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Tactical Decision Games – An Interview with Phil Jose – 398


In this episode, Dr. Gasaway talks with Phil Jose about tactical decision games.

Phil Jose, Deputy Chief, (Ret.), 30 years in Seattle Fire Department. He chaired the SOG and PIA committees.  Chief of the Year 2013.  FDIC Instructor 19 years with the highest attended class in 2023: The Art of Reading Smoke. FDIC 2008 Tom Brennan Training Achievement Award and author of Instructor 1 for Fire and Emergency Services (Clarion, 2022), Air Management for the Fire Service (PennWell, 2008) and Train the Trainer (2015), FE Handbook for FF 1 and 2 (2010); FE “Bread and Butter” video for SCBA (2012). In Addition to The Art of Reading Smoke Phil teaches In the Hot Seat: Tactical Decision Making on the Fireground.

Tactical Decision Games (TDG’s) are a low-tech, low-cost method of wargaming adapted to tactical decision training. Wargaming has been used to improve the strategic and tactical thinking of armies since at least the 1700’s and likely even before. The Prussian army instituted focused wargames using the colors red and blue for the opponents. The use of wargames spread among professional soldiers quickly as it demonstrated the ability to improve outcomes of war. Wartime leaders can use TDG’s as simple, cost-effective, and repeatable simulated battles to win wars and save lives. This class adapts those same wargaming techniques and introduces fire service trainers to their use.

Modern tactical decision gaming was re-introduced to the Marine Corps using monthly exercises called Tactical Decision Games (TDG’s) printed in the Marine Gazette. The articles laid out a battle scenario with information including maps, mission objectives, and information about the enemy and then posed the problem for readers to submit their response. Anyone, regardless of rank, could develop and submit their battle plan to the Gazette. A selection of responses is then published in the following issue. The format for these TDG’s was done in writing and around the world. This format is also used in person at the squad, company, and battalion level.

In the modern learning environment fire TDG’s can be done across extended learning platforms. This does not mean they must be expensive and complicated. Simple exercises using low-cost, or no-cost development techniques allows the fire service trainer to begin using a Fire Gaming philosophy, through Tactical Decision Gaming in person or across the web.

About the Host


Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, CSP is widely considered a trusted authority on human factors, situational awareness and the high-risk decision making processes used in high-stress, high consequence work environments. He served 33 years on the front lines as a firefighter, EMT-Paramedic, company officer, training officer, fire chief and emergency incident commander.  His doctoral research included the study of cognitive neuroscience to understand how human factors flaw situational awareness and impact high-risk decision making.

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Episode length: 65 minutes


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