NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Faculty members from the Azerbaijan National War College concluded a 10-day visit to the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) March 5, as part of the NATO "Shadow Faculty Initiative."
Developed in 2009 for Partnership for Peace nations seeking to emulate Western teaching styles and curriculum, the initiative offers international military academy faculty members the opportunity to shadow Western counterparts.
For Azerbaijan, that western counterpart is the NWC.
"When I first went to Baku almost four years ago, it seemed obvious to me that their faculty visiting the Naval War College would offer them far more insights about American professional military education than my teaching at their war college," said NWC professor Thomas Fedyszyn, the program's academic lead, who advocated establishing the faculty exchange program in Newport.
In the four years since, faculty from the NWC's national security affairs department have mentored the Azerbaijani faculty and helped to revise their PME courses and curriculum.
"When we began the partnership program, the Azerbaijan National War College had only what we would call the intermediate NWC course," said Fedyszyn. "This course was almost exclusively tactical and was imported from the Russian Voronezh Model."
"Today, they have a full-functioning intermediate course that looks strikingly like our intermediate course. They are building their first senior course, and it will resemble our senior course. And they have a short senior interagency course which also has a strong Newport influence."
To support the development of the senior course, the focus of this year's shadow faculty visit was the National Security and Decision Making Final Exercise - the capstone exercise to a 10-week course designed to prepare senior level joint and international officers and civilians for executive positions in large national security organizations.
"This year we came to see your final exercise," said Azerbaijani professor Rustsam Gozalov. "We saw how the groups prepared their presentations, which will help us to create our own as applicable for our courses, and implement into our curriculum."
Upgrading the Azerbaijani curriculum has involved transforming an education system built on rote learning to one based on the free flow of ideas.
"The learning process is always hard," said Gozalov. "There are challenges that we've had to solve with the help of the NWC faculty members."
One of those challenges was student participation. Prior to the partnership, Fedyszyn said that students came to class to be lectured and seen, not heard. Today, they engage with their professors before, during and after class.
"In just four years, I would almost call this an education revolution," said Fedyszyn.
For the U.S., this 'revolution' couldn't come at a better time. Fedyszyn said the Sochi Olympics as well as the situation in Ukraine continues to remind foreign policy experts of the importance of this region.
"This is not a one-way street for the Naval War College curriculum," said Fedyszyn. "They have impressed on us the importance of the Caucasus region as well as the necessity to have reliable partners in the region."
Azerbaijan is one of eleven Partnership for Peace nations who have asked NATO for assistance in the development of their defense education programs. The partnership is funded by NATO and the Warsaw Initiative Fund.
For more news from Naval War College, visit www.navy.mil/local/nwc/.