OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) leadership welcomed more than 20 Navy and Air Force officers to the inaugural Nuclear Commanders Course at USSTRATCOMÂ July 31.
The new two-day course provided a series of briefings and tours of USSTRATCOM’s nuclear deterrence assets to expand upon the existing training given to nuclear commanders and instilled a foundational understanding of USSTRATCOM’s role in building and maintaining the nuclear war plan, its nuclear command and control capabilities, and their unit’s role in the deterrence mission.
The course traces its origins back to the USSTRATCOM Strategic Weapons Command Course, which was established in 2009 and focused toward the Navy ballistic missile submarine commander and executive officer communities. The current Nuclear Commanders Course expands the audience, course curriculum and scope to include Air Force intercontinental ballistic missile, bomber, and refueling tanker squadron commanders.
Commander, USSTRATCOM Adm. Cecil D. Haney has prioritized the enhancement of up-and-coming nuclear commanders’ professional development by providing them with a headquarters-level perspective on the nuclear deterrence mission.
“Adding a senior leadership perspective will give participants a broader strategic view of how everything for our critical deterrence mission fits together â€“ from priorities and current operations to the planning process, future requirements and funding,” Haney explained. “I also firmly encourage our leaders to personally reinforce the importance of integrity and ethics throughout the entire DoD nuclear enterprise. To accomplish this goal, we must all weave integrity into the fabric of everyday life within our organization.”
Robert Shindel, action officer for planning and developing the Nuclear Commanders Course, explained how this was achieved.
“The headquarters perspective provides more insight into their relationship to the nuclear enterprise. In addition to some of the normal courses, we went into the Global Operations Center to show them an exercise on the commander’s decision brief and show where their particular units interface with the decision the commander makes,” he said. “The idea behind this course is to show that USSTRATCOM is in line with (Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel)’s emphasis on the nuclear deterrence force structure.”
Patrick A. McVay, Director of Joint Exercises and Training at USSTRATCOM, emphasized the benefits of the Nuclear Commanders Course extend beyond the course participants.
“This really is a win-win situation,” he said. “The prospective commanders get to see the importance of what they do every day for the security of the nation. They also get senior leadership’s perspective and guidance. The command gets better leaders in the field because they have a better understanding of their mission â€“ it helps them connect the dots.”
Lt. Cmdr. Bryan Christiansen, Prospective Executive Officer (XO) of Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee (SSBN 734) expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to have personal interaction with USSTRATCOM leadership.
“It’s great to be briefed by the admiral himself. In past courses, I haven’t always had that opportunity, so it was great to hear his thoughts on our position and what’s coming up and how important our role is,” he said. “Making sure the (commanding officers) and XOs are aware of our role and how vital it is in the success of the nuclear enterprise and how focused the government and the DoD are on the nuclear deterrent force is crucial to our success.”
Lt. Col. Maria Hatchell, Commander, 92nd Force Support Squadron at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., added her accolades and praised the larger view the course provides.
“It’s very eye-opening, as I thought it would be â€“ this helps expand my knowledge base on how to better support operations. If you don’t know what you’re supporting, how do you know if you’re doing a good job or not?,” she said. “I’m going to recommend this course to some of my peers when I get back. This is going to be very valuable as we move forward.”
McVay noted he was looking forward to future iterations of the course.Â
"This course will certainly evolve and progress - the quarterly format and student feedback will help us to continuously improve," he said.
USSTRATCOM is one of nine DoD unified combatant commands and is charged with strategic deterrence, space operations, cyberspace operations, joint electronic warfare, global strike, missile defense, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, combating weapons of mass destruction, and analysis and targeting.