USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At sea (NNS) -- When the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HST CSG) departed Norfolk for deployment May 21, a Regional Security Education Program (RSEP) team embarked USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), preparing Sailors and Marines for what to expect while operating in foreign waters.
Led by Rear Adm. (ret.) Stephen Loeffler from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) faculty, the team includes political science and history professors from NPS, the Virginia Military Institute, Towson University and an instructor from the Center for Language, Regional Expertise and Culture (CLREC) in Pensacola, Fla.
According to Loeffler, RSEP began in 2001 following the bombing of USS Cole (DDG 67). Senior Navy leadership questioned how to increase situational awareness of deploying naval forces and improve the ability to operate successfully in regions around the globe, areas in which many Sailors and Marines would be visiting for the first time.
While the program was initially focused on the Pacific Fleet, demand for the regional expertise and cultural sensitivity the RSEP and CLREC team provides quickly grew, expanding to Atlantic Fleet and Marine Forces in 2004.
Members of the RSEP team embark every carrier strike group deploying overseas and conduct briefings, lectures and informal panel discussions regarding specific regions and countries in which the strike group will operate.
According to Loeffler, the RSEP team averages five carrier strike groups and four expeditionary strike groups yearly, in addition to supporting operations such as Continuing Promise in Latin America, Pacific Partnership Program in the Asia-Pacific, Africa Partnership Station and commander, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command unit deployments around the world.
Professors with the HST CSG conduct multiple briefings daily to educate the strike group on such topics as Middle East and Africa history, politics, culture, diversity and regional security.
"The RSEP Program provides our Sailors and Marines with a better understanding of the counties in our area of operation and enhances our cultural awareness of the people we may work with or meet on liberty," said Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, commander, Carrier Strike Group 10. "The RSEP team is a key enabler that enhances our mission readiness and provides instruction and information that is relevant for all hands; from the newly reported seaman to the most senior leadership."
The robust schedule includes more than 60 lectures on 26 topics spanning an eight day period. Lectures are also videotaped and played on a ship's television system as well as distributed to ships within the HSTCSG to ensure maximum participation.
This is the seventh deployment for Lt. Shawn Collins, from the Truman Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance department. Although Collins has been to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility five times over a 21-year career, he said the briefs were beneficial.
"The lectures are extremely educational," said Collins.
"A lot of junior troops have stereotypes of what they think they'll experience and have no idea how crucial their work is at the global level. During a greetings and culture brief the instructor explained the significance behind gestures. It is fascinating how something as basic as a handshake can go misunderstood—I have a new appreciation for what I'll be seeing this time around."
The valuable information and support RSEP and CLREC provides will not end when the professors depart.
"What we offer to the commands is the ability to reach back", Loeffler said. "You never know what's going to happen next week or next month, and we're able to compile valuable information and send it to commands as their missions change."
The HST CSG includes commander, Carrier Strike Group 10, Truman, Carrier Air Wing 3, commander, Destroyer Squadron 26, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), and guided-missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79), USS Ross (DDG 71) and the German Frigate FGS Hessen (F221).
Missions of the HST CSG focus heavily on maritime security operations and theater security cooperation, which help establish conditions for regional stability in support of United States national security and cooperative engagement strategies.
For more news from USS Harry S. Truman, visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.