By Penny Deere, Army, Woman’s Army Corps
Writing Type: Prose
By Penny Deere
I would pull out board games on the weekends with my children. We took over the dining room table. It was great quality time, and they requested it. I think back on how I actually got started playing war games and why and how life-changing these games would be during my military career.
I was embarrassed when I arrived at my first duty station as an intelligence analyst supervisor. I had just completed a very basic course in intelligence school (eight weeks) at Ft. Huachuca, Ariz. All of a sudden, I was in charge of an office full of other soldiers who knew much more than I did. I had just reclassified from being a postal clerk during my first 10 years in the service. I could run any aspect of the post office, including the post master position. I only changed specialties to get promoted.
It was during the Cold War, circa 1985, a matter of supply and demand. I needed to play catch up real fast. Not only did I need to learn about the enemy but also basic military tactics. One good thing was some of my new male subordinates had recently reclassified from other specialties – infantry, armor, artillery, air defense. I would pay close attention to them because they understood our military tactics.
However, three other female soldiers had reclassified just like me from an administrative field. They were in the same situation as myself, except I was in charge. They seemed less motivated and maybe a little slow on the draw, but I had faith I could whip them into shape. I was a leader regardless of what specialty training I had. The bottom line was we all were new, and we would learn together and build a team. But time was our real enemy, now. We had an important job; we needed to gather raw information, make it into intelligence and be ready for me to brief a three-star general every morning at 7 a.m. with our most current situation.
Luckily, my section had a warrant officer, which meant he had been enlisted previously and he knew his stuff. He could see there were major elements missing in the staff, so he came up with an interesting training format. He started from scratch. He pulled out a board game, with little tanks, artillery pieces, infantry and even bombers. We learned about their capabilities, as well as their enemy’s. We learned military tactics. The training was extensive and demanding, but it worked. Our crew became informed intelligence members of the securities forces in Germany until the wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union fell apart.
In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. We were called to the operation. Here we go again, I thought. I needed to learn about a new enemy, its weapons, military tactics and hopefully its limitations. In a matter of months, I was once again briefing the VII Corps commander in Desert Storm and Shield. My job was to have as much information as possible on the enemy forces affecting our units so the commander could make the best military decision possible in real time.
Although our board games at home were just for fun, that board game at Fort Huachucah was far more serious, teaching us how to win at something far more important.