AWC opens doors for new academic year



by Staff Sgt. Sarah Loicano
Air University Public Affairs


7/27/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala.  -- The Air War College held an opening day ceremony Tuesday, marking the beginning of 10 months of advanced graduate-level studies for 242 new students.

The class of 2013 is a mix of students from all five U.S. military branches, federal civilian employees and international military members representing more than 40 nations. The students were welcomed by the mayors of Prattville and Montgomery, as well as the 42nd Wing Commander and Air University Commander and President Lt. Gen. David S. Fadok.

"You know how selective and competitive the process is, so the very fact that you were selected to represent your respective services, as well as your respective nations, is a big, big deal and you should be proud of that," Fadok said during the opening ceremony.
Prior to being selected to attend AWC, many of the students served as squadron or group commanding officers. This year AWC created a new program called First Thirty, designed to facilitate the students' transition from commander to scholar, as well as provide the class with a clear vision for the academic year.

According to Col. Kay Smith, AWC director of student operations, First Thirty was established to provide senior student officers a week to develop their leadership team and set a vision for the incoming class. During that week, First Thirty students did various team building exercises, attended orientation and set class goals.

"Our vision is to help us become more engaged senior leaders. We come here as squadron or even group leaders, where we've learned to deal with people and interact on a personal level, but here we are learning to look outside the Air Force organization," said Col. George Tombe, AWC Class 2013 president. "This gives us a global outlook on a strategic level. That's what's so exciting about working with the international students and alongside our sister services."

During the next 44 weeks, the officer students will develop their strategic and critical thinking skills and learn how to employ air and space forces on a global reach. These objectives are accomplished through course seminars, simulation exercises, electives, international travel and a national security symposium.

"The AWC resident curriculum includes core curriculum and an elective program. The core curriculum consists of four major areas: leadership and ethics, international security studies, national and military strategy, and joint warfighting," said Dr. Mark Conversino, dean of Air War College.

The required courses all students are expected to complete are foundations of strategy, national security and decision making, global security, regional and cultural studies, joint strategic leadership and warfighting. Each year, AWC offers about 60 elective courses; students are required to take two full electives for credit, which support and expand upon topics in the core curriculum.

In addition, U.S. students have an in-depth study one of 12-14 regions culminating with a international visit which allows the students to discuss security issues with senior political, military, diplomatic, economic and academic leaders in the region itself.

All U.S. students will be dually enrolled in the AWC senior-level professional military education program and the AU master of strategic studies degree program. In order to enroll, they must meet admission requirements for the master of strategic studies degree.

Although the emphasis is on education, AWC leadership also encourages officer students to use their time at Maxwell to engage their new community and develop personal and professional relationships, something that the students acknowledge is beneficial for their future careers.

"It's a huge advantage to be here; the in-residence program provides not only the classroom environment but networking opportunities. We live in a socially engaged society," Tombe said. "It's about meeting people, building relationships with peers, and our sister counterparts and international officers. It helps us to become more effective officers."

Despite the fact that the class of 2013 is coming together from all different branches of service, experiences and even countries, Maj. Gen. Scott M. Hanson, AWC commandant, said that is exactly what makes this academic year an exciting prospect for the in residence students.

"One common thing you all have together is the fact that when you walk out the door here next spring, you'll be expected to perform as senior leaders and it's our job to help you prepare for that role," he said. "This is a tremendous opportunity; this is your chance to learn, to grow and to lead. It's a year of transition. The opportunities are endless but it's your opportunity to take charge of your year and make it what you want it to be."