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Students Complete JPME in Joint NPS, Naval War College Program

Article By: Amanda D. Stein

In 1986, after a series of snafus in joint military operations, the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act implemented sweeping changes across the defense department. Among them was a greater emphasis on preparing Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines to operate side-by-side, seamlessly, in times of peace and war. While each of the services were strong and worked well independently, they had significant difficulties when tasked to work jointly.

Today, joint operations are commonplace, and the men and women of the armed forces are well prepared to work alongside one another, in part because of joint operations education like the Navy’s Command and Staff program which includes Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) Phase I credit.

Courses with JPME credit are just one way in which the DOD prepares officers for joint assignments by exposing students to operational and decision-making processes that will make them effective in joint assignments or working with other services. The two-phase program traditionally requires students to attend courses at the Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, R.I., or fulfill them through distance learning outside of their day-to-day duty assignments.

But a long-standing partnership between NPS and NWC allows students to complete their JPME Phase I certification right on the NPS campus. And many students agree that getting the courses done in Monterey has its benefits.

“The opportunity to take NWC courses in conjunction with my degree requirements proved to be ideal for me,” said Lt. Cmdr. Angela Lefler, a meteorology student scheduled to graduate in March. “My curriculum already required me to take the Strategy & War class, so it seemed only logical to go ahead and take the other two NWC courses required to complete the JPME Phase I program. It makes sense to knock it out while we, as students, have some control over our schedule and can actually get several things accomplished simultaneously. I’m glad I did it while I was at NPS, and that’s the advice I give to all incoming students in my program.”

Since 1999, the Naval Postgraduate School has partnered with the NWC’s Monterey office, located on the NPS campus, to allow students to complete the four courses that comprise the NWC Command and Staff program (C&S) in conjunction with students’ degree programs.  Naval War College Monterey Chairman Fred Drake explains that in addition to saving students the time they would normally set aside exclusively for JPME studies, doing the program during their time at NPS gives real-world context to their studies as officers from across the services work side-by-side in their NWC C&S and NPS master’s degree programs.  

“One real advantage for the officers who complete their JPME phase one here is that while they are going through our War College courses, they are going through their NPS degree program, which really ties the relevance of their NPS degree into the DOD environment,” said Drake. “A lot of NPS courses have DOD-related case studies, and they heavily rely on DOD content. By having the Naval War College here, and having students go through their NWC C&S at the same time, it has a tendency to demonstrate the complimentary nature of both programs while exposing them to other valuable curricula on the NPS campus through student interaction in the NPS classes.”

From a personnel management perspective, the NPS/NWC partnership makes Monterey an appealing place to send officers, knowing they can get both a degree and JPME Phase I credit in one duty assignment. It also means that students who complete their phase one will be potentially appealing candidates for joint commands looking to fill a billet.

“I really do prefer getting the courses done while I am here at NPS. Most officers have to do it in their off-duty time via distance learning or an NWC Fleet Seminar Program during normal shore duty, which places a strain on the work-family balance,” explained NPS mechanical engineering student Lt. Ryan Hilger, who graduated from the program last September. “Also, doing it here instead of by the other two methods allows for more joint discussion to occur since both Army and Marines take the courses as well.

 The latest collection of honor graduates from the Naval War College Monterey Program is pictured following a brief ceremony on campus, Jan. 29. Since the program’s inception in 1999, more than 3,000 officers have completed Joint Professional Military Education Phase I certification through the partnership while concurrently completing their NPS degrees.

“The discussion with our sister services made the learning experience much better since we had people who had done the jobs, and knew the capabilities of their services, better than the instructors who were simply teaching what NWC gave them.”

All U.S. military officers and senior DOD civilian employees are eligible to take the NWC courses at NPS. Navy, Marine Corps and Army officers can use their NWC C&S diploma to fulfill their services’ intermediate level service college PME requirements. To make it easier for students to fit the JPME courses in with their regular curricula, all four NWC courses are offered each quarter, and many of the degree programs on campus require the courses as part of their curricula. The NWC courses were tailored to the structure of other courses offered on campus, allowing them to seamlessly fit into students’ degree matrices.

“We try to work with the other departments to provide the least amount of interference, and give both organizations a chance to optimize their resources here on the Monterey campus,” said Drake. “From the student standpoint, the NWC courses look, add and drop just like any other course here. We try to function, from the student standpoint, as much as like any other NPS department as possible, while fulfilling Naval War College requirements here on the West Coast.”  

The NWC courses – Strategy in War, Theater Strategic Decision Making and a two-part Joint Maritime Operations course – are aligned with those offered through the NWC program in Newport, but leave room for students to draw in lessons from their degree courses, and interactions with members of other services and other countries in their day-to-day activities on campus. With NPS’ student population representing all five branches of service, NPS is its own joint military community, with plenty for students to learn from each other both inside and outside the classroom.

“I guess you could say we are a bit of a catalyst for students to converse with folks out of different curricula. We give them more of a profession of arms perspective,” said Drake. “I like to think of us as sort of a great add-on to the NPS master’s degree. You can come here instead of going to some other school, and you can get your professional certification in the process, what a twofer.”

Posted February 11, 2013

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