WASHINGTON — U.S. Naval War College (NWC) leaders and alumni received a warm welcome on Capitol Hill, Oct. 7 during a congressional breakfast organized by Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed.
The event offered a chance for members of Congress and their staff to hear details of how NWC educates and develops leaders, strengthens global maritime partnerships and supports Navy missions and combat readiness.
"The war college is an extraordinary asset to the nation and the Navy," Reed noted. "[The value] is not just the instruction in the classroom, it's the war gaming and bringing together individuals from across the government and the nation to talk about critical issues. Additionally, the college's international programs have forged personal relationships with key naval leaders across the globe and that has aided us immensely."
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson echoed Reed's remarks, expanding on the impact the college has had on international relationship building.
"There are a number of international students, 357 of which have gone on to be their country's chief of navy," said Richardson. "So we're building strategic partnerships between future leaders. These international partners send their best [people], so it's a remarkable testament of the quality and the strategic influence that the institution has."
Richardson also applauded the college's leadership and faculty, adding that they are some of the leading thinkers in maritime and military strategy.
"They have a history of not only adapting to the demands of the security environment, but defining what that security environment will be and how we'll respond to it," said Richardson.
One of those thinkers is U.S. Navy SEAL and NWC President Rear Adm. P. Gardner Howe, III. Howe shared what he sees as the crucial role the college plays in shaping future military leaders.
"In today's world, we can be operationally competent and experts in all of our systems, but that alone is not going to bring about successful military operations in the incredibly dynamic, incredibly challenging environment we are operating in," said Howe. "We have to make sure we have sharp critical thinkers as leaders, and you're only going to get that through education."
Military leaders are not the only graduates who gain critical thinking and leadership skills through the college, rising civilian leaders are molded there as well.
Military legislative assistant to Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, Jim Dolbow, credits the college with preparing him for his roles on Capitol Hill and also inspiring him to serve part-time in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.
"All the successes in my career can be traced back to enrolling in the Naval War College non-resident program," said Dolbow.
Other alumni and students at the breakfast highlighted the fact that the NWC experience offers much more than course content.
"It teaches you a way of thinking more than what to think," explained Sherman Patrick, military liaison for Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy. "It gives you disciplines and certain processes to go through when making decisions on a daily basis. When I'm faced with a crisis on any day it might not have anything to do with [specific course content], but the way I think about it is always influenced by the lessons I learned at the war college."
Kira Self, a current student in the NWC's College of Distance Education, explained how the college has helped her in her current role as a senior analyst for international affairs and trade issues at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
"The program has given me a lot of contextual understanding of what I do at GAO," said Self. "The relationships I've made there have also been valuable; you have so many different types of groups that are in the program that bring unique experiences — Hill staffers, naval officers, GAO staff. It creates knowledgeable discussions that help us all in our jobs."
Lewis M. Duncan, NWC provost, and Timothy P. Schultz, NWC dean of academic affairs, summed up the value of the college and what they hope the event achieved.
"The greatest value of the school is providing long term intellectual capital for the Navy and the nation," said Schultz. "We educate and develop leaders - men and women - who can not only meet the challenges of the future, but can shape the future as well: for the Navy, the nation and the global community."
"We hope the event provided a greater awareness of the several missions that the college serves," added Duncan. "We appreciate the breadth of support across Congress."