Col. Kathleen Hightaian, an Air War College instructor, thanks Maj. Gen. Bernt Grundevik, head of the Swedish delegation to the Neutral Nations’ Supervisory Council, and his combined staff for providing insight into the NNSC mission at the demilitarized zone near Seoul, Republic of Korea, March 12. Select Air War College faculty and students traveled to the Republic of Korea, Japan, and Taiwan to gain insight into the Northeast Asia region as part of their Air War College curriculum. (Photo by Army Lt. Col. Thomas Bannon)
RCS takes AWC students around world

by Lt. Col. Chris Karns
Air War College

3/28/2014 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala.  -- Approximately 240 Air War College students and faculty gained insight into issues facing about 13 different regions of the world and ways to develop solutions to common challenges during a field study, March 1-14.

As part of the AWC Regional and Cultural Studies curriculum, AWC students and faculty traveled to 30 different countries to gain a hands-on understanding of their security issues and areas of mutual concern.

"This course is about the security of both the U.S. and our regional partners across the globe," said Col. Charles Spencer, director of AWC's Regional and Cultural Studies Program. "Our goal is to prepare our future senior leaders to analyze and comprehend regional political, economic, and cultural contexts so that they can evaluate complex international issues that challenge national security. Our collective future depends on their ability to assess and successfully implement all instruments of national power with strategies that achieve regional and national security objectives."

The RCS program provides an in-depth study of a region that includes classroom academic preparation and the field studies element. The course allows students to discuss security issues with senior political, military, diplomatic, economic and academic leaders in the region itself. Students balloted for their region of study and traveled to countries within their chosen region.

The course and field study areas of focus included regional security, economic development, social issues, governance, health care, information, energy strategy and technology.

A central theme of the trip was gaining an understanding of different perspectives and ways of approaching problem sets.

"The course helps the students understand diversity of thought and ways to communicate and work effectively in an international forum," said Lt. Col. Dwayne LaHaye, an AWC student who traveled to India. "Students gain a global sense of issues as opposed to solely a U.S.-centric perspective. It is real life application, utilizing the knowledge gained in the classroom and applying it directly in the field with the goal of gaining enhanced understanding and enhancing relationships between countries."

The program provided an opportunity to work with leaders in government, industry, and defense in an effort to discover common ground as well as opportunities to partner, build trust, and enhance relationships.

"The RCS provides a chance to interact with senior leaders from other countries and gain insight into common challenges," said Lt. Col. Danny Davis, an Air War College student who traveled to Cambodia and Vietnam as part of the Southeast Asia program. "It also provides a chance to gain understanding of issues from alternate vantage points."

While U.S. students gained an understanding of other countries, 43 AWC international fellows, representing 42 different countries, traveled to Boston, Kansas City, Mo., and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, to gain enhanced understanding of U.S. foreign policy and security issues as well as government and industry perspectives.

With calls for reduced defense budgets, increased attention has been placed on the need to enhance understanding of global areas of interest and invest in ways to partner. The RCS program provided a foundation for solidifying partnerships and experiencing classroom instruction in the countries of study.

"The field study provided an opportunity for relationship building and partnering," said New Zealand Air Force Wing Commander Shaun Sexton, an AWC international fellow. "The program provides a greater ability to build relationships and maintain partnerships with the U.S. and other international fellow nations. Living and working closely together is a powerful way to get to know people and issues."

Countries visited by U.S. students included Austria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ghana, France, India, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom and Vietnam.