Wargame provides reality check for war plans

When Uncle Sam and his friends say it’s time to unleash a major campaign’s worth of allied airpower on bad guys on the other side of the globe, they can’t just expect all their assets to be available immediately at their beck and call.

It takes rigorous planning to get those assets where they are needed, and that is why more than 70 mobility and logistics professionals from the U.S. and three allied countries convened for an exercise known as Global Mobility, Agile Combat Support here June 20-24.

Air Mobility Command has led the biennial wargame since 2002. In 2012, Air Force Materiel Command contributed before becoming a full partner in 2014.

“In some wargames, the mobility and logistics aspects are assumed away,” said Bryan Riba, AMC’s lead for the exercise. “Without this, the warfighter might assume everything will be in place very early in a fight, and that’s just not realistic.”

The exercise tested the Air Force’s ability to meet mission requirements in a challenging, dynamic environment. It evaluated the capabilities, platforms and forces that are expected to be available for combatant commanders eight to 10 years in the future. Limiting factors such as distance and degraded operations were also evaluated to influence and improve future planning and deployment of military forces.

Each exercise participant was a subject matter expert in a particular field such as security forces, contingency response forces, air refueling, airlift, aircraft maintenance, and aerial port operations. They informed decision-making by offering real-world perspectives on what can be accomplished and what is unreasonable.

“If the subject matter experts have the information, they share it. If they don’t, then we see that as a potential learning opportunity,” said Charlene Holmes-Plump, AFMC’s lead for the exercise.

The information and data produced by the exercise will feed into a more robust one known as Global Engagement.

“It was a productive wargame where we identified some shortfalls,” Holmes-Plump said.

The exercise also presented subject matter experts an opportunity to work alongside and become familiar with their counterparts from allied countries. Representatives from the U.K., Australia and Canada contributed an additional sense of realism to GLOMO/ACS.

Wing Commander Kate Carlisle, a logistics officer with the Royal Australian Air Force who is currently serving as an exchange officer at the Pentagon, said the exercise served as a good forum to reiterate how much her nation can contribute to and integrate with a coalition of allies.

“Since we had so many new capabilities recently come on board that have already been demonstrated operationally, it’s important to see how those capabilities fit in with the bigger picture from a planning perspective,” Carlisle said.

The planning and knowledge sharing are an important aspect of the wargame, but she said there is something more fundamental that comes from working with allies.

“You can have all the arrangements documented and written down, but before any conflict happens, if you haven’t established the one-on-one personal relationships with people, and you haven’t started building a layer of trust, then you’ve lost that ability to leverage off that if something goes down,” Carlisle said. “By having these activities and actually sitting down, going out to dinner or having a chat during the breaks, you are laying a foundation of trust.”

Squadron Leader Angela Robinson of the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force said the wargame provided her a deeper understanding of how the U.K.’s allies operate, but it also provided a resource that may prove useful as she transitions into a new assignment at the RAF Air Warfare Center.

“What I’ll take away is all the relationships I’ve now built with people that I’d absolutely be working with if this all happened for real, so I’ll continue communicating with these people,” she said. “You know they are your friends and colleagues for life. I’ve now got someone to reach out to.”

Ultimately, the exercise lead to strategic planning that ensured the Air Force and its allies retain their ability to provide rapid global mobility and logistics support to project the military power across the globe.

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