FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (March 25, 2010) - Representatives from several U.S. government agencies and nongovernmental organizations are working together with more than 250 U.S. and international students as part of the Joint Intermediate Staff Planning Exercise March 22-26 at the Lewis and Clark Center.

The exercise includes U.S. and international students from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and Canadian Forces College in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and civilian representatives from U.S. government agencies and nongovernmental organizations.

Clay Easterling, an assistant professor at CGSC and JISPE exercise coordinator, said the exercise is taking place collaboratively and in a distributed environment between CGSC and the Air Command and Staff College.

"Together, what we are providing is a unique opportunity in a capstone exercise for a select group of these officers to go forth and be a (joint task force) and all its components - land, air, sea and (special operations forces)," Easterling said.

He said the JISPE exercise is the first time CGSC students have been able to put together an entire joint spectrum requiring planning and considerations vertically and horizontally.

"We're stressing them to think about the uncertainties of the joint, interagency and multinational situations we put them into, and they're working the problem," Easterling said.

He said the exercise is based on Training and Doctrine Command's GAAT - Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey - scenario, and involves regional players such as Iran and the fictional country of Ahuristan. Easterling said the exercise requires students to plan for threats from conventional forces, insurgents and weapons of mass destruction, and coordinate their efforts with international partners, U.S. government agencies and nongovernmental organizations.

"That's what we want the students to see and take away, that this has to be done as the whole of government doing good things out there, not only for the United States, but for all its coalition partners," Easterling said.

He said the exercise is different this year than before because it includes more than 25 civilian representatives from U.S. government agencies and NGOs, including the State Department, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, CIA, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, International Red Cross and Campaignfor Innocent Victims in Conflict Worldwide.

Michelle Fanzo led an NGO in Afghanistan and is serving as a consultant to the exercise. She said the exercise presents a very real scenario different from what many Soldiers and civilians have experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I think very often we have gotten so focused on the Iraq-Afghanistan counterinsurgency model that we have maybe forgotten a little bit that this is a very common military operation that our guys here could be facing at any time," Fanzo said.

She said one of the challenges in civil-military operations is coordinating between people and organizations who do things very differently such as the military and NGOs. Fanzo said including interagency and NGO representatives in the exercise helps raise students' awareness that there are other players on the ground who need to be considered and can also be an asset to their operations.

Maj. Albert Jabarez, an infantry officer and student in Intermediate Level Education class 2010-01, said he learned and benefited from the expertise and experience of the interagency and NGO representatives.

"It's food for thought that I would not have gotten if it were just staying strictly military only, and I think that is value added in terms of being able to open up our eyes to how other people think," Jabarez said.

Jabarez, a veteran of three tours in Afghanistan, said he benefited from hearing the State Department's input and perspective on stability operations, and learning the differences in timelines between military and State Department operations.

Maj. Gil Rostain, a French armor officer and student at the Canadian Forces College, said he also benefited from interaction with U.S. government agency and NGO representatives.

"This wonderful ability to bring from the beginning the input from many other agencies, like your Department of State and other representatives of NGOs, to the game from the beginning, and that's very interesting and I think that's very fruitful," Rostain said.

Canadian Army Maj. Jason Langelier, an infantry officer and student at the Canadian Forces College, said learning how the U.S. military approaches planning processes will allow Canadian officers to provide a new perspective to their own planning processes.

"We hope to learn a different way of looking at the different steps," Langelier said.

He said much of the U.S. and Canadian planning processes are similar, but some of the process steps and terminology are different. Langelier said unlike Canadian planning exercises, the JISPE exercise focuses on a real region of the world and uses actual weather and terrain data.

"What's interesting is that they use actual locations, actual events that could materialize," Langelier said. "It makes it that much easier to appreciate the actual variables involved when you're doing the planning."

Several retired general officers and ambassadors are serving as senior mentors and advisers to the exercise, including Ambassador Richard Miles, former ambassador to Georgia, Azerbaijan and Bulgaria. Miles, a former Marine, said the GAAT region is difficult to navigate both militarily and politically, a situation he said is represented well in the JISPE exercise scenario.

"It's a complicated place, in this case Azerbaijan is a Muslim country, Russia is right there on the northern border, and Iran is involved," Miles said. "It's a complicated situation, and in that sense it brings all the complexities of that region to bear on the problem which makes it, not easy, they have to really struggle with it."

The Joint Intermediate Staff Planning Exercise ends March 26.