by Joe Thomas
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs
7/31/2015 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- The
Cold War ended in 1991, and with it, a comprehensive knowledge of the
nation's deterrence capability. The link between strategic deterrence
and technical competence faded away, with Airmen often gaining expertise
in other areas. This shortage in thinking is a problem the School for
Advanced Nuclear Studies aims to remedy.
"SANDS is for the best and brightest of the command," said Lt. Gen.
Stephen Wilson, former AFGSC commander and the driving force behind the
school's creation. "It will draw on educators and curricula from across
the nation. These students will be the 'Jedi Knights,' the really smart
folks every combatant command wants."
They year-long program, which is housed at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico,
will consist of AFGSC officers, civilians and joint officers who seek to
become masters of the nuclear enterprise--all learning and working from
the same capstone education. The curriculum stands as a consolidation
of all things assurance and deterrence.
"Students will complete a rigorous master's degree program in operations
management from the Air Force Institute of Technology," said Dr. Adam
Lowther, SAND'S director. "They will also be expected to complete a
'Great Books in Deterrence' reading program, and complete several
professional courses from Defense Threat Reduction University, the Air
Force Nuclear Weapons Center and Sandia National Labs.
"They will also write a master's thesis that seeks to answer a current
question important to AFGSC and the Air Force," he added. "It is
specifically designed to develop leaders who are well-versed experts in
assurance. Graduates will be permanently coded with an advanced academic
degree identifying them as SANDS alumni."
Students will also take classes in research design, operations
management, leadership and weapons effects among other topics. Given the
array of material that will be covered, students will work
collaboratively with some of the best faculty at Air Force Institute of
Technology and elsewhere.
"I hope to gain a broader understanding of the policy and strategy that
goes into how the US executes nuclear deterrence around the world," said
Maj. Matthew Boone, deputy director of AFGSC's Commander's Action
Group. "This is also a great opportunity to learn from experts who on
the cutting edge of our field."
Boone will be among only six students attending the school in its first
year; however, the number of students admitted each year will increase,
according to SANDS staff.
"The goal is to have 12 to 15 students per class," Lowther said. "These
students will come from across the nuclear enterprise. For the inaugural
course, we accepted bomber pilots, bomber weapons system officers,
missileers and maintenance security forces. In the future, the program
will open up to more career fields including government civilians and
Acceptance to SANDS is competitive, as graduates will serve as the
foundation for the command's expertise. Although many will apply, only a
few will be selected each year.
"AFGSC will select its very best officers from across all career fields
for the program," Lowther said. "The Advanced Study of Air Mobility, the
program upon which SANDS is based, has been so successful that 80
percent of Air Mobility Command wing commanders and above are graduates
of it. AFGSC seeks to replicate those high standards of selecting
quality officers, offering a top quality program, and placing them in
the right follow-on assignments."
While most course instruction will take place at Kirtland AFB, students
will also travel to key locations that contribute to the deterrence and
assurance mission. Ultimately, the goal of the course is to produce
deterrence experts who can fill command and staff positions within
Global Strike Command and more broadly in the Air Force, Department of
Defense, Combatant Commands, Joint Staff and NATO, according to SANDS
Students will also return to subordinate commands within AFGSC to share
their knowledge with colleagues, helping to improve the overall
understanding of Airmen. The end state is a command driven by innovation
and expertise and a capability that remains the sharpest edge of the
nation's nuclear capability.