The U.S. Naval War College celebrated its summer 2020 graduation on June 24 with a virtual ceremony for 427 students who earned graduate diplomas in the arena of national security, defense and strategic studies.
In an extraordinary year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the college was forced to move to online-only coursework in March, and the graduation ceremony followed that theme. Instead of parading in dress uniforms on historic Dewey Field, this class gathered virtually to hear recorded speeches from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, Naval War College president.
“Your year here in Newport is concluding in a very different manner than the way it began last summer. Your adaptability and resilience in the face of enormous change is admirable,” Chatfield told graduates in the event video.
She noted that students were asked to transform their homes into an office, the classroom, a lecture hall and even the research library.
“You persevered through the stress of these disruptions and proved your ability to manage complex challenges,” she said. “Your year here has proven that the future will continue to be characterized by unpredictability and momentous change. This is a reality in which our senior leaders view learning as a key strategic enabler to the success of our national security forces.”
The keynote address was delivered by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who is a 2000 graduate of the Naval War College.
Milley, a career Army officer, told students that his mission, as well as theirs as students of military history and strategy, is to prevent another great-power war and to maintain the great-power peace.
“I offer you three lessons to consider on how to prevent great-power war as you shortly become senior leaders: The first is vigilance,” said Milley, in a pre-recorded address.
“We must identify signs of aggression, especially during periods when we are weary from conflict or otherwise preoccupied. These are the times when aggressors sense opportunity,” he said.
The second lesson: Keep a high level of military readiness to underscore the concept of peace through strength, he said.
“Our adversaries will be deterred by our military capabilities and our resolve to use them. If deterrence fails, we must be prepared to fight and win,” Milley said.
The third lesson, Milley said, is the importance of allies and partners. “There is great strength in times of crisis when we and our allies and partners remain equally committed to a common cause,” he concluded.
The graduates are officers in the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard, in addition to civilian employees of the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. They were joined by 120 international military officers hailing from 76 nations.
Additionally, in the College of Distance Education, 1,424 are graduating with a College of Naval Command and Staff diploma for completing Joint Professional Military Education I requirements. Also, 176 distance students will receive the Naval War College master's degree, which requires completion of the joint military education coursework and additional electives in an area of study.
Among resident students, college officials recognized 17 students who graduated with highest distinction, scoring in the top 5 percent of the class. Graduating in the next 15 percent of the class, 52 students received distinction honors.
A few top performers were singled out for awards. Lt. Cmdr. Scott E. Urbashich received the Drs. Daniel and Susan Thys Academic Prize for the highest grade point average by a U.S. Navy student.
Maj. Albert Evans III earned the Capt. James T. Larkin Award for Academic Excellence by a Marine Corps student.
The Edward H. Bragg Award for Academic Excellence among Coast Guard students was earned by Capt. James W. Spitler.
Lt. Col. Mirielle M. Petitjean of the Air Force received the Adm. Ike Kidd Naval Intelligence Foundation Award for achievement among intelligence officers.
Each June, two graduates who demonstrate a high degree of academic performance, participation in college and community activities and promotion of government service in the public interest are recognized. This year, the William Sowden Sims Award went to Evans, who also received the top Marine Corps academic honors. The Stephen Bleecker Luce Award went to Cmdr. John Sellwood of the Royal New Zealand Navy.
Among international students, the Rear Admiral Joseph C. Strasser Naval Staff College International Leadership Prize was awarded to Maj. Wanling Tung of the Singapore Navy.
The Rear Admiral Joseph C. Strasser Naval Command College International Leadership Prize was awarded to Cmdr. Christian Hillmer of the German Navy.
The Naval Command College also recognized Cmdr. Allen Uttecht of the U.S. Navy as the winner of the 2020 Arleigh Burke Fellow of the Year Award.
The Naval War College also honors accomplishment in writing with 21 annual awards, listed here: https://usnwc.edu/News-and-Events/News/The-Mighty-Pen-Naval-War-College-Announces-Writing-Prizes-for-2019-2020
Chatfield sent the new graduates off with the charge to use the transformative power of education.
“Do not be content to sit comfortably inside your area of expertise. Instead, press to the edges and seek opportunities to collide with others whose different backgrounds, different exposures and different ways of thinking will inform you,” she said.
“Now that you have experienced new ways to influence the future here at the Navy’s home of thought, you are duty-bound to take your enhanced intellect, your improved analytic skills and your expanded perspective and to lead,” Chatfield said.
Established in 1884, U.S. Naval War College is the oldest institution of its kind in the world. More than 75,000 students have graduated since the first class of nine students in 1885.
Today, the college offers a one-year graduate-level program to roughly 600 resident students annually. Graduates can earn a Master of Arts degree in national security and strategic studies or defense and strategic studies. While many students graduate in June, others receive their degrees in March and November.
Another 1,000 distance-learning students complete the college’s military education courses each year from locations around the country, with some going on to earn the master’s degree.
The college has a prestigious group of alumni: About 300 of today’s active-duty admirals, generals and senior executive service leaders are graduates. Since creating a program for international officers in 1956, the college has more than 4,500 international alumni from 137 countries.