Lawrence Assists with Military Training

By Patterson, Lisa K. | Public Management, November 2002 | Go to article overview
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Lawrence Assists with Military Training

Patterson, Lisa K., Public Management

It appears that the attack upon Lawrence by the Wildcats came as a complete surprise to the local Jayhawk population. City government and the news media believed the war was over and that friendly forces of Jayhawks had secured the border. Locals are suspicious of any information provided by the U.S. Army. Radical forces caused some casualties in the local police force, but civilian casualties have been almost nonexistent. The national media are downplaying the incident to prevent panic in the population at large.

Is this a description of an event in Lawrence, Kansas, or a scene from a war-torn country? The answer is, both. This Jayhawks-versus-Wildcats scenario has been taken from a training exercise used in the battle commands development course by the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College located at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Nearly three years ago, now-retired Lieutenant Colonel Bob Topping, who was developing a program for urban command training at Fort Leavenworth, came to Lawrence City Manager Mike Wildgen for assistance. The college was looking to expand its training initiative for battalion and brigade commanders beyond the existing computer simulations into a real-world experience. The Lawrence community offered a prime location to exercise the skills learned in an urban setting. Supporting our dedicated military officers, Wildgen and city officials agreed that the city would participate in the Army's training.

Using enhanced-simulation tactical technology, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College conducts pre-command training in a three-week course held 12 times a year for combat arms battalion and brigade commanders. The course develops officers who can direct and sustain units; fight; solve tactical problems despite uncertainty; and understand the link between decisions and decision-making tools.

The main purpose of the program is to allow commanders to practice making complex decisions amid the fog, friction, and uncertainty normally associated with military operations. The relationship established with Lawrence gives commanders the opportunity to participate in a unique training session.

Lawrence staff members spend approximately a half-hour every few weeks meeting with the commanders, either one-on-one or in groups of two. Participants in the training exercise include the directors of the departments of public works, neighborhood resources, human relations/human resources, planning, finance, and information systems, as well as the police chief, wastewater treatment superintendent, parks and recreation assistant director, communications coordinator, and transit administrator.

The Army takes good advantage of the entire Lawrence community by also meeting with members of the local media, emergency management staff, and the chamber of commerce. The official exercise involves role-playing exchanges and a continuation of the scenario. Most often, however, the conversations are real-world discussions about the intricacies of providing services to a community and maintaining an infrastructure. City staff have met with military personnel who have been in combat, as well as shared insights with those who are about to take command of their first units.

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