Category Archives: The Lighter Side

Officers

CIMSEC’s New Officers

The officers club in CIMSEC’s tropical island fortress.

The competition was fierce, the candidates outstanding, and the bribes somewhat disappointing.

Congratulations to CIMSEC’s new officers! You can read more about the candidates and their goals here.

President: Scott Cheney-Peters
Vice President: Chris Rawley
Director of Online Content: Matt Hipple
Director of External Affairs: Emil Maine
Director of Operations: Will Yale
Director of Social Media: Paul Pryce
Director of Membership: Matt Merighi
Director of Publications: James Bridger
Treasurer: Bret Perry
Secretary: Mike Carroll

Chapter Presidents:
San Diego, USA: Jeff Anderson
Central Florida, USA: Erek Sanchez
Hampton Roads, USA: Vic Allen
Washington, DC, USA: Scott Cheney-Peters
New York City, USA: Will Allen
UK: Chris Stockdale-Garbutt
New Caledonia: Alix Willemez
Egypt: Elsayed Agrama
India: Himanil Raina

If you’re interested in learning about the roles/responsibilities of Associate Editor, Associate Social Media Director, or Chapter President of an area not listed above, send me an email at director@cimsec.org.

As always, if you have any ideas on how we can make the organization better or would like to help out our all-volunteer effort in any other way, let us know!

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Wargame, Red Dragon: Developer Interview

Eugen Systems released an heir to World In Conflict with their Real Time Strategy “Wargame” series. Their most recent edition, Red Dragon, occurs in Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, and coastal Russian Far East. The reason we were intruiged is that this new version included naval battles.  Now, turns out the naval battles are by no means anything you’d expect for 80’s warships… think more WWII with helicopters, F-18’s, and CIWS… but some of your dear CIMSEC editors and members played and had a pretty good time. It’s hard to argue naval realism when in ground combat you get to pick from several hundred units from 17 countries. Hell, one of the single player campaigns is you defending Hong Kong when Thatcher decides to push continued British presence. Capital!

As the last part of CIMSEC’s Wargames week, we decided that amongst our discussion of exercises and gaming that hone nations for war and war-fighters for survival, we would ask some question to the folks who build games and exercises for fun. The Eugen System team was kind enough to have a chat with us:

Q: What games inspired your team?

A: Our main inspiration for the Wargame series are old strategy games many of us at the studio used to play while younger: the Close Combat & Steel Panther series. One is real-time, the other turn-based, and our goal was to do as good a simulation and “easy to handle, hard to master” as the former, with the latter’s technical database, wide array of nations, huge number of scenarios, …

Q: Unlike many RTS games, Wargame has hundreds of different units–all asymmetric and unique. Through modeling and developing these, has your team come to any conclusions?

A: Well, by modeling so many units, we are highlighting the trend and doctrine of every nation: France’s “speed over armor” attitude, resulting from its tradition of military interventions in Africa ; Britain’s emphasis on armor and range, due to its Cold War allocated battlefield, the North German Plains …

Some of those are well-known to us from the start, but for some less known armies, such doctrine are only revealed after some time, while they are starting to build in our armory.

Q: What did you learn from your last game, Air Land Battle (ALB), that you applied to Red Dragon?

A: ALB’s main influence on RD can be found in map design. There had been some criticisms in the previous installment about maps that were considered too small or too “bottlenecked”. In RD, we have made sure to address this by making bigger and more open maps. Added to that the fact that river or sea and mountain are no longer impassable terrain, and you will see that RD’s maps are much more maneuver-friendly.

We have also taken into consideration many of the UI request to make the armory easier to use, and help new players and non-military buffs more at ease browsing among 1400+ units.
Artillery and air-defense balance were also deeply reworked using ALB’s lessons.

Q: Outside of Naval Warfare, what is the greatest difference between ALB and Red Dragon?

A: Maps. As said above, the new amphibious ability for many vehicles and the fact that mountain are no longer purely impassable gives the game a new feeling. You can maneuver on large scale, always try to outflank your opponent. No bottleneck will make a part of the battlefield secure because you’ve left a defensive force there. RD’s battlefields are much more open that ALB’s were.

Q: After Red Dragon, does the team have the desire to develop an expansion that really fleshes out more urban warfare?

A: We’re not there yet …

Q: What other conflicts have your team considered?

A: Wold War 2 of course …

But WW2 was already covered by many other games, including our own RUSE when we started thinking about Wargame, so we decided to go for something more original, less exploited. Hence why we chose “Cold War gone hot”, which offered the opportunity for many plausible scenarios and provided us with tons of combat vehicles to model and use in-game.

As for other possible Cold War conflicts, after European Escalation, we had considered several battlefields for the next installment: the two most logical were the Northern Front (Scandinavia, which we ended up covering in ALB) and the Southern Front (Mediterranean). We chose the former because Sweden offered a unique roaster of indigenous vehicles, bringing alone more new vehicles than the whole Mediterranean countries together would.

Q: What is your biggest regret with the games?

A: To have left some nations aside, although they could have been included in our previous installment. To make a nation viable, we have to model some 60-80 units, so we can’t add that many nations at a time.

In EE, Dutch and Belgian units had to be left aside, and Finland in ALB. That is not without regret that we have left those nations aside …

Q: What’s your biggest pride with the games?

A: Our biggest pride is when former (or even active!) military servicemen, especially those whom had served during the Cold War, are telling us they are playing our games and are enjoying the realistic feel of it. Then, we allow ourselves to think Wargame lives to what we wanted it to be when we stated the series.

Q: What’s your favorite unit?

A: Personally speaking, I’m fond of wheeled vehicles. I favor speed over armor. Call it national bias, but I think my very favorite one has to be found among the light wheeled tanks/tank destroyers, like the AMX-10 RC, the BTR-70 Z halo or the ERC-90 Sagaie. Had I to choose one, the latter one might be my favorite, for it emphasizes everything I like: speed, stealth, decent firepower, … and looks cool!

Q: What is the most interesting thing you learned from studying the historical background to the game?

A: ABLE ARCHER exercises, in November 1983.

Cold War is often taught or learned at school through different crisis (Cuban Missile Crisis, European Missile Crisis …) and “proxy wars” (Vietnam, Afghanistan, …) but never had we ever heard of how close the year 1983, and especially ABLE ARCHER, had brought us on the verge of WW3. This was completely new to us, and became the nucleus of Wargame: European Escalation’s “alternative scenarios” concept.

 

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Gaming the Game: Fighting on the Playing Fields

Written by Jonathon James Nicholas Edwards: a scholar ever loyal to the crown. He loves bees and Oxford.

Games are a natural educational tool. Crows can be seen tumbling with one another through the air, kittens play with dead mice before they hunt for live ones, and the Duke of Wellington is widely credited with saying that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.

However they have their limitations. In reference to the Duke of Wellington’s quotation, the Victorian writer Matthew Arnold said “Alas! disasters have been prepared in those playing-fields as well as victories; disasters due to inadequate mental training – to want of application, knowledge, intelligence, lucidity.” One of the primary limitations of most games is the unavoidable way that a canny, unscrupulous player can use the rules to “game” the system.

I know this from experience, because I’ve done it. I used to fence and made it to some regional competitions. Given the sport’s provenance as an activity for gentlemen, and the risk of injury from flying metal, fencing has strict codes of conduct and penalties for breaking them. Any behaviour that endangers or disrespects another player can be penalised. Failure to correctly salute an opponent or referee causes a fencer to forfeit the match. In general fencers are expected to maintain composure at all times.

In one match I faced an opponent who was much faster, more skilled and more experienced. In any fair match he should have won. However he was known to have a short temper, and I reasoned that I could goad him into breaking the rules. I fenced to frustrate. I dodged his lunges, and attacked with small cuts to the arms that just caught. Although my opponent took an early lead, he was clearly annoyed. After I won a few points in this way, he flung his sword on the ground. Citing it as a safety violation, the referee gave him a red card, one step away from the black card that would cost him the match.

The fight continued in this way, until my opponent was one point from victory, but one temper tantrum from defeat. As he attempted to stay calm, he broke his concentration, and I took a few more points, which antagonized him further. Ultimately he won the match, but my manipulation of the rules meant it wasn’t the easy victory for him that it should have been.

Rules are necessary to implement any game, however sometimes they subvert the purpose of the exercise; rather than being a measure of the best fencer, our match turned on my opponent’s ability to keep calm. This is humorous in a high school fencing match (although not for my opponent) but in situations with a direct practical application like war games it can be a serious problem. It is therefore useful to remember that any game has inherent limitations. Organizers and players must set up the game as carefully as possible, but recognize their limits. In the end we hope that they produce more people like Wellington, and fewer people like me.

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Our Debating Military: Here, If You’re Looking

“Not a military voice is heard calling for thoughtful, substantive change.”

-William S. Lind, “An Officer Corps That Can’t Score”

Will, “hello,” suffice? William S. Lind’s suggestion at The American Conservative Magazine that the Officer Corps is in a blind, intellectual death spiral is weighty indeed, but ignores the vast body of debate going on in the junior and senior ranks of our nation’s military. Rather than our officer corps living in a bubble, perhaps some of those discussing the internal debate of the military writ-large need to reach out of their bubble to see the rich discussion happening -right now-.

“Even junior officers inhabit a world where they hear only endless, hyperbolic praise of “the world’s greatest military ever.” They feed this swill to each other and expect it from everyone else. If they don’t get it, they become angry.”

-William S. Lind, “An Officer Corps That Can’t Score”

Mr. Lind accuses our Officer Corps of a hollow, cavalier attitude that would suggest they neither recognize nor wrestle with the threats of tomorrow or the mistakes of today. Ask any moderately informed officer on their thoughts about cyber-war, the F-35, LCS, insurgency, the utility of carriers, the proliferation of anti-ship cruise-missiles, etc.. and the opinions will be heated and varied. The Center for International Maritime Security has featured an entire week debating the merits of the Navy’s,“Air Sea Battle,” concept. The United States Naval Institute archives decades of articles relating to the debate over carriers. Small Wars Journal is a running testament to the continued debate over insurgency and irregular ground conflicts. There are also sometimes-anonymous outlets, like the Sailor Bob forum, Information Dissemination, or the wild wonderful world of Commander Salamander’s blog; they are quite popular in -light- of the often unique and critical perspective taken by writers.

The self-hate created by my blog's criticism is overwhelming me!
The self-hate generated by my awareness of challenges to US might is overwhelming me!

The majority of these articles are written by officers, with the approval or non-interference of their leadership. Of course, not all military leadership is necessarily embracing criticism, but that is natural to any top-down organization. We’ve made great strides. The Navy released the Balisle Report on its critical issues with maintenance. CDR Snodgrass’ 24 page study on retention is now a topic of wide debate encouraged by VADM Moran, Chief of Naval Personnel. If, as Mr.Lind describes, our officer corps had a comical “hulk-smash” reaction to suggestions of US Military weaknesses or institutional flaws, we’d have long ago beaten ourselves to rubble in the haze of an insatiable rage.

“What defines a professional—historically there were only three professions, law, medicine, and theology—is that he has read, studied, and knows the literature of his field. The vast majority of our officers read no serious military history or theory.”

-William S. Lind, “An Officer Corps That Can’t Score”

Gen. Mattis says we should have a 2000 year old brain... so we can shred triple-neck guitars.
Gen. Mattis says we should have a 2000 year old brain… so we can shred triple-neck guitars.

Mr.Lind suggests that our modern-day officers live in a historical desert, in which the lessons of yester-year are lost. I would suggest those doubters of the military’s historical memory look to the USS PONCE and the Navy’s re-embrace of sea-basing. Thomas J Cutler’s “Brown Water, Black Beret” is an excellent primer on the historical lessons the Navy is re-applying. Perhaps we might highlight the Navy and Marine Corps’ dual scholar-heroes of ADM Stavridis (ret) and Gen Mattis (ret): admired for both their acumen in the field and their rarely equaled study of the history of conflict

Mahan, ideating before it was cool. Photo-shop Credit: Matt Hipple

Perhaps Mr.Lind is disappointed in our lack of engagement with Mahan, in which case I would direct him to LCDR Benjamin Armstrong’s book, “21st Century Mahan.” Perhaps Clausewitz is our flaw? The Army and Air Force officers writing at “The Bridge” would likely demolish THAT center of gravity, if the snarky Doctrine Man doesn’t get there first. Perhaps we have not learned the importance of innovation from history! The military’s 3-D printing labs located around the country would likely raise their eyebrows in bemusement.

A Cleveland native myself, I understand how far Hampton Roads is from Mr.Lind’s home on the Northern Shore. However, anyone like Mr.Lind who doubts the military, officer or enlisted, is interested in tackling the issues should make every attempt to visit the June Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEFx) Conference in Norfolk. From flag officers to those who paint the flagstaff, the gamut of our service will be on location, out of uniform, debating our technical and institutional challenges in an unofficial and free forum. He may even meet some members of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC). If Norfolk is a bridge to far, I’d encourage the doubters to sign up for membership at the Center for International Maritime Security. We have weekly meetings in DC where we talk about everything from Professional Military Education to drone operations.

Courtesy of CIMSEC author, Nicolas di Leonardo.
Courtesy of CIMSEC author, Nicolas di Leonardo.

The military is by no means perfect, but such imperfection is what drives the debate that both officers and enlisted are engaging in on a daily basis. Mr.Lind suggests interesting structural reform to better cultivate leadership in our officers. However he cites the need for such reforms based on a decrepit caricature of an officer corps the US Military is not saddled with. If one hasn’t, as a USNI author once told me, “done one’s homework,” ideas fall flat. There IS a debate happening in America’s Officer Corps, an educational and engaging one. We’re not too hard to find if you look.

 

Matthew Hipple is an active duty officer in the United States Navy. He is the editor of the NEXTWAR blog at the Center for International Maritime Security, host of the Sea Control podcast, and a writer for USNI’s Proceedings, War on the Rocks, and other forums. He would like to also give a nod to his friends at the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum, The Bridge, Doctrine Man, Athena Project, CDR Salamander Blog, Information Dissemination, Small Wars Journal, CRIC, and others who did not realize that they, like he, apparently do not exist.

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Sea Control 26 – New Podcast Series Party

seacontrolemblemSea Control will be adding two monthly segments to its lineup: Sea Control Europe/Britain and Sea Control Asia-Pacific. We are joined by Natalie Sambhi of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and Alexander Clarke of the Phoenix Think Tank. Today’s episode is a conversation with Nat and Alex about their backgrounds, their organizations, and their plans for their monthly series.

DOWNLOAD: Sea Control 26 New Podcast Series Party

We are available on Itunes, Stitcher Stream Radio, etc… Remeber to subscribe, leave a comment and a 5-star rating.

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Sub Officers Jealous Air Force Missileers Get to Have All the Fun

International Maritime Satire Week Warning: The following is a piece of fiction intended to elicit insight through the use of satire and written by those who do not make a living being funny – so it’s not serious and very well might not be funny. See the rest of our IntMarSatWeek offerings here

LOCATION CLASSIFIED – U.S. Navy Lt.j.g. Paul McKudo leaned over the conn rail to check the boat’s position on the chart. “Yep,” he sighed, “still here.”

As officer of the deck on board USS Louisiana (SSBN-743) McKudo is responsible for safe navigation of this nuclear powered warship which carries a key leg of the U.S. nuclear weapons triad, 24 Trident II D-5 Nuclear Ballistic Missiles.

“I understand the importance of our mission and the strategic role we have in our nation’s defense” McKudo said, “but I really want to be in the Air Force missile program, those guys know how to party”.

Recent news involving Air Force officers appeal to the junior officers in Louisiana’s wardroom. They see the buttoned-up culture of Navy ballistic missile submarines as too restrictive and lacking variety.

“I have a buddy from college who works in the missile fields up in North Dakota,” says Ensign Robert Connely, Louisiana’s reactor chemistry officer. “He tells me stories about driving Suburbans 90 miles per hour through snowy corn fields. That sounds awesome”.

“Look, those guys don’t even have to really take any sort of regular tests or anything,” McKudo said with excitement. “And when they do it’s so open book the Chinese get to crib the answers too. Plus their generals get to party so hard, especially on foreign travel, it defies the imagination”.

According to a recent study by the RAND corporation, officers in the Air Force missile corps are “burnt out” and often act in a manner inconsistent with the standards of the military due to their levels of stress. Members of Louisiana’s wardroom do not sympathize.

“They get to sleep on watch!” said. McKudo. “Try being out in the middle of the ocean for three months, constantly think about boiling water, then come talk to me. They are obviously just partying so hard they forget what they are doing. They don’t even have to closer the door! It’s better than Florida State U!”

“You know what happens if we forget to close the door?” asked Connely. “We sink – that’s what happens. Can’t sink in the middle of Wyoming, no sir.”

The two officers’ watch reliefs arrived, signed the logs, descended the ladder to the wardroom, the boat having traveled 6 miles in their 6 hour watch. After surveying the small collection of games and DVDs they agree to play their 326th game of Cribbage.

Alan Tweedie currently serves in the Navy reserve as an intel officer. At his civilian job he spends a lot of time with former Air Force missile officers who have no idea how good they had it.