Chilean Officer Stands Out at U.S. Naval War College

Chilean Officer Stands Out at U.S. Naval War College

By Felipe Lagos/Diálogo
September 18, 2018

Chile and the United States continue a long-standing academic exchange tradition.

Chilean Navy Commander Sergio Gómez took on the role of instructor through the U.S. Naval War College (USNWC), teaching U.S. military students. The Chilean Navy officer will deliver several courses and participate in humanitarian aid conferences in military and civil institutions until 2019.

The Chilean officer began teaching as part of his studies at USNWC’s Naval Command College (NCC), and carries on as a military guest professor of the Civilian-Military Humanitarian Response program of USNWC’s College of Maritime Operational Warfare. Cmdr. Gómez is the 39th Chilean Navy officer to graduate from USNWC.

The goal of the academic exchange is to generate trust, cooperation, and promote interoperability between foreign and U.S. officers. The program enables officers to acquire a common understanding of global challenges in the defense and security sectors, becoming multiplying forces and sharing the knowledge with counterparts and future experts.

“The main goal is to promote a wide range of visions and experiences to enrich academic debate,” said Chilean Navy Commander Alberto Guerrero García, who graduated from NCC in 2017. “As one of my professors said, ‘once students finish the course, they see and understand the world in a different light.’”

Strong curriculum

Cmdr. Gómez graduated from NCC with honors, after an 11-month course for high-ranking officers from armed forces worldwide. On June 15, 2018, U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis led the graduation ceremony for 103 international officers and 323 students of U.S. military institutions and security agencies. Along with Cmdr. Gómez, Latin American officers from Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic Haiti, Mexico, and Peru formed the 2018 class.

“My experience as a USNWC student, specifically at NCC, was fascinating,” Cmdr. Gómez told Diálogo. “First of all, interacting with and getting to know classmates from 50 different countries is a unique opportunity to make professional and personal friendships for life. Secondly, it’s been a chance to receive a top-notch academic education from world-class professors with a strong and up-to-date curriculum from USNWC.”

NCC’s curriculum consists of three main courses in joint military operations, national security decision-making, and strategy and policy development. During the courses, students analyze in depth the operational and strategic levels of war, detailing the role of military forces and focusing on strategic leadership, among other topics. Students also take part in field studies in different U.S. government and academic institutions.

“The international USNWC program is a worldwide, unique initiative that combines a demanding academic program with a strong cultural exchange component and professional experiences with officers from all over the world,” Cmdr. Guerrero told Diálogo. “In my opinion, this exchange is purely beneficial to our institution and the country, creating a virtuous cycle that boosts our officers’ professional training while strengthening international relationships at an institutional level.”

Close collaboration

In mid-April, as part of the exchange, Cmdr. Gómez taught a series of humanitarian response courses at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative program. The course ended with a simulated scenario of a humanitarian operation in a country in conflict, with the officer playing the role of a Chilean military delegation sent on a humanitarian aid mission.

In mid-August, the officer took part in USNWC’s Civilian-Military Humanitarian Response Workshop, organized by Brown University. More than 100 international experts and officers, as well as dozens of civil organizations and military institutions, participated in the conference, which promoted civil-military cooperation in cases of disaster and crisis.

“As a military guest professor in the Civilian-Military Humanitarian Response program, I was able to interact with the U.S. academic world by participating in workshops, simulations, and meetings with Harvard, Brown, Yale, and MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] universities, and also the United Nations,” Cmdr. Gómez said. “My hope is to contribute to the training of military and civilian students in different academic organizations from the perspective of a foreign country and my 24-year experience in the Chilean Navy.”

The Chilean Navy has a long history of academic exchanges with USNWC. Created in 1884 in Newport, Rhode Island, the U.S. naval academy is the oldest in the world. In 1956, USNWC inaugurated NCC with 23 students, including a Chilean officer—a close exchange with the South American nation ensued.

“Close collaboration not only in the operational area, but also in the academic field, allowed both navies to operate and collaborate in multiple occasions and scenarios,” Cmdr. Gómez concluded. “I believe it’s fair to highlight my predecessors’ legacy in terms of their contribution to USNWC activities not only as students, but also as educators, earning prestige for the Chilean Navy and honoring the name of our country.”