Last month in Naples Italy, in concert with the Center of Operational and Strategic Leadership, I had the opportunity to participate in the 14th Combined/Joint Forces Maritime Component Command (C/JFMCC) Flag level course. Sponsored by Commander, Navy Forces Europe and Commander, Sixth Fleet, this course brought 13 participating nations along with representatives from each Service of the United States Armed Forces together to develop and deepen regional maritime partnerships through the practical study of regional challenges confronting the maritime operational commander.
Since first introduced in August 2005, I have had the privilege to support each course by designing and teaching the practical exercises. While the course is extremely valuable on several levels, I would like to address the utility of the practical exercise in providing the participants an opportunity to examine and discuss the many issues that a maritime commander may encounter.
Specifically, the practical exercise executed this year was a realistic scenario, tailored to the European and African regions and the respective participants attending the course. This scenario was developed with fictional geography and overlaid on the African continent, allowing the participants to tackle a complex problem. The fictional geography enabled them to focus on the concepts and issues without getting overly distracted with real world concerns that could be superfluous to the discussion. The practical exercise was presented in a three-session format, focusing the participants on key parts of a crisis. Most importantly, the objective of the practical exercise was to show how the maritime component commander could influence and lead the operation in those key parts.
The first session dealt with the initiation of the crisis. The setting for this session occurred just after the crisis happened and the participants took on the role of having just been assigned as the maritime component commander. Using information from the scenario, they worked through formulating how they would deal with this crisis, who they needed to initially coordinate with, and what type of guidance they would need to give to their staff to start mission analysis. The second session was set at the point where the commander received the mission analysis briefing, and addressed how he could influence the operational planning process. In this session, the participants had to grapple with the importance of the wording of the mission statement, how to write the initial commander’s intent, and what they should provide to their staff as Course Of Action Planning Guidance. In the third session, we fast forwarded to the execution phase to discuss how the commander leads his forces and staff. Several of the important points in this session included how the commander could ensure the staff continued to manage planning during the execution phase, how to assess the ongoing mission and remain at the operational level, and how to use the Commander’s Critical Information Requirements.
The practical exercises have evolved and matured over these 14 courses. While it has provided valuable insights to the participants directly, it has also served as the laboratory to discuss many of the ideas that are now contained in the Naval War College’s Maritime Component Commander’s Guide Book that was published this February. So, in closing, the practical exercise has served as an essential element of the CFMCC Flag Officer Course, from both an educational and a doctrinal perspective.