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MANAMA, Bahrain – Over 20 officers from 10 of the region’s nations graduated from the Commander’s Operational Planning Course (COPC) April 1, a ten-day conference that focused on maritime security, operational planning and long-term relationship building and networking for future senior military leaders.

The Maritime Center of Excellence (MCOE), as part of Commander, Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), hosted the conference for the commanders and lieutenant commanders from Bahrain, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Yemen, Oman and Egypt.

aj. Majed Mastoor, a member of Yemen’s Coast Guard, was impressed by the COPC curriculum, and felt the material and opportunities to network will help his development as a maritime officer.

“At the beginning of the first week we were introduced to the international maritime law and the law of the sea,” he said. “We learned how to analyze missions at the operational level, and that helps us a lot in understanding how maritime policies are shaped.”

Three U.S. naval officers and a civilian from an assist and assess team visiting from the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. led the course.

A large part of the curriculum was devoted to teaching the students to think operationally, “the linkage between the tactical level and the big-picture strategic level,” said Capt. Bill Lawler, the team leader. “The overall method is to provide academics in a relevant scenario, and then use practical planning exercises to give the class an introduction to the operational planning process,” he added.

“The students look at a problem, come up with a mission and analyze the mission. They look at different solutions and courses of action, and then look at the benefits and risks. From there they develop a recommendation to the commander.”

U.S. Naval War College Associate Professor Robert McCabe elaborated on the COPC training methodology.

“We are using a scenario dealing with pirates in the North Arabian Sea taking place in the year 2012 that reflects the geography of the region” he said. “However, it is a fictitious exercise that does not reflect real world events taking place now. We did that because we wanted to keep the course at the unclassified level. We want information to flow as freely as possible in the classroom environment for informational and instructional purposes, and not worry about particular security issues that would be entailed in a real world type of operation.

“The students are doing very well, and getting them to communicate amongst themselves across national boundaries was a big piece of this,” McCabe said.

Mastoor said that what he learned in the COPC may have immediate benefits for his country’s military.

“The Yemeni Coast Guard is a relatively young organization that has a different way of conducting mission analysis and operational planning,” he said. “I am planning to introduce the method we learned during COPC to my superiors when I get home.” 

Combined Maritime Forces patrol more than 2.5 million square miles of international waters working to defeat terrorism, prevent piracy, reduce illegal trafficking of people and drugs, and promote the maritime environment as a safe place for mariners with legitimate business. CMF counters violent extremism and terrorist networks in maritime areas of responsibility; works with regional and other partners to improve overall security and stability; helps strengthen regional nations’ maritime capabilities and, when requested, responds to environmental and humanitarian crises.

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Brown