Medill Washington and National War College students simulate reaction to South China seas war game

On May 10, the National War College, which educates senior military and civilian agency leaders for high-level command and policy positions, hosted 15 Medill graduate students for the day. After a morning discussion of civil-military relations, the students conducted a war game – a simulation of how journalists and officials at the Pentagon, White House and State Department would deal with a hypothetical crisis in the South China Sea involving China, Japan and Vietnam.

Both Medill and War College students were provided extensive background briefings on the three countries and others in the area.

For the simulation, everyone was given two National Security Council documents outlining military and civilian naval aggressions among the three countries. Medill students Casey Egan and Em Steck took lead roles as web producer and social media manager under the direction of Medill Executive Editor Ellen Shearer, putting out a steady stream of news updates on simulated websites, Twitter feeds and Facebook Live, taking feeds from students stationed at the “Pentagon,” “White House” and “State Department.” They were getting background interviews from NWC students as well as quick gaggle-type news conferences and one-on-one interviews on the record. NWC students also were issuing statements and press releases.

The exercise was capped by a press conference involving a spokesperson from the simulated Pentagon, White House and National Security Council. Their performances were critiqued by Medill Washington Programs Director Joie Chen, Military Times reporter and Medill alum Meghann Meyers and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, as well as several other diplomatic and military public affairs officers.

It was the fourth annual embed of Medill students at the National War College, begun by Shearer and outgoing NWC Dean David Tretler.