Learning the art of wargaming

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Greydon Furstenau
  • Air University Public Affairs

The Teaching and Learning Center hosts a wargaming event with special guest, Sebastian Bae, wargamer, research analyst and former Marine, to discuss the future of wargames and its use in military education at Air University, August 29-31,2022.

The event is part of a larger effort to bring people across the Department of Defense together to collaborate and raise awareness for wargaming for educational purposes.

Sebastian J. Bae is a game designer and research analyst on the Gaming and Integration team at the Center for Naval Analyses. The CNA is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the safety and security of the nation. His work principally focuses on wargaming, emerging technologies, the future of warfare, and strategy and doctrine for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. He has designed and led several analytical and educational wargames for a variety of U.S. government and DOD sponsors. Topics have included Force Design 2030, operational logistics, cyber warfare, future warfare, and more.

During his visit Bae was giving a lecture as well as a demo version of a game. His lecture was given on wargaming and its application in the DOD. Many people who attended came from the Academic Circle at Air University, this included DOD civilians and military service members.  

Wargaming includes the use of games to help develop strategies, test tactics, plan logistics and consider multiple perspectives. It’s an operational and educational tool that simulates real-world exercises and allows DOD members to get experience in low-risk environments before applying lessons learned in real operations.  

“War is all about decision making. It's all about the mental reps and a problem. You never want the first time a staff officer sees an operational problem to be the first time where lives matter. It’s the same thing with a sergeant on the ground. You don't want them to see the first tactical problem that they have to face, and it be the difference between success and failure of the lives of their troops,” Bae said. “Wargaming is about developing institutional knowledge, making a means to pass on that institutional knowledge and really cultivate what we call mental reps and sets at a problem, so that you can see different problems in different contexts and start recognizing those patterns but also share and develop skills, know what skills work where”. 

The role of the TLC is to assist faculty and staff with educational gaming facilitation and assessment skills to ensure students attain learning outcomes. To this end, the TLC has organized an "Educational Gaming Community of Interest" with quarterly networking meetings and various special events such as the workshop with Bae to promote collaboration and focus on competencies. Currently, 26 different organizations across the DOD are represented.

“The Teaching and Learning Center partnered with the Air University library on this event because we feel educational wargaming can be valuable for all types of military learners regardless of rank, specialty or proficiency,” said Dr. Megan Hennessey Air University TLC director.

The TLC also contributes educational research expertise to the wargaming conversation, helping the joint force to better understand the effect of educational wargaming on learning for the near, mid and long-term Trained TLC researchers collect and analyze data from educational wargames at AU and share findings and recommendations with leaders to improve learning outcomes and faculty and student experiences. For example, they recently assisted Air Command and Staff College with a pilot study considering the comparative educational value of classified versus unclassified wargames.

"With Sebastian Bae's visit, we are very excited to collaborate with one of the key leaders in taking gaming to a new level in the learning process. And with participants from several professional military education institutions including the Naval Postgraduate School, Army War College, Marine Corps University and even our consœurs and confrères from France's L'École de guerre ... we've all contributed to forging an alloy of new ideas to improve our teaching practices," Dr. Mehmed Ali, Director of Academic Services said.

To join the Educational Gaming Community of Interest, email Hennessey at