By Rebecca Coleman
Joint Staff Hampton Roads
NORFOLK, Va., April 8, 2013 – National Defense University’s Joint Forces Staff College here has graduated its first two international students from the Senior Enlisted Joint Professional Military Education Course.
Coalition and multinational senior enlisted members have an opportunity to learn more about the U.S. military through the online course, known as SEJPME.
John Lipps, course program manager, said he’s been working to include international students since the online course launched in 2007. The process involved submitting the course to the Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity, he explained, and it was put on the Military Articles and Service List, or MASL, in 2008 and reviewed in 2010 and this year. The MASL is a catalog of descriptive codes and text used to identify material and services available to foreign governments and international organizations.
The first two international students were from Slovakia and Canada. Regimental Operations Warrant Officer Scott Howell, Canadian Special Operations Regiment, was the first of the two to complete the course.
"Overall, it was a great experience, and I'm proud to be the first international graduate of the Senior Enlisted Joint PME Course," said Howell, a soldier based in Petawawa, Ont.
Howell said he first heard about the course while attending U.S. Special Operations Command’s Joint Special Operations University.
"The SEJPME course is a mandatory prerequisite for the Joint Special Operations Forces Senior Enlisted Academy," he said.
Geraldine Wilson, chief of the school’s international military student’s office, said her office coordinated with security cooperation officers, the Navy’s education training security assistance officers and the Joint Special Operations University to program and include the SEJPME course as a pipeline prerequisite to their course.
“I think this is a great opportunity for international students to participate in the course, and it benefits both the student and the JFSC,” Wilson said.
Howell said he expected the U.S. course to be challenging.
"I was concerned that being Canadian, I would have to learn material that was not intuitive,” he added. “The material, though challenging, was actually very straightforward. The manner of presentation made it quite easy for me to learn."
Lipps said the curriculum is a stand-alone, Web-based course that also uses multimedia instruction. "The course contains a pre-test, section knowledge checks or quizzes, and a final examination," he said.
The course delivers a precise and complete curriculum incorporating the latest in joint doctrine and service information into the online learning experience, Lipps said.
"The lessons vary in topic areas ranging from the National Military Command Structure, Interagency Operations, and Multinational Operations to Service Roles and Mission, to name a few," he added.
Students log 45 hours of instruction on a self-paced, asynchronous schedule.
Lipps said he hopes to increase the number of international students enrolled in the course.
"We are especially interested in international enlisted members who engage with U.S. forces," he said. "This course will better prepare them to work more closely with and within U.S. and multinational or coalition commands. The course will increase the students' knowledge about our national military command structure [and] our services, and introduce them to other relevant topics."
The program manager pointed out that the SEJPME course is not intended to replace or substitute for their own nation’s instruction for international students. Rather, he said, it is meant as a supplemental, stand-alone, U.S.-focused joint curriculum.
Howell said the most significant thing he learned was the U.S. national command structure and how it applies to operations and planning on a strategic level.
"This was truly great information that will allow me to work more seamlessly in a joint capacity with U.S. forces in the future," he said. "The only real challenge was contextualizing the material and drawing comparisons to the Canadian military, but this was easily overcome."
The Canadian soldier said he would recommend the course without hesitation, which is a sentiment Lipps hopes to convey to the international audience.
"Our immediate goals are to expand the student body to include more international senior enlisted students,” he said. “We would like to see more enrollments from our allies and partners working directly with U.S. forces, no matter where that interaction takes place, whether at combatant commands, joint task forces or NATO."
Today's complex global operating environment requires a solid network of senior enlisted leaders who can communicate with each other to accomplish the mission, share ideas, learn lessons from one another and much more, Lipps noted.
“Our SEJPME course can lay the educational groundwork for operating in this environment," he added.
Since SEJPME instruction is offered online, it benefits those who cannot travel to the United States. The course is intended for senior enlisted members, and is offered in English. It requires high-speed Internet access.
For more information on course prerequisites, potential students can contact the Joint Forces Staff College's international military student office at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the JFSC website.