Article by Kate Oliver; Photos provided by Cmdr. Wang
In November, a team of NPS faculty boarded the USS Makin Island for a seven-day mission. Commander Bernard Wang, Associate Dean of the School of International Graduate Studies (SIGS); Col. Michael Lwin, Army War College Fellow at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies; Dr. Anshu Chatterjee, a lecturer in the National Security Affairs (NSA) department; and Dr. Heather Gregg, Assistant Professor in the Defense Analysis department were carefully selected for the mission because of their expertise in one of three key regions the USS Makin Island anticipated visiting during deployment: Asia-Pacific, South Asia, and the Middle East.
These three faculty members were taking part in the Navy’s Regional Security Education Program (RSEP). The RSEP prepares Sailors and Marines for overseas deployments by bringing NPS and associated faculty onboard the vessels while underway for a series of intensive lectures and interactive briefs.
“RSEP gives the tools to decision makers to understand the issues that may confront them in the region,” said Wang. “We’re bringing recognized academics from all across the country – practitioners and academics – to provide interactive education that meets the crew’s needs.”
RSEP teams develop tailored lectures to meet the requirements outlined by the ship’s command and cover the critical elements Sailors need to know when visiting a region.
“One of the biggest challenges in the RSEP program for me is figuring out what they need to hear in the short amount of time we have onboard,” said Gregg, who lectured on five key points she believes are essential for military personnel entering the Middle East region: the basic dos and don’ts for port visits and trainings ashore, an overview of security threats within the Middle East region, Islamic activism and terrorism, changes in Iran, and implications of the Arab Spring.
“In the classroom, I have 10 weeks to cover this material. Onboard I have an hour to lecture to each of the groups. I have to boil it down to the essentials, and being flexible is really important,” said Gregg.
The content of lectures is determined by the needs of the command, many of which are laid out before the RSEP team leaves their home base.
“We are very sensitive to what the ship needs. We work with them before we embark and adjust our lectures and briefs once onboard based on requests we receive on the ship,” said Wang. “That’s a key advantage of RSEP, having academic-practitioners who have in-depth knowledge of their subject matter and a broad knowledge of the region in general.”