DATE: 9 August, 2012
SUBJECT: After Action Report – Exercise CONNECTIONS 2012
FROM: Brian Train
TO: Dear Readers
CC: Dear Linkers 1. PURPOSE:
CONNECTIONS is an annual conference on civilian and military wargaming. 2012 marked the 19th consecutive year this conference had been held. This year the conference was hosted by the Centre for Applied Strategic Learning (CASL), a department of the National Defense University located at Fort McNair, Washington DC. The general purpose of the action was for this writer to deploy from home station in Victoria, Canada, participate in the Connections 2012 annual wargaming conference with host nation (HN) personnel in Washington DC, and to redeploy to Victoria.
Key tasks during the exercise were to:
- Attend and participate in presentations and discussions during the conference;
- Meet new people and strengthen connections with prior acquaintances;
- Conduct a major “show and tell” of the relevant design work I have been doing over the last year;
- Facilitate a working group in the Game Lab event, wherein conference participants collectively discussed the opening stages of how to design an educational game on a disaster response situation (for these purposes, the [REDACTED]). 2. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
This exercise was conducted in five phases: (i) Pre-deployment Phase: 1 June – 16 July 2012
In the pre-deployment phase, the focus of training was on logistical preparations for deployment and redeployment, and preparing game designs for the “game demos” part of the conference. Some time was spent doing preliminary reading and planning for the Game Lab event. (ii) Deployment Phase: 17 July – 22 July 2012
17 July – On arrival at the Victoria Airport at 0dark30, it was discovered that the flight to Los Angeles was cancelled. After considerable time spent waiting in line and with an agent, emplaned for Vancouver BC, where I sat for several hours before emplaning for San Francisco, followed by a flight to Los Angeles. Arrived over six hours late; however, the rail portion of the deployment was the following day so there was no worry about making a connection.
18-20 July – travel to Union Station in Los Angeles to catch the afternoon train to Chicago, called the Southwest Chief. Travelling with Joe Miranda (editor of Strategy and Tactics, World at War and Modern War magazines, the world’s most prolific wargame designer, bon vivant, raconteur and inveterate punster). I’d never taken a long train trip before. Accommodation on the train was a roomette, which consisted of two chairs facing each other that converted into a bed at night, while a second bunk could be swung down from the ceiling. It was awfully hot so it was not easy to get enough sleep. And finally, 28 miles short of Chicago after travelling over 2,600 miles from Los Angeles, the engine packed it in – I think we just ran out of gas but it’s Amtrak, they don’t have to explain what happened. We waited three hours in a stifling hot car that we could not leave with no power and windows that did not open, until they sent out an engine to push us into Chicago very slowly.
Me and Joe Miranda in "Albakoikee", NM
After a pre-planned night and day in Chicago, we took the train the rest of the way to Washington DC. After crossing the Mississippi everything was much greener and bumpier than the West, which looked fairly badly affected by the drought. The hotel in Washington was a block from the Navy Yard Metro stop, which was convenient, and a bit more than a mile from the National Defense University. We usually caught rides though, as it was over 95 degrees and humid all the time we were there it would have been a pretty hot walk. (iii) Employment Phase: 23 July – 26 July 2012
Conduct of the conference at National Defense University, Washington DC. I’ve outlined the entire agenda, with comments and rambling from my notes (in italics) on the parts I attended.[ APPROXIMATELY 3,000 WORDS REDACTED ]Day 4, Thursday, 26 July, Marshall Hall 155
This was largely Working Groups outbriefs and the best part, the Connections “Hot Wash” discussion. See 3. Lessons Learned.(iv) Redeployment Phase: 26 July – 29 July 2012
Spent Thursday and Friday walking around Washington with Joe Miranda. Thursday afternoon we went to the Dupont Circle area to scope out a nightclub that was going to have some kind of Goth night, and spent some time at a nicely stocked, very cheap bookstore that was right next door. Later walked around in Georgetown and had lunch there. That night we went back to the club (Phase 1), but the club remained shut even after 2200, so we walked back towards downtown, passing by the White House at midnight – there was one small light glowing there, as if the President had gotten up in the middle of the night and left the bathroom light on. All the Metros were shut down it was so late, so in the end we got a taxi back and went to bed about 0130.
Friday we walked around looking at many monuments, and I went into the Smithsonian (well, the one that is dedicated to American history, there are about five other Smithsonians) for a short while. Quite unexpectedly at the Lincoln Memorial we ran into Callie Cummins and Chris Cummins Jr., of Decision Games, who had been at the conference to sell a few games.
Saturday I saw Joe to Union Station as he was catching the train all the way back to Los Angeles, and then took the train out to Maryland, where I was met by Volko Ruhnke. We played a few turns of A Distant Plain
and had a nice dinner with him and his wife. Got back later and finished packing and moving items around various bags, as I usually do before travelling.
Sunday 29 July, returned by air to Victoria, Canada. Dulles Airport is a LONG way out of the city! Original plan was to go home via Chicago and Calgary, but flight was cancelled due to mechanical breakdown. After several hours delay, I got on a flight to San Francisco, then Victoria, which saw the return home several hours late, and with no luggage (this followed the next day). (v) Recovery Phase: 30 July 2012 onwards
Post-exercise repairs, cleaning, maintenance and critiques. Begin work on post-conference tasks. See 5. 3. LESSONS LEARNED
As always, there were lots of suggestions and lively discussion in the Hot Wash section of the conference. Some of them included:[ APPROXIMATELY 400 WORDS REDACTED ] 4. COMMENTS
The conference itself was an unqualified success – the only drawback was that there were so many excellent presentations, it was difficult to choose which to attend and which to pass up.
Approximately [REDACTED] people, mostly from the Beltway region but also from Canada, the European Union, and Singapore, participated. Portions of the conference were livestreamed on the Internet through the [REDACTED], and some speakers took part through videoconferencing.
Less successful were the deployment and redeployment phases – movement plans were drastically revised each way, due to circumstances beyond the unit’s control. However, the effects of the changes were mitigated by having extra “down time” incorporated into travel plans to begin with. And packing lighter would have been a help, as it would have allowed my bag to stay with me! I also found it difficult to sleep on the train due to the heat and motion, so arrived in Washington without adequate rest. It was certainly intersting to take a long train trip like this, but I'm not sure I would do it again.5. ACTION ITEMS
I have a number of things to do, read and revise as a result of this conference. Also, much of the rest of the year will be taken up with playtesting and refining A Distant Plain
. More details [REDACTED].
Thanks for reading.