Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Game for Peace: Progressive Education in Peace Operations


As part of its “OnlineFirst” service, the Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation has just published a piece by Christopher J. Nannini, Jeffrey Alan Appleget, and Alejandro Hernandez of the Naval Postgraduate School on “Game for Peace: Progressive Education in Peace Operations.” For those interested in the use of simulations for peacekeeping training, the article is very useful reading.

We present a modeling and simulation approach that clearly increases the efficacy of training and education efforts for peace support operations. Our discussion involves how a computer simulation, the Peace Support Operations Model, is integrated into a training and education venue in Kyrgyzstan for a “Game for Peace.” On September 12–23, 2011 members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace Training and Education Centers collaborated to instruct a United Nations’ Peacekeeping Operations course at the Kyrgyz Separate Rifle Battalion in Bujum, Kyrgyzstan. Phase II of the course was also conducted on October 17–21, 2011 for members of the Peacekeeping Brigade of the Kazakhstan Army (KAZBRIG) in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Although such courses are a mainstay in NATO support in preparing member nations for peace support operations, the application of a computer simulation is unique. We relate the decision to use a computer simulation to support the training event and provide an overview of the methodology for planning and executing the game. Insights from the game about training and educating future peacekeepers and lessons for using computer simulations are instructive for future efforts and mark the way to leverage the advantages of computer simulations.

The article itself discusses how the Peace Support Operations Model has been adapted for use by the United States Partnership for Peace Training and Education Center:

The developers of the PSOM define two levels of decision-making within the game structure: the Strategic Interaction Process (SIP) and the Operational Game.17 The SIP provides a framework by which the political and diplomatic dimensions can be integrated into the exercise to shape the overall strategic environment. The Operational Game describes the process by which game participants make decisions, assign actions to units, evaluate observed changes and effects seen within the simulated environment, and modify unit actions in follow-on decision cycles as the game progresses.

In 2010, the developers identified several potential applications for the PSOM.11 We demonstrate one of the applications, education and training, to support the educational goals of the USPTC and its partners with the Game for Peace during the PKO course in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The educational goals for the course are as follows:

  • introduce the application of the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) in PKOs;
  • improve knowledge and skills for applying the MDMP in preparation for and execution of complex PKOs;
  • demonstrate the ability to apply tactical and operational knowledge in a multi-dimensional, complex peacekeeping environment as a member of a battalion or brigade-level staff;
  • demonstrate the ability to plan and deploy units in a PKO;
  • plan and assess the short-term impact of a UN PKO in multi-dimensional, complex PKOs;
  • plan and assess the long-term impact of a UN PKO in multi-dimensional, complex PKOs.

To create the Game for Peace, we selected the Operational Game process as described by the PSOM developers. We modified the process in order to create an exercise that would engage the Kyrgyz and Kazakh military officers and allow them to practice and explore staff decision-making and analysis for a UN PKO.

Participants assume the role of staff officers during the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to the fictional country of Yellowstone:

During the exercise, students play the role of brigade- level staff members deployed as a UN peacekeeping force consisting of three brigade-sized elements. The students enter into the exercise with the forces deployed to the fictitious country of Yellowstone following a second deployment as part of a Relief in Place (RIP).

At the beginning of the game, students assess prepared COAs reflecting unit tasks and commander’s intent as outlined in a baseline operational plan for the scenario. As the exercise progresses, students prepare and assess their own COAs. Instructors present COAs in an abbreviated MDMP. This adjustment to the MDMP allowed students to focus on unit locations, mission, intent, and activities associated with PKOs. In this manner students have the time to assess the COAs using selected measures of effectiveness (MOEs) from the PSOM.

The students evaluate the COAs with respect to five MOEs: security of the population; availability of humanitarian aid; legitimacy of the government; level of criminality within the region: and infrastructure. As the students analyze the COAs, they consider unit activities and desired effects in terms of first-, second-, and third- order effects. A first-order effect is a direct result of an action, with no intermediate consequences between the action and the effect. Additional outcomes that are caused by a first-order effect are known as second- and third- order effects. Consideration of second- and third-order effects during the planning process can help peacekeepers develop more effective and flexible plans.

The Game for Peace consists of several sub-events that, when executed in sequence by the training team, create a week-long, dynamic educational experience. The Game for Peace cycle consists of an introduction to the scenario by the training team, student preparation, several turns of the game, and an After Action Review (AAR).


The authors’ overall assessment of the initiative is very positive:

The Game for Peace offers a modeling and simulation approach that clearly increases the efficacy of training and education efforts for PSOs. The instructor team diversity and expertise created a robust educational experience that enhanced the learning environment for the game participants. The PSOM generated real-time, quantifiable MOEs based on students’ decisions, which facilitated interactive discussion of effects and knowledge assimilation. Emphasis on secondary and tertiary effects elevated key learning points from tactical to operational and strategic insights. Insights from the game about training and educating future peacekeepers and lessons for using computer simulations mark the way to leverage the use of computer simulations to significantly improve the educational outcomes, and core competencies for PSOs.

It might have been useful to have seen more discussion of the comparative advantages—and disadvantages—of using a computer-based/driven simulation rather than a more traditional command post exercise. On the one hand, using the PSOM in this way certainly generates more feedback data faster than a CPX might. On the other hand, that data may be of a form that is rather less like the “real thing,” or otherwise less tweakable. One also risks losing some of the element of human interaction, especially in politically complex multinational operations. (They did build in a student “red team” playing an insurgent opposition, which seems a good move). In most PKOs the actual military peacekeeping mission is a rather marginal humanitarian actor, with the real work in this area done by host governments, autonomous UN specialized agencies, and NGOs. It isn’t clear how much the training model built this into the process either.

The full article is behind the Sage paywall, so you’ll need a JDMS subscription to read it. However you’ll find powerpoint presentations covering some of the same ground here and here.

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