Last Saturday the place to be was Boston University's College of Communication. That is where Navy League of the United States, Massachusetts Bay Council presented the "24th Annual Maritime Symposium".
So, of course, that's where I was! My first war game!
I was an observer, allowed to go from room to room. Here's how it works. Participants (all college ROTC I think) are divided up into teams. I think there were 80 or so kids from more than a dozen New England colleges and universities. Efforts are made to break the participants up so you aren't hanging with your friends. They ideally want to form teams of strangers, coming together for the first time.
Groups are given some materials and sent off to different rooms. Each group has a moderator. Generally the moderators are people with military experience who are there to keep participants on track.
1st- The scenario. It was prepared, as was the whole program by LtCol Mark Stanovich, USMCR. Mark was not there in his Marine Reserve capacity, but you can't help but note it because he is the USMC exemplar. The situation, while put together months ago, is something that has heated up lately - Territorial disputes in the East China Sea in 2015. I feel that since going over all the suggested reading and the background stuff which we got in the email invitation weeks ago, all I see/hear is about China and territory disputes.
I heard this described as "The Spratly Surprise", though I don't remember reading that anywhere. The specific territory described in the 3 move political/military scenario were the Spratly Islands. Indeed the only difference between the 2015 situation and real life today is that the territory in dispute are the Senkaku Islands
Participants are briefed on the "situation" and told they have been convened to advise the President for his response on the matter.
I went into about half the rooms and talked in between sessions to participants in the hall. I tweeted until the phone started dying (off-topic, I need some super battery).
First off, probably one quarter had not read any background or seemingly studied much history or geography (in the sense I studied geography in school) in general. There were some silly facts and misinformation tossed out by students that Mark Stanovich (who was also roaming room to room) would appear and correct. Teams were guided to keep on the path by their moderators and the controllers who were rating/grading as the game proceeded.
After everyone worked through the 3 moves with their team, presenting began. First teams presented to other teams.
I pegged the winning team just after lunch, although I am sure others saw it earlier. They were moderated by Col. Robert LaBriola, USMCR, who I had by coincidence met at EPIIC the day before. This team presented to the whole Symposium, as the "U.S. Briefing Team" and took questions from their fellow participants.
This is a learning experience for the participants. They are being introduced to the concept of problem solving/teamwork in a seminar with time constraints. Participants were routinely prompted "The President's waiting" while it was acknowledged that there were "unknowns" and quickly changing "facts".
And for young people who didn't have the benefit of nuns in their education, they did pretty good!
Two things I observed; teams with young women were more concerned with world opinion, and there was a universal belief in the lure of capitalism for the Chinese. Obviously no "Occupier" think here. Which is funny, because I don't think that trade sanctions, blockades etc would weigh as heavily to the real life Chinese government.
The hardest part was keeping quiet! There were things said by teams that I almost had to put my hand over my mouth to keep from jumping on, lol. But maybe when they are as old as I am.....they'll be this smart.
So, how did I round off this day? Fabulous dinner in the North End with My Marine. That was after I kinda sort made him drive nearly to the edge of the map (Route 128, if you're playing at home) by not paying attention as we drove out of the parking lot. Criminy, we were only at BU. I don't dare confess how much time I spent out there in the past. I had the bombolotti di zucca at Gennaro's and it was delish. While his chicken parm was apparently.....orgasmic....lol!
Anyway, between this and EPIIC the previous day, it was a helluva weekend. i slept for days.