The World Meets in San Diego!

CDR Carl B. Forkner, Ph.D., USN(Ret)

March 2011. One of the privileges I had while serving as an Assistant Professor in the International Security Studies Department at the Air War College (AWC) was to be involved with the International Fellows program. This program brought 45 senior officers from 44 countries around the world to study for a year at the Air War College, gaining the same insights and enriching the understanding of national- and global-level strategy for peace, response to unrest, and joint/combined military and diplomatic operations. it was the most memorable part of my assignment!

Each spring term, students at AWC choose a region for study and then focus on the

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Aboard the C-17

geopolitical, military, diplomatic, cultural, economic, industrial, and other characteristics, activities, and history of that region. During the course, students plan a trip to 2-3 nations within their selected region to which they travel for two weeks at the end of the academic term. For our International Fellows, the curriculum focused on the United States and, at the end of the term, students traveled to various locations in the U.S. to experience the military, diplomatic, industrial, economic, cultural, and informational (i.e. visits with media and their establishments) parts of the country.

This year’s trip for the International Fellows’ Regional and Cultural Studies (RCS) Program was to San Diego, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Honolulu. I was able to stay with the group for the San Diego and L.A. portion of the journey, after which the other instructors took them to Washington and Hawaii. At every location, there were a variety of activities, but there was also time for the students to explore on their own in small groups. 

The first stop was to visit some of the attractions in Balboa Park, a short drive from our hotel–The Omni–near the Historic Gas Lamp District. At Balboa, we visited the Air & Space Museum and the Automotive Museum. Other attractions there include the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages, the Museum of Art, Natural History Museum, Fleet Science Center, Art Institute, Museum of Man, and the Veterans Museum. 

Another day was spent on base at Naval Air Station North Island, where the students experienced some of the military leadership and support facilities of the US Navy and Marine Corps. The Chief of Staff of Commander Naval Air Forces, Pacific briefed the students on how naval air forces train, operate, and maintain readiness for the many missions they are called upon to accomplish. Following the briefing and open discussion, the students toured the facility that does major rework and upgrades to the Pacific Fleet’s F/A-18 aircraft. 

One of the highlights was a visit to the Border Patrol. We received a tour of the facilities where people are screened as they come through the border station, both by vehicle or on foot. What many people never see in the news is that there is a similar station on the other side of the border, manned by heavily-armed Mexican authorities to control traffic entering their country. We received an in-depth briefing on operations along the border from one of the Border Patrol’s Chiefs, after we went on a tour between the Otay Mesa and San Diego entry stations “between the fences” (there are also fences/walls on the Mexican side of the border, which are rarely mentioned in media reporting).

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The next day, it was on to Los Angeles–more specifically, Hollywood! There the students would get to experience some of the movie and television industry, meeting with the President and CEO of Sony Entertainment International Michael Lynton, the CEO of Landmark Theaters Ted Mundorff, and even a few celebrities some may recognize. We had great coordination by Madelyn Hammond, a long-time promotions professional in the industry, for helping us set up this extraordinary day.

The day started out with a trip to Sony Studios. While there, we had the privilege of a private group audience with the CEO of Sony Entertainment International and then a tour of the facilities by the CEO of Landmark Theaters.

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We were hosted for lunch in one of the executive dining rooms at the studio, where students were able to meet some of the people who worked in the industry and learn more during lunch conversations.

A highlight of the tour in the afternoon was experiencing the Sony 3D development shop and seeing some of the magic that they were working to bring films more to life–things that are now in studios!

As the day wound down, we went to dinner at a local restaurant, joined by actor Dennis Haysbert and two film directors. Afterwards, we were treated to a private showing of the new [at the time] film Battle: Los Angeles at the first Landmark Theater, hosted by the CEO of Landmark Theaters, Ted Mundorff.

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As they say, all good things come to an end. We went back to the hotel to prepare for the next day’s flight to Seattle, Washington for our International Fellows to experience more of America!

The United States Air War College (AWC) is the Professional Military Education (PME) establishment for joint military education with a perspective on airpower. It is a component of Air University, the body that oversees Professional Military Education throughout the Air Force. AWC is one of the schools to which senior officers of all services may be accepted to complete their Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) requirement to become designated as a Joint Specialty Officer.

The International Fellows Program includes not only senior officers attending the Air War College, but also has a similar program for O-4 (Major/Lieutenant Commander) level students at the Air Command and Staff College. both colleges are located on Maxwell AFB, outside Montgomery, AL.

This opportunity each year to have cross-cultural exchanges with international colleagues provided key insights into how professionals from other parts of the world view issues. In fact, in each of the seminar groups, there were three international officers, and each international officer was from a different continent, providing a great diversity that enriched the learning experience for everyone!

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