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Course Preps Future Maritime Component Commanders

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS090717-09
Release Date: 7/17/2009 12:30:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Doug Kimsey

NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Flag-level officers attended a weeklong Joint Force Maritime Component Commander (JFMCC) course at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., July 12-17 to prepare future three-star officers to serve effectively as maritime component commanders.

"The Navy is looking at staffs as a fighting entity," said Prof. Tom Bayley. "It's a different mindset, going from gray hulls to gray matter. This course serves as a catalyst for leaders to reinvigorate themselves above the tactical level and look at the operational level."

Judging by the top-ranking military officers who are alumni of JFMCC, including nearly all of the numbered fleet commanders, the course is hitting the mark, producing leaders capable of handling unique challenges.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Patrick Walsh was a student in the first JFMCC course in 2005.

"This course is the one place that the Navy's senior leadership and our senior mentors can talk with future leaders – unfiltered – about the operational level of war and command," said Rear Adm. James P. Wisecup, president of the Naval War College. "The great thing is there are also other service leaders like Marine Gen. James Mattis (commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command) and Air Force Gen. Victor Renuart (commander, U.S. Northern Command) who can give students their candid opinions and views on all manner of subjects.

"Students, for example, talk with all the numbered fleet commanders. The question and answer [session] gets pretty interesting. We are so fortunate to have them all here together in Newport."

The course included three- and four-star level speakers.

One JFMCC student, U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Keith Kries, said the course gave him a better understanding of the role of JFMCC "and how it can best support the mission and objectives of the joint task force commander."

"The advantage of the course at the war college is the opportunity to bring in the best possible speakers and subject matter experts that share their personal experiences and provide insights to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow," added Kries, who is deputy assistant chief of staff J3 United Nations Command and U.S. Forces Korea.

Becoming "better joint warfighters at the operational and strategic levels of war fighting" is the focus of the course," Kries explained. Interaction with senior mentors, faculty members and fellow students also enhanced the course.

Retired Adm. Greg Johnson, a senior mentor for JFMCC, said students learn needed skills to transition from "tactical experts to operational experts."

"The maritime component commander is the meat in the middle of the sandwich," Johnson said. "He has to translate lofty goals from above into practical results. It's very much an art at the operational level."

More than 180 officers have completed the course since it began in 2005, including 60 international officers from 37 nations. Nearly all have been one and two-star leaders. All U.S. military branches, as well as State Department and CIA representatives, have attended.

"The maritime commander's job is very complex," Bayley noted. "The commander has to deal in multiple domains – air, land, sea, surface and beneath the surface, as well as the cyber domain."

Bayley explained that JFMCC students, as future maritime component commanders, need to embrace new perspectives and concepts to help them deal with diverse operations.

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