Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Decisive Action Training Environment


War is Boring has obtained, via a FOIA request, a copy of the latest (April 2015) version of the US Army’s Decisive Action Training Environment. The 825 page DATE document offers a fictional military, political, and socio-economic setting, located within a semi-fictionalized Caucasus region, for use in Army training exercises, wargames, and other learning activities:

The purpose of this Decisive Action Training Environment (DATE) document, version 2.2, is to provide the US Army training community with a detailed description of the conditions of five operational environments (OEs) in the Caucasus region; specifically the countries of Ariana, Atropia, Donovia, Gorgas, and Limaria. It presents trainers with a tool to assist in the construction of scenarios for specific training events but does not provide a complete scenario. The DATE offers discussions of OE conditions through the Political, Military, Economic, Social, Information, Infrastructure, Physical Environment, and Time (PMESII-PT) variables. This DATE applies to all US Army units (Active Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve) that participate in an Army or joint training exercise.

This DATE will incorporate some real-world data and some artificial data in order to set the conditions for a wide range of training events, to include decisive operations. Section 2: Variables of the OE and Orders of Battle (OBs) provides the bulk of these details. The variable discussion explores the complex and ever-changing combination of conditions, circumstances, and influences that could affect military operations within a given OE. The PMESII-PT variables offer insight into each country’s independent, dynamic, and multi-dimensional environment. By defining these variables’ makeup and interoperability as they relate to a specific country, a picture emerges of the environment’s nature and characteristics. The OBs, which follow each country’s PMESII-PT variable discussions, contain the administrative force structure (AFS).

As War is Boring notes, the “fictional countries” bear striking resemblance to the real countries of the region:

Ariana — clearly filling in for Iran — is a theocracy ruled by a clerical caste. “A brutally efficient military ensures the continuation of the current power structure,” the guide explains. “A sham representative government appeases or distracts Western interests.”

Atropia and Limaria substitute for Azerbaijan and Armenia, respectively. The Army describes the first as a “classic dictatorship” and the second simply as an “autocracy.”

In Atropia, “every national success or failure reflects directly on the ruling family,” the handbook says — a clear reference to Heydar Aliyev, who governed the province of Azerbaijan under Soviet rule between 1969 and 1982, and then, in 1993, became the third president of independent Azerbaijan.

Then there’s Limaria. Its “key political goal is the survival and advancement of the Limarian ethnicity,” according to the DATE. “Any argument for action between Limarians can be won by the side offering better protection for the local and diaspora population.”

No clearer reference could be made to Armenia and the national sentiment of Armenians the world over. Much to the dismay of Turkish authorities, Armenians understandably and regularly petition foreign governments and organizations to recognize the genocide that occurred between 1915 and 1917, when suspicious Turkish authorities orchestrated the deaths of up to two million Armenians.

To this day, Ankara disputes this number and refuses to describe the events as systematic genocide.

Atropia and Limaria don’t get along in the Army’s war-gaming universe, either. The two countries are locked in conflict over a region called “Lower Janga,” with each supporting various militant factions such as the Free Lower Janga Movement and the Limarian Liberation Front.

Back in the real world, since 1988 the Armenians and Azeris have fought a prolonged but sporadic skirmish over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. In April 2016, factions in the area clashed, leading to what some observers described as a “four-day war.”

Donovia and Gorgas — stand-ins for Russia’s autonomous Caucasus republics and the independent Republic of Georgia, respectively — have a similarly tense relationship in the game world. The Army gives its most positive description to the residents of Gorgas.

“Gorgas is a political oddity in the region as an emerging representative democracy,” the DATE manual explains. “Gorgas is trying to make a democracy work and stands to lose much if let down by Western interests.”

By contrast, Donovia “is an authoritarian state led by a small, incestuous elite,” according to the DATE. “This group uses state power and resources to enrich itself and secure both domestic and international political support.”

This fake country covers the part of Russia occupied by the semi-autonomous and nominally Muslim provinces of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia and North Ossetia. In the real world, local and international media and humanitarian groups regularly describe Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov as a gangster.

The DATE handbook provides an overview of the overall strategic setting; a detailed summary of political, military, economic, social, information, infrastructure, physical environment, time, and order of battle data for each fictional country; an account of 77 recent events, which might be used as scenarios or vignettes; and a series of appendices with additional military information.


Collectively, it all represents an outstanding free resource for political-military simulation designers looking for a highly detailed, (semi-)fictionalized backdrop for their scenarios.


One response to “Decisive Action Training Environment

  1. Brant 17/05/2016 at 2:59 pm

    This isn’t really new. I remember this general concept from 2004 w/ the SCARNG on a Warfighter exercise, and again in 2007 with the OHARNG.

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