Developing Professional Navies

Developing Professional Navies

International Officers Learn Valuable Lessons at the U.S. Naval War College


When the Royal Navy of Oman decided to hold a major naval exercise with Great Britain’s Royal Navy for the first time in 17 years, it reached out to the U.S. Naval War College for expertise.

The Naval War College had just started a new, 12-week program for midlevel multinational naval officers called the International Maritime Staff Operator Course (I-MSOC). It trains officers to support complex maritime operations.

Omani Lt. Omar Salim al Ismaili leaped at the opportunity to attend I-MSOC. He had been tasked with helping to plan the joint exercise with Great Britain — called Swift Sword 3 — and attended I-MSOC in 2017.

Lt. Omar was among 15 officers from 13 nations — including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan — enrolled in the course. It’s designed for naval lieutenants, lieutenant commanders and commanders. The program was held mostly at the War College in Providence, Rhode Island, in the United States, although trips to installations such as NATO Headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, provided even more opportunities for training and development.

“My goal is to utilize the knowledge gained at I-MSOC of the U.S. Navy planning process to develop Swift Sword,” Lt. Omar said of his role in planning the 2018 naval exercise. “Overall, I found I-MSOC invaluable.”

Yahiya Al Oufi, an Omani advisor in the Sultan’s Armed Forces, asks a question during a discussion on counterpiracy at the U.S. Naval War College’s 15th Regional Alumni Symposium in the Omani capital of Muscat. Daniel S. Marciniak/U.S. Navy

Established in 1884 to raise the professionalism of U.S. officers, the Naval War College quickly opened its doors to international officers. Its list of international alumni has grown to more than 4,500 from about 130 countries. Roughly 10 percent of those officers have risen to be chiefs of their countries’ navies.

“The U.S. Naval War College has a close and enduring relationship with all navies of the world, including the Middle East and Central and South Asia,” said Dean of International Programs Thomas Mangold. “Alumni have, at one time or another, commanded most of those navies.”

The college stays actively engaged with those international officers through its Regional Alumni Symposia. In October 2017, the 15th Regional Alumni Symposium was held in Muscat, Oman, and attracted naval personnel from countries such as Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Symposium topics included international maritime norms and standards; counterterrorism, protecting maritime infrastructure, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; counterpiracy; and interoperability in maritime operations.

Rear Adm. Abdullah bin Khamis Al Raisi, commander of the Royal Navy of Oman, attended the symposium as a 1990 graduate of the War College and voiced support for international cooperation to protect vulnerable maritime networks on which Oman and other nations rely.

“Changes in today’s international security environment have expanded the current security significance of maritime and political interests,” Rear Adm. Abdullah said. “The importance of secure sea lines of communication has increased.”

Another Naval War College program that draws attendance from the Middle East is the Combined Force Maritime Component Commander Course, begun in 2006 and held most recently in Bahrain in September 2017.

Attendees of the 15th Regional Alumni Symposium in Muscat in October 2017 Daniel S. Marciniak/U.S. Navy

Senior naval commanders from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates attended this regionally focused course that provides a forum to deepen relationships among multinational partners. It was hosted by Vice Adm. John Aquilino, the then-newly appointed commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

Graduates of the weeklong course have gone on to assume commands of multinational missions as part of the Combined Maritime Forces-Combined Task Forces 150, 151 and 152. Those task forces protect the Arabian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean from piracy, smuggling and terrorism.

“About one-dozen flag officers in the region meet every year in Bahrain to attend the Coalition Force Maritime Component Commanders Course, where they discuss current developments and promote ever greater levels of cooperation,” Dean Mangold said.

The International Wargaming Course is another program designed with non-U.S. officers in mind.

Held the first time in June 2018, the course teaches officers the fundamentals of wargaming so that they can duplicate those efforts within their own navies. The War College developed the program to boost operational effectiveness without the expense of launching ships for larger-scale naval exercises.

“At the completion of the course, participants  have an improved understanding of the value of wargaming as a technique to gain insights into complex or ill-structured problems and the process used at the Naval War College to design, execute and analyze wargames,” said retired U.S. Navy Capt. Richard LaBranche, head of the college’s wargaming department.

U.S. Naval War College Regional Alumni Numbers

40 – Bahrain

64 – Egypt

5 – Iraq

24 – Jordan

7 – Kazakhstan

29 – Kuwait

28 – Lebanon

27 – Oman

89 – Pakistan

26 – Qatar

73 – Saudi Arabia

45 – United Arab Emirates

457 Total with 11 Heads of Navy/Service