Iwakuni's MWSS-171 challenges personnel to war game

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Phuchung Nguyen
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Phuchung Nguyen

Iwakuni's MWSS-171 challenges personnel to war game

by Sgt. Phuchung Nguyen
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni


In war, uncertainty is unavoidable. Teaching and developing Marines to be critical thinkers prepares them to make timely decisions with the information at hand. Traditional professional military education curriculum slide shows present ideas and concepts to the audience. However, adapting a more engaging and interactive teaching method can help the audience retain those developed skills. One such method already in action is war gaming.

From April 25-29, 2022, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 introduced this type of development to their E-5 and below personnel.

War games and simulations have been around for a while, but their application in the military has increased in recent years. They are used by commanders, combat-focused schools, and advanced level courses. War games provide an opportunity to teach commanders and senior leaders to think critically and strategize the most effective and efficient plans, which makes it an important tool for daily decision making. This level of skill development is an important ability to have to support and evolve the force. To see how the competitors respond to learning with a less traditional form of professional military education, teams were arranged by company and put in a bracket to compete with their peers and started to play the war game.

“With the changes from the Commandant’s planning guidance, what better way to create more critical thinkers than to put them in a scenario-based war-game in the Indo-Pacific region in a controlled environment where they can learn about capabilities, support requirements and effects of decisions,” said Maj. Milton Rehbein, the executive officer of MWSS-171, Marine Aircraft Group 12.

This game, Fleet Marine Force Indo-Pacific, puts two teams of three against each other, with a variety of scenarios; the objectives and challenges vary. They must complete their objective within a set number of turns. This encourages players to not only plan their actions, but also communicate with their teammates to accomplish a mission.

“In the game, players take turns commanding their troops to achieve their assigned objectives,” Sgt. Cody Maynard, the data chief with MWSS-171, explained. Maynard was tasked with moderating the game and challenging the units that fall under MAG-12. “The game allows Marines to think outside the box and puts them in ever-evolving positions that require them to establish new strategies.”

The military runs war games similar to this all around the world, however, they are primarily for commanders, officers, and staff noncommissioned officers, preparing them to lead the fighting force. Introducing this game to the younger generation of enlisted personnel increases readiness and effectiveness for the future of the military.

Although this game is new to MWSS-171, the Marines have taken interest in the game and developing their skills.

“I have been enjoying the game, especially since it contains realistic scenarios,” said Cpl. Kristine Ordinario, a combat engineer with MWSS-171. “You are thinking ahead, planning what your next action is going to be, and meeting in the middle with your teammates.”

Introducing immersive and engaging ways of learning can allow personnel to retain the skills they’ve learned and apply them to daily tasks. As the Marine Corps’ policies push toward modernization, the instruction and development of Marines do too, not only for the betterment of the Marine Corps, but also for those who serve.

Photo caption:

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ridge Green, a generator mechanic with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, simulates an attack against a competitor during a squadron war game competition at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, April 26, 2022. The simple yet dynamic game system, in line with the commandant’s force design and modernization plan, increased Marines' and Sailors' operational awareness of the Indo-Pacific region and improved their problem-solving ability. 

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