Air War College JPME—Building the joint warfighter

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- In 1946, the War Department established Air War College with a mission of educating officers to serve as strategic national security leaders.

As the senior Air Force professional military school, AWC's vision is to be the foremost college for air, space and cyberspace education and thought - preparing the world's best joint-strategic leaders.

The college was accredited by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2008 to grant Joint Professional Military Education Phase II, or JPME Phase II, to U.S. students as a senior development education/senior-level college.



(U.S. Air Force video by Airman 1st Class Robert Dantzler)

To educate officers and civilians from all branches of the military and several inter-agencies, along with international students, the school uses the strengths of its diverse civilian and multi-service faculty to produce the best-educated joint military and civilian leaders.

"Every deployment I've been a part of had a joint, international, inter-agency element to it," said Air Force Col. Christian Watt, deputy chair, Air War College Strategy Department. "An important step in our strategic leader development process is to get our leaders thinking beyond their weapons system, beyond their service, beyond their agency, beyond their nation, to make the most well-informed decisions possible.  The direction that we get from our higher authorities that is legislated and comes from the joint staff gives us the desired leader attributes that we want to make sure our graduates have."

The approximately 245 in-resident students are immersed into the joint learning environment at Air War College for nearly a year. In fiscal 2013, 8,000 students were enrolled in the AWC distance learning program and there were more than 2,200 graduates.

"It's not uncommon for many of the sister-service students, even some of the faculty, to never have served alongside a Marine in person, said Col. John Faircloth Jr., senior Marine adviser to Air University. "It's important for the Marine faculty to bring their experiences and their joint experiences to the educational arena."

The senior-level officers or civilian equivalents from across the Department of Defense and internationally learn alongside peers who could potentially be standing with them in future defense efforts.

"We have an opportunity to start developing the foundation and the relationships that will help them solve seriously complex problems as we move forward," said Col. Jimmy McConico, senior Army adviser to Air University. "Just being able to understand the complexities of this environment is half the battle. To develop critical solutions to some of the challenges that we face is going to be a critical capability that our senior leaders need. You start with the national security strategy and go to the national military strategy and you look at how the federal government, specifically the president, secretary of defense and congress, makes decisions with regard to securing vital interests. Joint professional military education gives students an opportunity to assess, appraise and evaluate just how all those decisions come together."

Having a blend of uniformed and civilian instructors at Air War College provides students a unique learning experience that enables them to pull knowledge from various backgrounds to better prepare them for the future.

"One of the big points of education and professional military education at this level is taking the experiences and education -- largely focused on the tactical and operational level to this point -- and setting them up for what comes next, which is largely strategic and more complex problems that we face as part of our national security strategy," said Army Col. Lou Lartigue, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff chair to Air University. "Folks that have gone out and done that obviously are good to have on the faculty so that we can bring that 'hey, we've been there, done that, watch out for this, look out for that and be ready for this.'  And it's good to have that real-world experience on the staff to impart to the students. It all dove tails together based on a combined, experienced faculty. We're able to see that from different perspectives and in the different ways we learned it and impart that to the students, exercise it and let them perform in case study environments and seminar environments so when they go out they are ready to go."

JPME is a mandated and legislated learning environment instituted by senior leadership in the Defense Department.

"We're here to fulfill or execute the chairman's instruction on JPME and that has to do with bringing all the services together," said Capt.  Russell McLachlan, senior Navy adviser to Air University. "Not just an additive effort, but to see that all the officers that come through this program see the synergistic effect of executing these joint capabilities. The other thing I think is important is the balance that active duty military brings to this faculty. When you bring in the expertise across domains, bring in the operational relevancy and couple that with the expertise you get with the civilian faculty, the students get a much better product."