TWSEAS and Maneuver Warfare

by Capt G. R. Wright

Nearly a year ago (Apr81 GAZETTE) LtCol M.D. Wyly stated that he received a disquieting signal whenever he heard a briefing on a Marine Corps exercise that used the computer TWSEAS (Tactical Warfare Simulation, Evaluation, and Analysis System) to measure the would-be casualties. He went on to say that we have lost sight of the important measures of good tactics and implied that the TWSEAS concept is part of an attrition-minded mentality that ignores good tactics. More recently (Feb82 GAZETTE) CWO-2 B.W. Lavender has advanced similar views.

The mistakes of those who misdirect their efforts and who forget our real mission (find, close with, and destroy by fire and maneuver) should not be blamed on a machine, a mere tool. This particular tool, TWSEAS, is the finest equipment that the Marine Corps has developed to date to train unit staffs in their tactical jobs. Its practical effect is precisely the opposite of what its critics think.

It must first be recognized that the current attrition-oriented mentality, which is so berated by maneuver warfare enthusisats, is a product of a post-Korean War search for objective standards by which to measure commanders and combat efficiency. This objective standard approach is itself part of a “management” approach that has been adopted by the military because of what it perceives as legitimate business-like methods in the civilian sector. It is this attractive “businessman” image that can produce rational, persuasive statistics to “prove” that one is successful in combat situations. It is unfortunate that these statistics often have little to do with the real business of winning decisive engagements. Thus, the body count syndrome received, long ago, a well-deserved disapproval from most Marines.

Smoothly packaged media coverage also serves to attract military leaders to the attrition-oriented mentality, reinforcing the effects of the “management” approach. With the certainty that any future conflict is sure to be shown nightly to 226,000,000 Americans, commanders will want to have measurable results, and may be tempted to shape their strategy and tactics to achieve them. Anything that shows “progress” will be snatched up, like a plank in the hands of a drowning man. Attrition then, is likely to be used as the placard of victory for the inept.

How does all this relate to TWSEAS? It doesn’t, really. One should first understand a tool before he condemns it. This tool especially should be understood. There are three TWSEASs in the Marine Corps; one at Camp Lejeune, one at Camp Pendleton, and one at Quantico. Each system is essentially a program in a box that allows for realistic map maneuver or field maneuver exercises. The system is realistic for the following reasons:

* It allows for better bailledamage assessments. There should be fewer “bangety-bang” arguments which occur despite the tactical exercise coordinator’s decisions regarding casualty assessments. The computer’s math calculations deal with viable probabilities that take into account such factors as terrain, troop posture, tactical advantage, and firepower. If a platoon in the open (in field or on map) receives enemy incoming, the casualty assessment will be reasonable; if a tank platoon is ambushed by four T-72s at close range, the casualties will be equally reasonable, though not particularly palatable.

* Participants are stripped of excuses. Everything that major staff elements must do for real combat must be done for a TWSEAS exercise. This is particularly applicable to the exercises held annually for students at Quantico. Staffs there must provide for aerial reconnaissance, aerial preparation and damage assessment, NGF preparation, and viable landing, logistic, intelligence, embarkation plans. All exercising staffs must respond to tactical contingencies by proper, doctrinally sound use of maneuvers and support assets. If a staff does not do its homework or function competently, it will lose the battle.

* Real time limitations are built in. If Class V supplies are not requested in a timely manner the friendly forces will do without until resupply is brought from shipboard or seabased dumps perhaps hours later. In the meantime, the opposing force commander will be doing his best to sweep the beach clean of friendly forces. Staffs are kept busy processing messages and reacting to developments that occur at an often-stressing pace.

* Communications are not simulated. For FMF users, the same communication equipment, nets, and personnel that work in the field, work with TWSEAS. In the map maneuver mode, the system is entirely “transparent” or invisible to the staff. The only ones looking at an electronic situation map are TEC personnel or their functional equivalents. At Quantico’s Amphibious Warfare School, exercises use a typical field communications system, reflecting student concern that actual communications difficulties be met and mastered.

LtCol Wyly says further, “Nothing that purports to measure success in combat-no TWSEAS, no computer, no controller, no war game-is worth its cost if it ignores the value of surprise, deception, attacking the flank as contrasted against the front, striking weak points compared to strong.” I couldn’t agree more, but must add two caveats. Firstly, sound tactics are nothing without sound staff procedures and planning. If the Germans have taught us anything, they taught us this. As long ago as the Napoleonic era, the great general himself, who today might be styled a “field Marine” or “maneuver warfare” tactician and who was then so fond of saying, “an army travels on its stomach,” was absolutely defeated by an obscure Englishman who thoroughly understood staff planning in the modern sense. One of TWSEAS‘s greatest strengths is that it truly exercises staff functions.

The second caveat: it must be understood that TWSEAS neither ignores or expounds use of sound tactics; it merely assesses the effects of tactics whether sound or unsound. Moreover, no “war game” fully measures intangibles such as troop discipline, motivation, will to win, or the emotional consequences of tactical surprise. Such things can only be passed by Marines to Marines and can only be measured by experienced leaders observing actual units in the field. This form of “measuring” belongs exclusively to the Corps’ field commanders.

Finally, once it is understood that TWSEAS is a painstakingly developed tool which exercises commanders and their staffs under realistic conditions, it is readily seen that it has nothing to do either with traditional attrition-minded tactics or the much-heralded maneuver warfare tactics. It is neutral. I will make only one further point. If maneuver warfare proponents really want to “sell” their cause to the Marine Corps, they can find no better tool in the world than TWSEAS. It would be a relatively simple matter to schedule either a field maneuver or map maneuver exercise at any TWSEAS location using maneuver warfare techniques in a test scenario. The exercise can be “recorded,” and replayed at any particular point in time to show a particular teaching point. Tapes of one exercise can be shipped to other locations to be “replayed.” The multiexercise capability, newly developed at Quantico, will even permit two staffs to play the same exercise simultaneously. This mode lends itself to one team using traditional tactics and the other using maneuver warfare tactics against precisely the same enemy assets on precisely the same terrain.

So the gauntlet is now thrown; let maneuver warfare come to TWSEAS, and we see what it is really made of.