Military units are very complex, interdependent and integrated socio-technical systems in terms of their management tasks, structure and behavior. For that reason, decision making process in military operations is very complicated but at the same time, has a vital importance. Trial and error method in decision making does not seem to be a viable approach in the battlefield management -in a sense crisis management- because of inherent risks and costs.
Interactive combat simulation models are being used in Turkish Army Academy, with an inquiry-oriented, creative, learner directed learning process to create an experiential environment in which tomorrow's battlefield leaders can (a) learn from their mistakes, (b) analyze the results of their decisions and (c) gain "sufficient" battlefield experience through virtual battles.
Battlefield leader is defined as a decision-maker who has an ability to grasp the big picture of the given situation and makes "proper" decisions at the "right" time instances. Decision-making is the most vital and unavoidable process for a battlefield leader, since, his main responsibility is to analyze all available information with his intuition by considering all alternatives and select the best. Most of the distinguished military leaders became famous in the battlefields. However, it is required to increase the battlefield leadership potentialities of military officers during peacetime. For that reason, education of tomorrow's leaders must contribute to the required talents of the battlefields.
"Crisis management is the art of removing much of the risk and uncertainty to allow you to achieve more control over your own destiny." [Fink, 1986, pp. 15] He defines crisis from business oriented point of view. If it is defined in terms of military point of view, it is "... any situation that runs the risk of increasing in intensity and high probability of creating damaging results. Mittroff (1993) defined five phases of crisis management as: (a) Signal detection (b) Preparation / Prevention (c) Containment / Damage limitation (d) Recovery (e) Learning.
Battlefield management resembles to crisis management from several respects. In the battlefield management, decision-maker should bear high risk and at the same time give responses in very short notices. For that reason, battlefield leader is at the center of this crisis management. Since the leader is at the center of a crisis policy, he plays the most crucial role of his mission. He must be decisive but at the same time meet goals without giving too many casualties. With this respect battlefield leader should give his "best shot" spontaneously - occasional decision- with available limited time, information and resources. While making his decisions, battlefield leader mainly uses his mental models which are based on his knowledge, experience, intuition, and sense of right and wrong. For that reason, it is a must for military academies to focus on improving the necessary talents of opportunity decision making.
Leaders should have cognitive ability in order to "...gather, integrate, and interpret enormous amounts of information." [Locke et. al, 1991] Leaders should also be competent in selecting the "useful, and valid" information among the enormous information pool. The authors list the required abilities for a "keen mind" as: (a) strong analytical ability, (b) good judgement, (c) capacity to think strategically, (d) think in a multidimensional manner. In addition to those listed above, it is suggested that leaders should have an ability to see the system as a whole in order to capture the "big picture", without getting lost in the details. Locke et. al. (1991) relates problem solving with decision making skills of a leader. This ability is proportional to his ability to see the big picture and grasp the situation. If leaders don't have insights about the given situations, then it causes deficiencies in the chain of command sub-system of the battlefield management system.
"Leaders who are experienced in a company or industry often use intuition (or subconscious knowledge based on past experience) to solve familiar problems." [Locke et. al, 1991, pp. 43] This notion what is described as opportunity decision making, and requires mental modeling and experience of the decision-maker. So how should battlefield leaders be equipped with this kind of experience and systems thinking attitude? One way to address this question is to use interactive simulation wargames intensely during the education phase. "Decision making, especially crisis decisions, must be executed with greater speed. Fortunately, decision making is a skill that can be learned and greatly improved upon" [Kuczmarski et. al., 1995, pp. 227]. Interactive wargames are being used as a main tool for improving the decision making process in training and education. As Kuczmarski (1995) states, managers should "involve their hearts to the decision making process in addition to heads." [Kuczmarski et. al., 1995, pp. 226] With his terminology "heart" plays vital role for a battlefield leader, since he relies mostly on his intuition and mental models because of the time and information limitations in the battlefield.
Programmed decisions are mainly held by standard operating procedures. However, nonprogrammed decisions are unexpected and difficult to foresee, they do require talent and experience. For that reason, judgement, intuition, and creativity play major role in nonprogrammed decisions. With this respect, interactive combat simulation models are being used to equip tomorrow's battlefield leaders with those talents from today.
The first use of games for education and development were the war game simulations of Wei-Hai, which originated in China about 3,000 BC and the Hindu game of Chaturanga. These games had a vague similarity to the early seventeenth century warfare game, chess. [Keys et. al., 1990] The nature of the interactive simulation environment provides leaders to run numerous experiments in a relatively short period of time and to conduct after action review (AAR), graphical analysis, and statistical tests just after running on the computer screen with animation. Interactive simulation models allow leaders to see the battlefield dynamics with all dimensions which helps to explain complex situations in a more comprehensive way. With this respect it implements systems thinking approach in learning. As Checkland (1989) states, "..soft systems methodology is a learning, not an optimizing system."
Advantages of using the simulation games in education can be listed as: (a) innovative learning, (b) questioning minds, (c) creativity, (d) facilitating systems thinking, (e) gaining experience which leads learning through experimentation, (f) after action review which is a feedback process that yields learning, (g) supporting their decisions with statistical tests, (h) personal stand alone learning tool, (i) facts teaching method, (j) opportunity decision making, (k) learning while entertaining.
Using computerized interactive simulation models in battlefield leader education program plays crucial role since they make it possible to attain three main goals. These goals and levels defined by Simons (1993) can be applied to battlefield leadership education:
Inquiry-oriented, creative, learner directed learning process, depends on new emerging tool of computers in education. These computers create theaters of learning in which virtual realities can be played out. [Richmond, 1993] The suggested battlefield leadership education program is handled in this computer-based learning environment and intends to build creative, questioning, experiential learning process in Turkish Army Academy (TAA). This new learning process and environment contributed understanding complex socio-technical system of battlefield from different perspectives.
All learning depends on feedback, for that reason, learning is actually a feedback process. [Sterman, 1994] Thus, After Action Review process has the highest importance in which learning occurs with group dynamics. As Sterman (1994) defines the learning feedback processes in the context of existing strategies, decision rules, culture with mental modeling. During war main talent of battlefield leader is nothing but decision-making by considering given information and his intuition. In the revised version of Sterman's (1994) learning feedback process feedback stimulates learning which improves mental models. In the battlefield, it is required that a leader should mostly rely on his mental models. For that reason, Armies that can improve the insights and experience as well as knowledge of their leaders will succeed. The most promising method of meeting this requirement is interactive simulation of combat models. These combat models are being used to create experiential environments within which learning and behavioral changes can occur and in which battlefield leadership skills can be improved.
Both from the literature survey and the actual field experience gained by using interactive combat simulation models running on the computers show that simulation approach seems to be an important tool for the improvement in decision making process in leader education. The current developments in computer technology have made this tool available for educational purposes. For that reason, inquiry-oriented, creative, learner directed learning process has begun to be implemented in Turkish Army Academy in order to facilitate battlefield leadership education which intends to equip cadets with systems thinking and battlefield experience prior to their assignments in an experiential environment. With such an environment, as Keys et. al. (1990) state, it allows the cadets to apply prior knowledge doctrine and tactics while developing commitment to exercise and experiencing a real sense of personal accomplishment or failure which contributes experience gaining and learning.
As a result of employing simulation as a teaching tool in Turkish Military Academy it provided ample evidences that, the teaching environment becomes more creative, efficient, learning facilitating, while managing and controlling socio-technical military systems and understanding the implications of different tactics in the virtual battlefield via interactive simulation combat models.
Simulation provides a vital experience with a complex socio-technical system where players can easily see how the collective result of individually sensible decisions of subordinate commanders/leaders cause a different result for a whole system; where they can see the connection between the structure of a system and the dynamics it generates.
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