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[ISN] Red Team U. creates critical thinkers
By John Milburn
Associated Press Writer
May 18, 2007
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- During World War II, British Field Marshal
Bernard Montgomery relied upon junior officers to study German Field
Marshal Irwin Rommel in Africa and Europe, then assess the Allies'
That idea's modern incarnation is the Red Team University course at Fort
Leavenworth's University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies. The
goal is to produce soldiers who don't hesitate to find the flaws in a
commander's strategies to prevent failed operations and save lives.
Eleven students from the Red Team University graduated Thursday from the
18-week course. Its curriculum is designed to forge officers who
anticipate cultural perceptions of U.S. coalition partners, adversaries
and others and to find vulnerabilities.
In short, they're supposed to think like the "red team" - the enemy -
and give other officers insight into that thinking. The first class
graduated in 2006, as the war in Iraq entered its fourth year.
"They learn to escape the gravitational pull of Western military
thought," said Greg Fontenot, a retired Army colonel and director of Red
Fontenot said the program teaches officers to approach problems and
solutions from multiple perspectives, including using anthropological
research about a given population. Students are also taught to work
independently to help senior military staff find answers they need
before plans are executed.
Maxie McFarland, deputy chief of staff for intelligence at the Army's
Training and Doctrine Command, told Thursday's graduates he became
involved in red team concepts when he was with the 2nd Armored Division
in the 1990s, when it was understaffed and lacked proper equipment.
"In order to win, it wasn't about the technology, and it wasn't about
the planning. It was the ability to outthink the opponent and get inside
his head," McFarland said.
The Red Team program also fits with the military's new counterinsurgency
strategy, jointly developed by the Army and Marines at Fort Leavenworth
under the direction of Gen. David Petraeus, now the top commander of
U.S. forces in Iraq.
But instructors note that Red Team graduates and their skills have wider
application than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"You don't know where you are going next," said Steve Rotkoff, a retired
The concept isn't new, of course. Montgomery tried to anticipate
Rommel's tactics, just as Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee seemed to have
the ability to guess what his Union counterparts would do during the
Red and blue teams have been part of U.S. military training for years.
Forces preparing for battle - the blue team - develop plans for
exercises, while the opponent - the red team - attempts to counter those
efforts by defending a position or disrupting operations.
But those traditional exercises were incomplete, McFarland said, because
they were scripted according to the blue team's plans, without allowing
the red team to alter its strategy and influence the blue team's
tactics. Giving the red team a more active role gives a more critical
mind-set to such exercises.
Susan Craig, a graduate of the first Red Team class, is now an analyst
with the Joint Intelligence Operations Center at the U.S. Pacific
Command. She wrote in a recent edition of Military Review that part of
red team training is learning to ask good questions of those making
decisions and to think outside one's own culture.
"We had to examine our most closely held beliefs and assumptions and
fundamentally transform the way we think," she wrote.
On the Net:
Fort Leavenworth: http://www.leavenworth.army.mil
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