[Editor’s Note: The POC for anyone interested in War College is the Detailer. A cheat sheet of all the Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) options can be found here. If you’re interested in submitting a guest post, contact me here.]
By CDR Lanny Littlejohn, MC, USN (Lanny.Littlejohn < at > usnwc.edu)
I rolled out of bed at 0700 this morning to finish my paper on corruption in the Ukraine. Ukraine is currently the most corrupt country in all of Europe; its corruption destabilizes it to the point that it is subject to influence from its eastern neighbor, Russia. Russia is currently in a “hybrid” war with Ukraine, a new type of warfare that Russia has been perfecting for the past decade. The Chinese are perfecting a different type called “unrestricted” warfare. Then there is ISIS. Two months ago, I had very little insight into these issues. After finishing the paper, I went to class at the Blue Plate Diner in Newport wearing jeans, flops, and sweatshirt since it is cooling off a bit up here in RI. I have not put a uniform in quite some time. This week we have “seminar” for three hours each morning (M-Th), with the afternoons, and all of Friday, off to work on assignments. While not a walk in the park, it is different enough from medicine to serve as a well deserved breather I have enjoyed so far. You should strongly consider getting your Joint Profession Military Education (JPME) on.
Programs and Prerequisites
There are two primary programs of study at the Naval War College (NWC): the junior (JPME-1) and the senior program (JPME-2). The junior program (JPME-1) is completed as a resident or nonresident. Nonresident options include the fleet seminar program, NWC online program, and from war colleges of other services. I received my JPME-1 via the NWC online program several years ago. There is also a rare opportunity for officers at the 12-15 year mark to attend JPME-1 as a resident here [limited to O4 and below]. However, medical officers will likely need to obtain JPME-1 as a nonresident.
The senior program is via the College of Naval Warfare (CNW). Officers selected have typically completed JPME-1 and apply through their detailer at the 15-20 year mark (O5 or O6). Completion of this residency program grants a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies. Accreditation is via the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
For both JPME-1 and JPME-2, there are three courses: Joint Military Operations (JMO), National Security Decision Making (NSDM), and Strategy and Policy (S&P). The main difference between the two programs is that the junior course focuses on the Tactical/Operational level and the senior course on the higher Strategic level. As a resident at the NWC, you are also required to take an elective each trimester. I just finished the Political Warfare elective – super cool.
Additional Qualifier Designations (AQDs) are awarded for JPME-1 and JPME-2. Many elective pathways also result in an AQD. So that’s three AQDs you can receive if you are an AQD collector – I know you’re out there. [And promotion boards know that these AQDs are difficult to get, unlike some of the others.]
NWC is academia at its best. Students wear business casual so that neither service nor rank are distinguished. All services are in attendance including the Coast Guard. You will find that there are several interagency (State Department, Justice Department, CIA, etc.) students and many international students as well. There may be one lecture per week with the entire student body, but most classes are in a seminar (12 students, two instructors). My seminar includes students from Greece, Lebanon, and Singapore along with two “agency” students and six other service students. Teaching is Socratic (You know, that method you thought you would be using before receiving the letter of rejection from Harvard). Exams are essay – not multiple choice. You do not have to publish, but many of the best papers are submitted for publication. This should definitely help your Google H-index.
Follow on Assignments
Medical officers who complete JPME-2 are highly valued at the higher levels in operational medicine. This may be as a joint force command surgeon, fleet surgeon, a Pentagon tour, or in any of the various naval service operational commands. This follow-on assignment is not a requirement, however. Your Detailer and Specialty Leader will ultimately work with you on what your next assignment will be. Some have returned to the MTF after NWC only to go operational on the very next tour. Commitment after obtaining JPME-2 is two years, served concurrently with any existing obligations.
There are several beneficiaries of a tour at the NWC. First, you and your family. Newport and surrounding vicinity is a great place to live with good schools and lots of history and activities. If you have been in the MTF for multiple tours, you may need a break so a brief sabbatical here can help recharge the batteries. You will still work hard (tons of reading and paper writing) but time structure is on your terms. Second, your specialty and our Navy. Every specialty in Navy Medicine (with rare exceptions) has elements that operationalize to support the mission of the Navy. To have the 30,000-foot strategic view of how your part comes into play is a great benefit to your specialty and service. Third, the nation needs thinkers and leaders. We all have the feeling that something has gone sideways in the last few decades. We need strong leaders who have the integrity to make the tough calls and argue for the right decisions on the national level. After you leave the naval service, this education and degree will go with you and will likely have great utility no matter how your large your future circle of influence may be.