The Joint Task Force planners are working against the clock to bring badly needed humanitarian relief supplies and security to a drought-stricken developing nation. The Joint Planning Group is identifying what problem they have been asked to assist in solving and the floor of the operations center is buzzing with activity. In reality though, all this activity is actually an exercise and the students here are practicing both the art and the science of military planning, otherwise known as the Joint Operation Planning Process.
The Joint Enabling Capabilities Command launched the fourth Joint Enabling Capabilities Planners’ Course (JEC PC) of 2012 on Oct. 22, and just as the previous courses, the attendees will walk away with an enhanced appreciation and valuable practical applications of the planning process under their belts. This course had one significant difference from the previous ones –almost 60 percent of the students were either JECC personnel or were about to be.
One thing that sets this course and, in fact this class, apart from others is the “train the trainer” aspect of the class population. With a large number of the students being JECC personnel, a team mentality will be established early on which will reap dividends over the course of the next several deployments.
Bart Sloat , the JEC PC lead instructor, describes the course this way, “JEC PC is unique because it takes the joint planning doctrine and transforms it to practical application. Understanding the process is the key to the course – and true understanding comes from actually doing the planning. Planners have to roll up their sleeves and do the ‘stubby pencil’ work! We move from talking about it to doing it!”
The planning course has been taught more than 40 times and every iteration captures the collective lessons learned from the students during the class, as well as their operational experiences. In the end, both the students and the instructors walk away from the class enriched.
The intent of the scenario for this course is to mirror a real-world planning process, while simultaneously dealing with a complex problem set that doesn’t lend itself to an easy solution. The sense of realism is enhanced for the students by having U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Scott Stearney, the commander, JECC, receive their course of action briefs, acting in the role of the joint task force commander.
Stearney was pleased with the analysis and commended the teams, “Great work; both COAs were really well thought out. Jointness is not natural, it is very challenging because we bring our service parochialisms to how we operate. Thank you everyone for all your hard work.”
The JEC PC provides training grounded in joint doctrine, and provides an overview of joint task force operations and organization, an understanding of how strategic guidance shapes joint planning, gives practical experience of joint planning at the operational level, and develops an appreciation of incorporating all elements of national power in accomplishing a mission.
Anne Galegor, instructor for political/military planning, emphasized the importance of multi-faceted planning. “Having an understanding of joint doctrine provides planners with the necessary foundation to apply processes to complex problems. When you add other agencies to work with, the complexity increases exponentially and building relationships becomes paramount in the operational environment. As the ability to apply a fundamental understanding of doctrine improves, coupled with other stakeholders’ perspectives, the more effective and adaptable a planner becomes.”
The course emphasizes working with non-DOD, interagency and non-government organizations. It also familiarizes students with the concept of strategic communication, viewed through the lens of a commander's communications strategy. The emphasis on these topics requires participants to get out of their comfort zone and away from the military mindset in order to develop a response that is less DoD-centric and more inclusive of the interagency contributions to mission accomplishment.
The two-week Joint Enabling Capabilities Planners’ Course is currently offered quarterly. The first five days focus on introductory material and the Planning Initiation and Mission Analysis steps of the Joint Operational Planning Process (JOPP). The second week covers COA development; COA analysis and wargaming; COA comparison; COA approval and Plan and Order Development. Over two-thirds of the course is spent applying the JOPP in practical exercises grounded in a real-world scenarios -- which ultimately means more effective planners in real-world events.
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