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NEWS | March 29, 2023

U.S. Sixth Fleet Develops Wargaming Capability

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jasmine Suarez

The U.S. Naval Post Graduate School (NPS) conducted a two-week Basic Analytic Wargaming Course (BAWC) for U.S. Sixth Fleet on Naval Support Activity (NSA) Naples, Italy, Feb. 27-March 10, 2023.

The Sixth Fleet wargaming department was developed last year under the deliberate plans directorate and is the first numbered fleet, in recent history, to have a resident capability.

Wargaming is a time-honored tradition in the U.S. Navy, going back to the late 1880s, credited with shaping the naval strategy that led to victory in the Pacific during World War II. They consist of three elements: decisions, competition or conflict, and the consequences of those decisions. Used to derive information that assists military commanders in reaching decisions and developing strategy, the exercise provides a safe, controlled environment for decision-makers to learn the consequences of their decisions.

“This course was designed to train a cadre of personnel,” said Charles Leonard, an operational planner and wargaming subject matter expert at Sixth Fleet. “By the end of the 10-day course, everyone who participated should be able to design, develop, conduct, and analyze future wargames in support of Sixth Fleet.”

According to Dr. Jeff Appleget (Col. retired), director of the Naval Warfare Studies Institute Wargaming Center at NPS, “Wargaming is not a pure science, or exclusively an art – it is a craft that should be continuously practiced.”

“We were taught that wargaming is a craft,” Leonard said. “The only way to perfect your craft and become a practitioner of wargaming is with hands on experience and continued learning.”

Leonard was one of 18 participants in the BAWC and he said, “I believe the course was successful. I think it gave us the knowledge and skills needed to jump into a wargaming exercise or into a real world event.” 

David Watkins, Naval Forces Europe-Naval Forces Africa, U.S. Sixth Fleet Deputy Director of Deliberate Plans & Wargaming said, “Wargaming provides decision making experience and enables you to gather information on the situation that is wargamed.  Wargaming does not provide validation to a course of action, but it does provide understanding to the effects of decisions.”

As for the future of this capability within Sixth Fleet, Watkins said, “We are in the initial stages of developing this capability. We plan to provide additional advanced training to our cadre in order to provide an advanced wargaming capability for our leadership and staff.”

And for Watkins and his team, their goal is to make an impact with their wargaming capability.

"Our goal is to be the premier maritime wargaming Center of Excellence in this theater and support U.S. and NATO decision makers and maritime planning efforts,” said Watkins.

To find out more information about wargaming, visit the NPS website and the U.S. Naval War College website.

For more than 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.

Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.