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NEWPORT, R.I. - The Naval War College’s (NWC) College of Naval Command and Staff (CNCS) graduated 72 officers on Feb. 3.
Phased in during the academic year’s third trimester, the students had joined the college in February of 2009 for a year-long academic program. The intermediate-level students took graduate courses from NWC’s three academic departments: Joint Military Operations, Strategy and Policy, and National Security Decision-Making. Their studies were also complemented by an electives program that provided opportunities to explore subjects not included in the core curriculum or to investigate in greater detail specific elements of the core curriculum.
During the ceremony, the Dean of Students, Capt. Sharon Campbell, recognized Lt. Cmdr. Kalohi Clark as the honor graduate and Lt. Cmdr. John Dolby as the runner up.
Clark also introduced Strategy and Policy professor Marc Genest, who was chosen by the graduating class of one Marine Corps, five Army, and 66 Navy students to be their commencement speaker.
“Education is a shared journey between student and teacher,” said Genest. “My career has been centered on sharing my knowledge with students from the standpoint of an academic who spends his time researching in comfortable surroundings. Last year, I was given the opportunity to research while walking in your shoes. Education requires each of us to share a bit of ourselves for the enrichment of all.”
Genest reflected on his time working in Afghanistan last summer, writing strategic analyses of the U.S. Army’s Information Operations campaign for Regional Command East. A Naval War College graduate had asked Genest and a colleague to serve as civilian advisors to the 4th Brigade Combat Team in Jalalabad.
“First and foremost, Clausewitz tells us that no degree of academic study can possibly supplant the knowledge acquired from actually experiencing the battlefield,” Genest said. “I had no idea how tough it would be to cope with the grueling 18-hour work days, the searing 120 degree heat of summer compounded by 80 pounds of protective body armor while living under the ever present threat of confronting your own mortality.”
“I was able to get a small glimpse of the scale of sacrifice and remarkable work performed each and every day by our troops serving in combat outposts in remote areas of Nuristan, Nangahar, Kunar and Laghman Provinces,” he elaborated.
His time in Afghanistan also affected his understanding of the nature of contemporary counterinsurgency strategy.
“Don’t get me wrong, many of the theories that I gleaned from books held true but they all painted incomplete portraits of a reality that is so complex that no one can ever hope to capture more than a fleeting impression,” said Genest.
He reminded the students that “Clausewitz tells us that to truly understand strategy you must augment your practical experiences with the study of history, politics and culture.”
“I hope you have taken full advantage of the opportunity to study these subjects here at the War College,” concluded Genest. “As you leave these gates and return to your lives, driving ships, flying aircraft, or manning outposts in the remote regions of Iraq and Afghanistan, I am confident that you will be in a position to take what you learned here and apply it to the most complex battlefield in the history of warfare.”
The intermediate-level curriculum at the Naval War College examines the operational level of war and operational-level leadership with a solid introduction to the theater-strategic level of war as well as a foundational overview of national strategic requirements and strategies. The ten-month program is designed to produce broadly educated leaders who possess an operational-level perspective within a strategic context, underpinned by analytical frameworks.
The students earned Joint Professional Military Education phase I credit, a critical milestone in an officer’s professional development, in addition to a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies.
NWC has been educating leaders for 125 years and graduates approximately 600 resident students annually. The College is accredited by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the New England Association of Colleges and Schools.
By Cmdr. Carla McCarthy, Naval War College Public Affairs