

The fifth committee recommendation, a Web-based survey, is scheduled to be implemented later this year. Former students and their supervisors will be queried approximately six months after graduation about the effectiveness and benefits of the course.

The final recommendation, that a Marine Corps instructor be added to the faculty, has not been adopted. However, Capt. Spearman points out that course planners have opted to rely on the expertise and contributions of one of the Marine Corps officers from JCIWS’ information warfare division.

Although network-centric warfare is not a core element of the information operations program, the concept is discussed when students begin talking about Joint Vision 2020 and in the context of full spectrum dominance and information superiority. Discussions relating to network-centric warfare also may arise during other classroom presentations, Capt. Spearman says.


The World in a Classroom

Recent technology upgrades to Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) facilities are providing military officers with experiential learning. From an auditorium that occupies the library’s former space to individual high-technology broadcast studios and war-gaming cells, today’s JFSC students can learn from experts located around the world and collaborate with classmates on a virtual battlefield.

Rooms both large and small were redesigned and rewired. The auditorium, which seats up to 200 people, features a stage-mounted lectern with a preview monitor that allows the instructor to view the images displayed on each of two projection screens at the front of the room. Using a touch-screen control on the lectern, the teacher can control both the ambient conditions of the room and the presentation electronics.

To ensure that the entire audience can see the instructor despite the presence of pillars, a camera on one of the columns captures the instructor’s image for display on-screen locally or for transmission during a videoconference or distance learning session. Cameras mounted at the front of the auditorium provide a view of the students.

All seats in the auditorium are equipped with microphones. When a student activates the microphone, the individual’s voice is distributed to the logic-controlled amplifier system. The speakers directly over the student’s location automatically turn off, and the speakers near the microphone in use are attenuated to 50 percent volume level, which provides the highest level of voice amplification without creating feedback.

The logic that turns off and attenuates the speakers also activates the camera system’s pan/tilt mechanism and the video router. When a student’s microphone is activated, a camera moves to a pre-set position to acquire the image of that student. As a result, during in-classroom presentations or videoconferencing, the audience can see precisely who is speaking.

The JFSC students spend a great deal of time in the seminar rooms, which are classrooms that feature tables arranged in a horseshoe configuration. According to Cmdr. Kevin T. Holden, USN, faculty member, Joint and Combined Staff Officer School, JFSC, much thought went into the design of the rooms. The goal was to allow students to interact face-to-face, in some ways mirroring the environment officers will experience when they are problem solving or planning operations at duty stations.

The rooms feature two-way teleconferencing capabilities and include 37-inch multiscan monitors that can display both computer information and video imagery. Two cameras mounted directly above the monitors acquire the images from the room. Ceiling-mounted microphones pick up the participants’ voices for transmission to other locations.

An overhead camera facilitates the presentation of three-dimensional objects, printed material and transparencies. The room also has VCR and DVD capabilities.

For smaller groups of students, the upgraded facility features videoconferencing studios that accommodate 12 to 15 people. The rooms are set up with a table, a gallery and a large monitor.

Perhaps the most intriguing learning environments in the upgraded facility are the war-gaming cells. In these rooms, students put into action many of the lessons they learn in the classroom and work as a team to solve realistic problems.

Throughout the curriculum, students in each seminar are assigned to serve in various staff positions as members of a fictitious geographic combatant command called U.S. Africa Command, which employs the advanced joint and combined operations model (AJCOM).

Each team regularly reports to a war-gaming cell where it gathers information from a specially designed Web site that contains changing information about the area of responsibility. AJCOM replicates the automated tools that joint staff officers use during actual operations. It accepts student input and flows forces accordingly as well as receives and feeds information through current global command and control system applications.

Capt. James Toone, USN (Ret.), dean, directorate of information technology, JFSC, explains that the current gaming environment was designed specifically to support Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) phase-two course requirements.

“The key element of AJCOM will be the student interface. Students are challenged to manipulate information, make assessments and direct actions from a combatant commander theater-strategic and joint-task-force-operational level using the automation tools and connectivity they would expect to use in a combatant command headquarters,” Capt. Toone says.

AJCOM integrates politico-military situational awareness and operational-level joint force deployment and employment. The model allows students to evaluate and research joint warfighting concepts, apply joint doctrine, hone contingency planning skills and simulate command and control of combat operations under a unified command.

While technology training is not a primary focus for the JFSC, experience with current technologies has proven useful to many of the students. Jon Still, faculty member, Joint and Combined Staff Officer School, JFSC, relates that some of the students have said they wish they had learned about these systems earlier because the technology was in use at their previous command assignments.

David Feigel, civilian chief, war game modeling and simulation division, directorate of information technology, JFSC, explains that as the data on the site changes, students work as a team to manage a developing crisis. From a control room within the war-gaming cell, the instructor can hear the discussions that are taking place among the team members. This allows the teacher to observe the ongoing collaboration and also intervene when the group gets off task, Feigel offers.

Feigel and Still agree that groups of students in the classes today are comfortable with the technology and constantly help each other find new ways to work with the data. However, sometimes the temptation to treat the exercise like a video game leads to some interesting lessons learned. For example, although AJCOM runs at a speed that allows more than two days’ activity to take place in one minute, at times the students expect troops to react as fast as video game characters, Feigel quips.

Instruction through the Web is in its infancy at the college. As part of the Reserve Component JPME program, a Web-based course of instruction was created and used to validate the idea. The concept is scheduled to be tested in October 2003, Capt. Toone shares.

The JFSC has a dual focus for future technology improvements. Externally, the college will strive to remain current on the latest technologies to meet the school’s requirements. Internally, the college will examine how technology can satisfy unspecified needs.

“Our vision for the future use of technology focuses on three areas. Modeling and simulation will be used to create an environment to enhance the educational experience. The increased use of video teleconferencing will allow greater access to content experts. The specialized use of the Internet will enhance the delivery of instruction and provide for life-long learning,” Capt. Toone says.