By Rear Adm. Walter E. Carter Jr.
President, U.S. Naval War College
It has been six months since I returned to my home state of Rhode Island to lead the U.S. Naval War College. Back when I first left Rhode Island to start my Navy career, I recall my parents advising me to someday find a way to return to Newport, R.I. Despite no military experience, both knew that many future military leaders came to Rhode Island to learn the higher aspects of their profession at the Naval War College. After working with college faculty and staff for half a year, now I see how right they were.
Newport has been a historic seaport for centuries and a vital part of the U.S. Navy since our earliest days of forming the Continental Navy in 1775. Scores of Navy ships once called Narragansett Bay home, and while impressive gray hulls no longer routinely sail the Ocean State’s waters, the Navy still looks to Newport as its intellectual center of gravity for higher education.
The generous citizens of Rhode Island and the city of Newport had the vision more than a century ago in 1880 to deed 92 acres of prime land, known as Coasters Harbor Island, to the Navy. Stephen B. Luce, a brilliant naval officer, first visited Newport in 1861 during the Civil War, and nearly two decades later, he campaigned successfully to create the Navy’s first boot camp in 1882 on Coasters Harbor Island. Luce then turned to the founding of the Naval War College in 1884.
As we begin 2014, the Naval War College will celebrate 130 years of educating leaders, and more impressively, as the oldest postgraduate institution in the world focused on the study of the military profession of arms. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff placed renewed emphasis on the military’s commitment to the Profession of Arms in a 2012 white paper, reminding us that alongside intensive training and practical experience, we qualify as professionals through education. By remaining adaptive, flexible and relevant, the Naval War College continues to deliver the best educated leaders in their profession to the Department of Defense, our allies and friends around the world, and the interagency.
Many of the students studying here today are mid-grade and senior-level men and women from all of America’s military services and more than 65 nations. Our students are led in a remarkable journey of discovery by a world-class faculty of proven educators from the nation’s best universities, who team with military and political practitioners fresh from battlefields and the corridors of power. They spend a year learning the lessons of history, reviewing insights from our long decade of recent wars, and looking at emerging challenges.
Over an intense three-trimester academic year, students survey conflicts across the centuries, ascertaining recurring themes and identifying the causes of warfare and the skills necessary to bring them to successful conclusions. They further develop their abilities as senior decision-makers, using real-world issues to understand the dynamics of resource allocation especially given the reality of fiscal constraint; and they use interactive war games and seminar discussions to consider the employment options for multi-service and multi-national contingency operations.
In other words, they study why conflicts happen, how we can best prepare for them, how to develop options to avoid them and, when required, how to bring conflicts to a swift and decisive conclusion. Recently a U.S. student described her experience as one of the most enriching of her career. She told me, “The bond that we create in the international program is unparalleled and offers multinational military professionals a chance to develop deep friendships that will last a lifetime and undoubtedly contribute to multilateral military relations.”
As we begin the New Year, our nation is completing 12 years of primarily ground conflict. Many will view the next five to 10 years as a period of resetting our military with much discussion on spending less and becoming a smaller force. But this is exactly the time when we must value the investment in educating our men and women who will help us deter war if possible, or ensure that we will win a future war and, most importantly, the subsequent peace.
The intellectual seeds planted on Coasters Harbor Island 130 years ago have served our Navy and our nation well as we continue to produce educated leaders and partnerships around the globe. The Naval War College is a national asset and clearly focused on the future.
Editor’s note: Rear Adm. Walter E. Carter Jr. is the 54th president of the U.S. Naval War College. He is a native of Burrillville, R.I.
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