For the Corps, It Is Game On

The U.S. Marine Corps looks to a gaming-inspired course to train the next generation of cyber warriors.

Some U.S. Marine Corps cyber warriors are playing their way toward proficiency. The Corps’ Delta Company, Communication Training Battalion, has turned to gamification to foster a new cyber instruction method that is becoming much more than fun and games. Retooling teaching techniques gave rise to what is dubbed “2-3-6 training” to integrate the intelligence directorate with operations and communications, which in military parlance are designated by the numerals 2, 3 and 6.

The lessons are as entertaining as they are instructive and have proved quite alluring to today’s digital natives. The Communication Training Battalion’s (CTB’s) approach differs from other cyber planning units because 2-3-6 focuses on staff integration and is designed around games that simulate tactical operational environments.

Operating on a shoestring budget, Delta Company developed and delivered its gaming-inspired cyber planner course over the past year. The company, made up of Marine Corps captains, used action research methods, or learning by doing, and the general research method called grounded theory to study the effects of gaming on how students learn. Overall, studies show that gamification improves student comprehension and retention of instructive materials. In addition, applying gaming knowledge teaches students to independently solve problems.

The course recasts traditional lectures on real-world security events, such as embassy evacuations, malware outbreaks and open-source cyberspace-enabled information leaks, with lessons presented in the form of games. Students learn critical cyber lexicon and integration tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) while they play—literally. They also build skill sets, gain experience and become familiar with the language required to quickly integrate cyber across the warfighting functions.

Learning the language is key because this is where warfighting functions are challenged, particularly when fighting alongside coalition partners. Adopting common