Archive for Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Military branches collaborate in joint warfighting exercise

April 9, 2008

Officers with all four branches of the United States Armed Forces, international officers and civilian and government officials participated jointly on March 18 in the largest intermediate-level interagency military exercise of the year.

The six-day exercise, with approximately 550 participants from Fort Leavenworth's Command and General Staff College along with the Air Force Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, was the culmination of a Joint Advanced Warfighting Studies (JAWS) program that began last year for CGSC students.

According to Brian Gerling, a professor in the CGSC's Department of Joint, Interagency and Multinational Operations, it gave Army officers in mid-career a unique opportunity to collaborate with air, maritime and special operations forces that will prepare them for future experience in the field.

"It's a pretty robust exercise," Gerling said during the drill last month. " : More and more in our operations, staff have to work with the interagency and other agencies, so we're trying to foster that."

The setting for the JAWS exercise was the Transcaucus region of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey, where a fictitious force is threatening to invade a country that has asked for assistance. Gerling said although the scenario was not real, the geography of the region was.

"We purposely chose an area the U.S. Army was unfamiliar with," Gerling said.

The overall goal of the simulation, Maj. Betsy Atherton, a public affairs officer at the CGSC, said, was deterrence - to insulate the country against external aggression but also to build up the country's defense against an internal insurgency.

A classroom in the CGSC served as the headquarters for one of three joint taskforces, with the air component of the exercise being handled remotely by officers at Maxwell Air Force Base using collaborative tools like videoconferencing, telecommunications and Army Web chat software.

Public affairs officer Maj. Cathy Wilkinson said, "It's a challenge trying to do such an exercise without having them right next to you," but she said that was generally what would occur in the field.

The joint taskforces were required to formulate and carry out a plan that would be most effective from a militaristic standpoint as well as for the affected country.

"(The exercise) is excellent; it's very challenging," said Maj. Chris Smith, an officer with the Australian Army. " : It's a reflection of what you'd experience in the field."

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