NEWPORT, R.I. - The Halsey Alfa Group, an advanced research program at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC), is celebrating its 20th anniversary of collaborative student-faculty research, analysis and wargaming.
The program began in 2003 when Professor Jim Fitzsimonds and Dr. Craig Koerner, professors in NWC’s Strategic and Operational Research department, recognized the need to examine scenarios in which a near peer maritime competitor might challenge the United States for sea control.
Beginning with 12 joint service and civilian students, they initiated a basic structure of continuous free play war gaming supported by operations analysis in a truly collaborative environment, which they believe has proven to be the best means of meeting their education and research objectives.
“We feel gratified in having helped a generation of joint officers best prepare for future warfighting challenges in an era of rapid evolution of military technology,” said Fitzsimonds. “Our network of Halsey Alfa graduates help keep our program well-informed regarding current operations in the fleet and in the field.”
The program also maintains direct communication with intelligence and operational commands to ensure project relevance, and to provide feedback to these commands and resource sponsors.
As a primary methodology, the Halsey Alfa Group uses iterative, free play wargaming and operations research and systems analysis to examine the character of near-future operational-tactical warfighting at the high end of the conflict spectrum. Scenarios involve a technologically sophisticated military competition in East Asia and outputs are provided to both theater operational forces and the most senior levels of the Navy.
Instituted as an optional, 10-month specialized program of study, the program is completed in conjunction with either the NWC in-resident College of Naval Warfare senior level course or the College of Naval Command and Staff intermediate-level course core curriculum.
The 20th anniversary also happens to coincide with another milestone for the Halsey Alfa Group; the graduation of the program’s 300th student, Lt. Col. Elizabeth “UMA” Pham, U.S. Marine Corps. Pham is a graduate of San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School with a master’s degree in National Security Studies, and was selected from a highly competitive board to attend a top-level military education program. She chose NWC.
“I am deeply humbled and honored to be part of the esteemed Halsey Alfa team, and being the 300th graduate of this program is an incredible distinction,” said Pham. “I am proud of what I was able to accomplish and experience at the Naval War College, and I know that being part of the Halsey Alfa Team has helped me grow and mature as a leader in the larger scope and scale of the joint warfighting profession.”
Pham, who graduated earlier this month, said she believes being a part of Halsey Alfa will enhance her planning skills to become a more adept orchestrator of joint forces, especially at her next job with the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany.
“My main responsibility will be to educate NATO planners from joint force commands on joint military operations and Supreme Headquarters Allied Partners Europe (SHAPE) planning practices,” said Pham. “I am excited to utilize the knowledge and skills I acquired at the Naval War College and apply them to benefit our NATO allies and partners.”
For future Halsey Alfa students, Pham had this advice to share: “Embrace a joint mindset and venture beyond your own service for solutions. Open your mind to unconventional thinking and explore innovative approaches that can be realistically executed. Be willing to take risks, learn from failures, and embrace a continuous cycle of improvement. Remember the path to success often involves trying, failing, learning, and repeating.”
When asked about the future of the program, Professor Fitzsimonds stated it will continue generating high quality research outputs as long as theater level leaders need support to operational planning and joint force organization and employment.
NWC delivers excellence in education, research, and outreach, informing today’s decision-makers and educating tomorrow’s leaders. The college provides educational experiences and learning opportunities that develop students’ ability to anticipate and prepare strategically for the future, strengthen the foundations of peace, and create a decisive warfighting advantage.
For more information on the Halsey Alfa Group or other advanced research programs at NWC, visit https://usnwc.edu/Research-and-Wargaming/Advanced-Research-Programs.