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U.S. Marines play a game of Memoir 44’—a war-themed strategy board game based on historical World War II battles—on Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 10.

Photo by Cpl. Timothy Hernandez

Marine Corps to build innovative wargaming center

25 Aug 2020 | Matt Gonzales The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

The Marine Corps will soon build a state-of-the-art facility to better visualize the threat environment, gain competitive advantages and simulate future operating environments.

The center is expected to break ground in fiscal year 2021 and will be uniquely designed to leverage modern simulation technologies to enhance the wargaming experience for Marines. Once complete, the Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center will enable better equipped and trained Marines, and improved decision-making on the battlefield.

Located aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, the 100,000-square-foot facility is expected to house more than a dozen wargames each year, including two large-scale, 250-person exercises. Simulations will offer a realistic representation of future operating environments.

"In order to stay ahead of peer competitors, it is vital that the Marine Corps conduct constant wargames,” said Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, deputy commandant, Combat Development and Integration. “The data that comes from such wargames enables us to more rapidly determine which capabilities we will need for future fights."

“A wargaming center at Quantico ensures that these wargames take place at the home of Combat Development, the Warfighting Laboratory, Marine Corps University and our Acquisitions Command, and ensures that this purpose-built facility is easily accessible for all those in the National Capitol Region who similarly need this capability."

21st-century capabilities

Once established, the wargaming center will comprise an auditorium, gaming classrooms, conference room and other spaces to support wargaming needs.

“...The data that comes from such wargames enables us to more rapidly determine which capabilities we will need for future fights." Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, deputy commandant, a Combat Development and Integration deputy commandant

As part of its mission to acquire information technology and ground weapon systems for the Marine Corps, Marine Corps Systems Command is working with CD&I, MCWL and industry to build the facility and procure the required capabilities.

“The Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center will serve the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Headquarters Marine Corps staff, and the Operating Forces,” said Sharleene Prieur, MCSC’s deputy program manager for the Wargaming Capability. “It will also support the Corps’ ability to wargame with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and our [Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental and Multinational] partners.”

The wargaming center’s capabilities will enable users to identify issues, consider objectives, and scope and analyze the problems. The resulting wargames will provide data and analytics to inform decisions affecting force development, force management, system functionality and service functionality.

“The true value proposition of wargaming lies in the construction of a competitive framework allowing the thinking enemy to confront and thwart his opponent and thereby challenge concepts, capabilities and force design,” said William J. Lademan, Ph.D., technical director for the Wargaming Division at MCWL. “Constructing this framework produces the added benefit of being able to investigate hypotheticals, concepts and technologies in a timely and cost effective manner.”

Through the wargaming center, Marines will be able to run “excursions” and iterations while controlling specific factors. When Marines are able to game a multitude of scenarios, they can make necessary, educated assessments to validate or adjust force design-related decisions. Simulations will support all existing and developing weapon platforms and capabilities in all regions of the globe.

Know The Rules Photo by Cpl. Timothy Hernandez
U.S. Marines check game rules during a game of Memoir 44’ on Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 10.

Preparing for future fight

Wargames simulate realistic warfare, and may include computer-based exercises or other artificial vehicles that allow users to consider scenarios for obtaining success in a hostile environment. The Marine Corps employs wargames to enhance tactical and strategic decision-making, to test new tactics and strategies, and to predict trends in future conflicts.

Wargaming has become increasingly important in recent years, as the United States’ adversaries continue to strengthen. To combat growing threats, several branches of service are leveraging wargaming simulations into their training and education process.

In his 2019 Commandant’s Planning Guidance, Gen. David Berger, the 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps, emphasized the importance of wargaming in supporting the future Marine. He called the effective integration of wargaming into force design, education and training, “essential to charting our course in an era of strategic fluidity and rapid change.”

In 2019, Maj. Gen. William F. Mullen, commanding general for the Marine Corps’ Training and Education Command, spoke about the importance of building a wargaming center to house 21st-century simulation activities.
“We have to get Marines to make more decisions under pressure against a live, thinking enemy trying to defeat them,” said Mullen. “[The wargaming center will] help us gain that intellectual edge.”
The new wargaming facility, and associated architecture and staff are explicitly designed to achieve advanced wargaming and analytics.

“By using sophisticated wargaming and analytic methods and technology to enhance design methodologies in considering complex and fluid problems, the Marine Corps will produce refined outcomes that support concept development, force design and operational problems in compressed time periods—and will do so continuously,” said Col. Timothy Barrick, director of the Wargaming Division at MCWL.

The wargaming center is scheduled for completion in 4th quarter of fiscal year 2023. It is expected to reach Initial Operating Capability in fiscal year 2024 and hit Full Operational Capability in fiscal year 2025. The Wargaming Capability Program Office at MCSC will continue to provide acquisition support for the facility throughout its lifecycle.