Headquarters NATO Allied Air Command kicked off Exercise TRIDENT JET Dec. 7 here in Ramstein Air Base (Germany), executing the Alliance’s first vignette-based, senior leader-focused Joint Headquarters assessment.

Through scenarios, augmented with realistic news coverage, joint planning cells, four-star-level briefings, key leader engagements and press interviews, TRIDENT JET innovatively exercises command group leaders and staff across AIRCOM. While AIRCOM was declared Fully Operationally Capable Nov. 30 by the Commander, AIRCOM, Exercise TRIDENT JET serves as the final certification for AIRCOM to lead as a joint headquarters of a Smaller Joint Operation.

TRIDENT JET involves over 70 key personnel, directly supported by other NATO organizations and commands, in a battle-staff setting, executing strategic joint operations for NATO in support of a fictitious scenario. Supporting agencies, like the Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway, augmented the exercise planning team to help create a more authentic scenario for TRIDENT JET.

"The added realism of the Joint Warfare Centre’s news footage and interviews helped all exercise participants experience the vignettes fully and focus their joint planning efforts appropriately,” said French Air Force Colonel Benoit Consolini, Joint Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations responsible for developing the TRIDENT JET concept of operations and framework.

Colonel Consolini also served as the AIRCOM spokesperson for the Dec. 7 exercise scenario, giving a mock media interview about the NATO mission’s progress for the vignette.

"The media training for our key leaders we offer during this exercise is just one example of how TRIDENT JET’s unique design allows for enhanced learning and practice for our AIRCOM staffs and senior leadership,” he added.

The innovative approach of the exercise presents strategic and operational level problem sets to the participants each day through the use of vignettes. The vignettes encourage planning cells—called syndicates—to work through the challenges at hand and to practice the intricate processes of a joint headquarters, Norwegian Air Force Lt. Col. Lina Kongshavn, AIRCOM’s Joint Action Manager, explains.

"Resetting the palate every day with a new vignette allows us to practice coordination and integration across directorates and component commands,” Colonel Kongshavn said.

"It also produces staff recommendations for command group guidance in a way traditional headquarters exercises normally don’t facilitate within such a compressed timeline. Vignettes, therefore, represent a relevant supplement to the ways NATO can conduct exercises and train their personnel,” she added.

The exercise runs through December 11.