AFLCMC's Rapid Sustainment Office uses KingFish ACE game to teach military readiness and strategy

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  • By Staff Sgt. Mikaley Kline, Air Force Life Cycle Management Public Affairs
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Excited chatter and strategic debate fills the room while various teams discuss the best way to generate combat air power from possibly austere locations in the Indo-Pacific region.

One might think this was a brainstorming session behind closed doors, but this was really a group of military and government civilians learning how to play the KingFish Agile Combat Employment (ACE) board game.

KingFish ACE is a strategy game with a strong emphasis on creativity and player freedom. Players learn the value in communication, time and resource management, risk taking, and planning. The tabletop game closely resembles games like Risk or Dungeons and Dragons.

“This is an opportunity to get out into the greater Air Force and spread the word on future concepts, systems and capabilities that we’re working on,” explained Lt. Col. Jarrett Weiblen of demonstrating the game at the Rapid Sustainment Office. Weiblen is assigned to Headquarters Air Force Futures and Concepts Division. “It’s a great way to touch base with experts who might have some great ideas, but also allows us to play through scenarios and provides people with a hands-on learning opportunity” he continued.

Capt. Jordan Kelleher, also with HAF Futures and Concepts Division, stresses the game is for Airmen of any rank.

“This is a game that should be played by Airmen of any rank and background without requiring any prior knowledge of operations, logistics or capabilities,” Kelleher said. “It’s great seeing Airmen and players getting a hands-on experience because that’s where you see a lot of buy-in and people actually getting excited about their turn and getting to be in control.”

KingFish ACE allows members with different expertise and career fields the opportunity to come together for coordination.

“You bring in people from a variety of fields such as operations, aircraft maintenance, support to put them on teams working together to solve a problem,” Weiblen added. “We really see a lot of valuable learning taking place since it forces people to work together across those functional silos.”

When Weiblen was working ACE exercises in the field, he mentioned  that bringing people together with a shared understanding of a problem proved challenging.

KingFish ACE was developed by Lt. Col. Troy Pierce, a previous chief of HAF’s ACE capability development team,” explained Kelleher. “He developed the game when he was a student at the U.S. Marine Corps War College in early 2021. It’s called KingFish ACE because the tactical airlift control elements typically use the callsign 'kingfish' while successfully opening airfields in the Vietnam War.”

The KingFish ACE instructors hope that people take away how important it is to have a shared understanding of a problem set.

“We want people to realize that there is never a perfect solution, and I really hope is for people to feel empowered and understand the need for decision making across all leadership echelons,” Weiblen said. “So that if they’re in the field they understand that they’re empowered to assume risk is appropriate and make decisions in alignment with commander’s intent to accomplish mission objectives.”

For participants this was a great opportunity to get a hands-on demonstration of how Agile Combat Employment works.

“Our team is being tasked with doing a bunch of ACE related projects so this was a really good opportunity for us to illustrate the ACE concept and it will help us in how we approach our future projects,” said Tyron Gray, Data and Environment Technology focus area lead for the Rapid Sustainment Office. “I really enjoyed the teamwork aspect of this game since it really allows us to come together to work during a really fast paced environment.”