The National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska recently hosted a virtual wargame for Worcester Polytechnic Institute — pitting Army ROTC against Air Force ROTC.
The NSRI game, Rothgar Rebellion, was refined by an interdisciplinary, joint team of cadets and civilian students from the University of Nebraska (NU) and WPI over the summer. Cadets Harrison Smith and Evan Mackie led the virtual event for WPI and NSRI staff facilitated the experience from headquarters in Omaha, Neb.
After an intense, hard-fought wargame, the Army team was ultimately declared victors.
“I, along with the other NSRI interns, spent a lot of time making Rothgar Rebellion the best game that it could possibly be, and to see the game played through in a real-life setting by my peers helped to demonstrate the real-world applications of all the work that we put in over the summer,” Smith said.
Rothgar Rebellion explores how cyber attacks can impact nuclear escalation control strategies, an area specifically relevant to the nuclear command, control and communications mission space of NSRI’s sponsor U.S. Strategic Command.
“The participants walked away from the game with a deeper understanding of how connected cyber warfare and nuclear deterrence can be and how important it is to national security,” Smith said. “I also believe that the participants left the game with a better sense of how much things can go wrong, but despite how bad things can go, to not give up on the fight.
“Halfway through our game the Air Force team was hurting badly in terms of their overall position, but through the fourth and fifth rounds they were able to pull themselves up and end the game in a much better spot than they were halfway through.”
Through roleplaying, wargaming unearths unique insights and variables in complex and competitive situations that wouldn’t necessarily arise in simple discussions or brainstorming. The technique allows participants to gain better insight into decision-making.
Wargames can be applied to any competitive scenario, from global politics to local business to risk management. NSRI uses wargames to bring military, academic, government and commercial entities together to discover potential solutions to the country’s most perplexing issues.
"We designed this wargame to give players an opportunity to lead and to learn new concepts in an environment where the stakes are low,” said Dr. James Taylor, NSRI director of strategic mission systems. “I'm so pleased at the way these future officers prepared for the game, immersed themselves in their roles and made the tough calls to achieve their objectives.
“These kinds of experiential learning opportunities are crucial for our military and civilian leaders to understand the role that nuclear weapons play in underpinning our national security."