Leadership: Jedi Knights Join The Red Teams


October 23,2008:  U.S. Army commanders now have a new bunch of inspectors looking over their shoulders. These are the Red Teams, small groups of officers that go over combat plans, and their probability of success. This is unique, as Red Teams are basically questioning how commanders plan to fight.

Throughout its history, the U.S. military, like their counterparts worldwide, have had an Inspector General. This was a small organization that insured that everyone in uniform was doing their job the way it was supposed to be done. But because combat was so infrequent, there was never an attempt to inspect how successful a commanders battle plans might be.

Red Teams came out of wargaming. There, the "Red" team represented the enemy, while the "Blue" team played the good guys. In the last three decades, the U.S. Army adopted a more  form of wargaming based on historical models, where commanders are presented with very realistic situations for future battles. This was applying to wargames the old phrase, "train as you fight, and fight as you train." But in addition to providing more realistic games for training, this style of wargames also made it possible to analyze war plans as never before. In the past, your war plans didn't really get a workout until you were in combat against a real, live Red Team (the enemy). The new wrinkle was that it was now easier to have your own people provide an effective, if not perfect, Red Team experience because of all those officers with wargame experience.

So now the senior commanders of the U.S. Army have been sending Red Teams around to the major commands, to play devil's advocate to whatever war plans senior commanders and their staffs have come up with. It's not new, really. The concept of "devil's advocate" has been around for a long time. But now the army is institutionalizing it, and using more powerful techniques (wargaming) to implement it.

This all began back in the 1980s, when realistic wargaming was catching on, especially among the students at the Command and General Staff School (C&GSS) and the Army War College AWC). The younger officers at the C&GSS were particularly enthusiastic, and they came to be known as the "Jedi Knights," mainly because the analytic skills obtained from playing lots of wargames, gave them a seemingly magical ability to find flaws in war plans. That's what the Red Teams are all about, Jedi Knights on steroids.

Now the senior leadership is sending two man Red Teams down to brigades, to test the war plans at that level. Often the Red Teams find that the war plans are pretty solid, mainly because the commanders and staffs have used wargaming to develop their own plans, and to work out the flaws that an adroit enemy would exploit once it was too late to do anything about it.

The Red Teams all report to the head of the army, which insures that none of the commanders they are working with try to pull rank. The Red Teams give the Chief of Staff of the army regular reports on how effective the many war plans developed in the army combat units are holding up to scrutiny, which is a unique capability in the military world.





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