By Daniel L. Kuester, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs
NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- The Adm. James G. Stavridis Award for Excellence in Theater Strategic Planning was presented by Provost Lewis M. Duncan to the top seminar of the intermediate-level Theater Security Decision Making (TSDM) course at U.S. Naval War College (NWC), Nov. 4.
The event was the capstone of a trimester focusing on contemporary security studies, with a strong regional emphasis.
"The exercise is intended for the students to show mastery of all the TSDM course concepts," said James L. Cook, associate professor of national security affairs and the final exercise coordinator. "It requires the students to take what they have learned and apply it in their respective presentations."
The class included 355 students who were divided into 24 seminars based on five geographic combatant commands. Each of the seminars made a presentation to a panel of senior command representatives with the top seminar from each region advancing to the final round.
From those five, one seminar was selected as overall winner and presented the Stavridis honor.
Each group was judged on how they would deal with future security issues within their assigned combatant command.
"We wanted them to provide an assessment of the future security environment for the next eight years," said Cook. "We chose eight years because we want them to them to think a little bit beyond the immediate crisis."
Focusing on an unusual aspect of U.S. Pacific Command's area of responsibility - an aspect less frequently talked about - may have helped the successful group win over the judges.
"What set us apart was the idea of transnational crime and terror," said Army Maj. Ryan Kenny, captain of the winning team. "It is a topic we think about a lot on our southern border, but we don't always think about globally. That is a real threat. We thought it was valuable to look at things that are not getting a lot of attention right now."
The winning team was comprised of Lt. Cmdr. James Caballero, Lt. Cmdr. Eric Erhard, Lt. Cmdr. Neva Fuentes, Lt. Cmdr. Brian Salter, Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Schneider and Lt. Joseph Mills, U.S. Navy; Kenny, Maj. Brett Matzenbacher and Capt. Chad Peltier, U.S. Army; Maj. Daniel Willis, U.S. Air Force; Maj. Jason Kut, U.S. Marine Corps; Charles Shannon, civilian; Maj. Yudi Ardian, Indonesia; Lt. Cmdr. Wendelboy Buntag, Philippines; and Lt. Cmdr. Ko Kubota, Japan.
The panel of senior combatant command representatives included Air Force Brig. Gen. Steven Oliver, deputy director, strategy, plans and programs, U.S. Africa Command; Air Force Col. Shawn Teagan, chief of strategy, U.S. European Command; Navy Capt. Andy Westerkom, training division chief, U.S. Southern Command; Marine Corps Col. Stephen Van Riper, division chief, strategy and policy, U.S. Central Command; and Army Col. Kristian Smith, chief of strategy and policy, U.S. Pacific Command.