NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- One thousand, six hundred and eight students graduated from U.S. Naval War College (NWC), June 17, during a ceremony held at Dewey Field at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island.
"Today our students are joining a long line of distinguished Naval War College graduates that extends back 131 years," said Rear Adm. P. Gardner Howe III, NWC's president. "Through their dedicated efforts and hard work, our students have refined their critical thinking skills and grown as members of the profession of arms."
During the ceremony, students were congratulated by distinguished guest, Congressman Steve Israel, U.S. Representative for New York's 3rd District, and presented with a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies or Defense and Strategic Studies.
The resident graduating class included 316 Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and federal civilian employees from 64 government agencies who attended either the College of Naval Warfare (CNW) or College of Naval Command and Staff, and 118 international naval officers representing 65 countries who attended either the Naval Command College or Naval Staff College (NSC).
Additionally, 1,174 students from 69 government agencies completed their coursework through the College of Distance Education, via Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California; Fleet Seminar Program; Navy Knowledge Online; or CD-ROM based correspondence.
"The course facilitates a better knowledge base; it makes you a better critical thinker and a better communicator," said Lt. Cmdr. John Battisti, a Fleet Seminar Program participant in both Pearl Harbor and Washington, D.C. "The exposure to the different types of professors with their firsthand knowledge and leadership, as well as the wide diversity of students during the class sessions was fantastic."
Battisti is also this year's winner of the McGinnis Family Award for outstanding performance in nonresident education, academics, and professional and community service achievement.
In addition to earning a diploma or degree, students also earned Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) credit from the Department of Defense.
"The reemerging focus on JPME definitely attracted me to the NWC," said Cmdr. Francis Brown, a resident CNW student. "The faculty and staff are unparalleled across the JPME spectrum. The professors really go above and beyond to make sure that the development we go through as officers allows us to think critically at the strategic level."
Brown, a 16-year Navy veteran, reflected on the importance of partnerships between the United States and international officers while attending NWC.
"Those contacts have been extended to be lifelong," he said. "That's part of the core of what we do here."
Israeli navy Lt. Cmdr. Arik Pony, a NSC student, expressed his gratitude for being selected to be part of NWC's International Program.
"This opportunity for academic education, friendship, and an exploration of the U.S. is highly recommended," Pony said. "When I return home, I'll be taking with me 78 friends from all around the world. I now have a better understanding of their point of view and I believe that those friendships may one day be able to change the reality in the Middle East."
International students attending NWC visit key destinations in the United States to learn about government and culture, but according to Pony his best experience happened on campus during the 9/11 Memorial Service.
"For me to share that honor with the American Soldiers and people was one of the highest points during my year," said Pony. "That event symbolizes, more than anything our common goals and objectives."
Countries represented by the 2016 graduating class included: Algeria, Angola, Australia, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.
"I have no doubt that historians will someday look back on this class and find in it men and women who will fight bravely, lead with honor, and make the world a better place," said Howe.
Photos of the event will be posted in the coming days to http://flic.kr/s/aHskCwSXdr, and video will be posted to http://www.youtube.com/usnavalwarcollege.
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