SOS bridges direct communication between Air Force, Navy officers

by Ashley M. Wright
Squadron Officer School

10/5/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Strengthening interservice partnerships and creating an open dialogue among junior officers was the basis for Squadron Officer School hosting its first Air Force and Navy cross talk Sept. 20.

Approximately 100 Squadron Officer School captains and civilians attended to gain a deeper understanding of how the services are different, yet similar.

"We wanted to do direct O-3 to O-3 communication," said Capt. Devin Taber, SOS instructor, who organized the cross talk session.

Normally, students only get a one-hour lecture of naval doctrine from a senior ranking Navy official during the eight-week SOS course.

The three Navy and one Marine Corps officers from Auburn University's Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps worked to dispel myths and provide a snapshot of what life in a sister service is truly like to the group. In addition, the speakers were offered the opportunity to ask students questions about life in the Air Force.

"The discussion was good," said Navy Lt. Cam Massey, Auburn University assistant professor of naval science and a surface warfare officer. He appreciated the chance to "pick the brains of Air Force captains," a group that he normally doesn't get much interaction with on a day-to-day basis.

The candid discussion focused on a broad range of topics, including professional military education, deployments and the importance of how the services work together.

"It is nice to get to that joint area," said Navy Lt. Jesse Nunez, a SH-60 pilot currently teaching naval science at Auburn University. "To get here and figure out the real deal is the big take away."

While the Air Force-Navy cross talk was a first, it was not without precedent. In the past, SOS has worked closely with the Army at Fort Benning, Ga., in an exchange program.

"This [Navy cross talk] was a test," Taber said. The school would like to expand the cross talk and make it bigger, he added.

One SOS student has already gained a level of useful knowledge from the cross talk.

"I learned about (Navy) career fields and their everyday lives," said Capt. Kristen Clark, who is about to embark on the next journey of her career as a professor at the United States Naval Academy, teaching space propulsion to the next generation of Sailors.

The overall mission of SOS is to educate, motivate and mentor captains as current and future Air Force leaders. However, the curriculum has recently undergone changes to better align with the more than 60 years of SOS history.

"Gone are the day-long lectures and unending decks of PowerPoint slides," said Squadron Officer College and SOS Commandant Col. Mark G. Czelusta in a welcome letter on the school's website. "We are also adding intensive, experiential activities in our resident programs to inject realism and provide opportunities for students to apply the lessons we are teaching."