News | June 12, 2023

Operation Graduation: Joint Advanced Warfighting School Commencement

By LT Bradley “Grenade” Williams, USN Joint Forces Staff College

The 2023 commencement for the NDU's Norfolk, Va.-based Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) was held on Friday, June 9th at 10:00 a.m., and broadcast via Livestream. JFSC Commandant Brigadier General Voris W. McBurnette conferred Masters degrees on 45 Joint Advanced Warfighting School (JAWS) graduates. Congressman Rob Wittman of Virginia’s First Congressional District provided the commencement address.

JFSC is one of five colleges within the National Defense University. JAWS provides joint senior-level education and prepares U.S. and international military officers and U.S. Government civilians to serve in strategic leadership positions and lead the development of theater strategies, campaigns, and operations for the employment of joint forces in support of strategic objectives and policy goals. Through an integrated curriculum with a focused concentration on theater joint warfighting, the school produces historically-informed and strategically-minded skilled joint warfighters. Upon the conclusion of an 11-month, 36-credit hour resident academic program, graduates are awarded a Master of Science in Joint Campaign Planning and Strategy and credited with completion of Joint Professional Military Education Phase II. JAWS active duty military students are assigned to predetermined positions, predominantly in one of the 11 Combatant Commands, following graduation.

JAWS was established in 2004 and modelled after the Service’s advanced studies programs, JAWS provides the Joint Staff, the Combatant Commands, allied militaries, and other U.S. government agencies with graduates expert in the joint planning processes and capable of critical analysis in the application of all aspects of national power across the full range of military operations. The graduates are historically informed, strategically minded, and skilled joint warfighters. They are critical and creative thinkers who expertly translate strategic decisions to operational and tactical actions through design-informed operational planning.

The graduates represent all six U.S. military Services, to include the U.S. Coast Guard; the Defense Intelligence Agency; the Departments of State and Homeland Security; and the Joint Staff; and allies and partners. International Fellows this year represented the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Lebanon, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. Previous classes have also included International Fellows from Colombia, Georgia, Indonesia, Serbia, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Joint Advanced Warfighting School curriculum is organized into three core fields of study: Foundations in Theory and History, Strategy, and Operational Art and Campaign Planning. The Foundations in Theory and History Field of Study provides students with a historical perspective to support critical analysis and evaluation of future strategic and operational environments. The Strategy Field of Study educates students on the application of critical and creative thought for the orchestration of ways and means to achieve strategic ends, implement policy, and advance national interests. The Operational Art and Campaign Planning Field of Study immerses students in joint planning efforts to develop campaign, contingency, and crisis plans. In addition to many other written, oral, and practical assignments, each student is required to complete an individual graduate level thesis of 35 - 45 pages.

The fourth field of study, Joint Synthesis, integrates the core curriculum with specific emphasis on strategic leadership and campaign design and execution. Throughout the year, as an element of the Joint Synthesis Field of Study, students participate in field research trips to Yorktown, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and an overseas location. During Academic Year 2022-2023, students traveled to Hawaii, Saipan, and Guam to study Operation FORAGER.

The curriculum is developed from several sources. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff drives the principal themes at JAWS through the Officer Professional Military Education Policy (OPMEP) and Special Areas of Emphasis (SAE). Combatant Commanders, interagency representatives, our international partners provide valuable insight to the requirements of our JAWS graduates. Additionally, the faculty contribute their own experiences as senior joint, combined, and coalition officers as well as their academic expertise. In sum, the curriculum is built on the foundation of joint doctrine and evolving strategic and operational issues.

The faculty of the Joint Advanced Warfighting School (JAWS) consists of senior officers with joint experience from all Services and civilian professors. In addition to this highly qualified staff, students have multiple occasions to meet and discuss issues with active and retired flag/general officers and ambassadors. These Senior Fellows are an integral part of the faculty and are a key component of the learning experience within the collaborative seminar.