NEWPORT, R.I. -- The U.S. Naval War College opened its academic year with an Aug. 5 convocation ceremony, welcoming 530 students drawn from the U.S. armed forces, civilian national security agencies and the militaries of U.S. partner nations.
Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly and Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Gregory J. Slavonic attended the ceremony. The superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, Vice Adm. Sean S. Buck, and Marine Corps University President Brig. Gen. Jay M. Bargeron were also in attendance.
“We begin this intellectual journey together,” Rear Adm. Shoshana S. Chatfield, Naval War College president, told the assembled student body.
“I encourage you to take advantage of this gift of time to do things that in the profession of arms we don’t have an opportunity to do: to sit, reflect and engage in a process of inquiry, a challenging of our own ideas and beliefs, and time to invest in innovation at the margins.”
Students are embarking on a 10-month course of graduate work focused on national defense and strategic studies, preparing them to take on future leadership roles in their services.
Chatfield noted that the class includes students from 76 nations, a diversity of thought that is unmatched on most college campuses.
“We are also alike in many ways,” she said. “We aspire to a greater good, to a sense of right and to ideals of freedom.”
In acknowledgement of the college’s 135-year history, there was a reading of General Order 325, issued by the Secretary of the Navy in October 1884: “A college is hereby established for an advanced course of professional study for naval officers, to be known as the Naval War College.”
The college’s first president was Rear Adm. Steven B. Luce. An actor portraying Luce read from the admiral’s 1903 convocation speech.
“War may in certain instances be averted. Mark this well,” he said. “It may be averted in one way and one way only: And that way is to be fully prepared for it. That is the meaning of this college.”
Also at the ceremony, Chatfield awarded the 2019 Distinguished Graduate Leadership Award to Bruce E. Grooms, a now-retired vice admiral who graduated with distinction in the Class of 1993.
A submariner, Grooms commanded USS Asheville (SSN 758), Submarine Squadron 6 and Submarine Group 2. He retired from the Navy in 2015 and went on to a second career at Raytheon Co. as vice president of Navy and Marine Corps programs, retiring again earlier this year.
Grooms said he remembered his time at the Naval War College fondly for the friendships he made.
“For the first 10 or 12 years of my military career, I thought the world revolved around submarines. Then I arrived here,” Grooms told the students.
“I learned quickly that the world didn’t revolve around anything I had done in the past. This was such broadening and enlightening experience,” he said – particularly encouraging students to meet their counterparts from other nations, as they may become strategically important connections in the future.
“That’s what this War College is all about. Learn and share perspectives and get to know folks.”
For more information about U.S. Naval War College programs, go to usnwc.edu.