NEWPORT, R.I. - Thirteen U.S. Naval War College (NWC) Theater Security Decision Making (TSDM) students received the debut NWC academic award, the Admiral James G. Stavridis Award for Excellence in Theater Strategic Planning, Nov. 6, at the NWC in Newport, R.I.<br /> <br /> This year benchmarked the inauguration of the academic award, which serves as an opportunity to formally recognize the group of NWC National Security Affairs (NSA) TSDM course students who best demonstrate a thorough understanding of course curriculum and deliver exemplary insight to combatant command (COCOM) specific security, strategy and planning. <br /> <br /> “It’s always an awesome feeling any time you win and are recognized. Everyone on the team worked hard to brief here and win the award. It feels good,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. John Hale, member of the Stavridis Award-winning group. <br /> <br /> Hale’s group, charged with focusing on U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) theater of operations, attributed the success of his group to generating a product that relevantly addressed CENTCOM threats and creating an innovative implementation plan which was feasible and could deliver success to the combatant commander.<br /> <br /> “We took all the things we learned in our TSDM course and put those together to deliver a product similar to what a strategy directorate would be charged with delivering to a combatant commander,” said Hale. “Lt. Figueroa did an amazing job developing an implementation case that seemed to be very in depth and feasible to execute in the CENTCOM area of responsibility.”<br /> <br /> During the ceremony, NWC provost Mary Ann Peters announced the inaugural Stavridis Award-winning group and officially recognized the students for their academic excellence.<br /> <br /> In addition to Hale, winning members of the group included: Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Nelson, Lt. Cmdr. Ben Cone, Lt. Cmdr. Erich Frandrup, Lt. Cmdr. Karen Richman, Lt. Cmdr. William Martin, Lt. Erik Figueroa, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jamerson Moses, U.S. Army Maj. Jeremy Tilley, U.S. Army Maj. Neil Armstrong, Royal navy of Oman Lt. Cmdr. Rashid Alqamshouai, Yemeni navy Galal Abdulrahman and Department of State civilian Matthew Kelley.<br /> <br /> “These students have demonstrated the ability to look out to their assigned COCOM specific future security environments through the next eight years; identify the threats and challenges that will confront those commands; develop an outline of a strategy or plan to deal with those challenges; and determine what capabilities are needed to address the reality of implementing their ideas,” said Jim Cook, NWC NSA professor and TSDM course final exercise coordinator.<br /> <br /> Leading up to the award selection and presentation, 304 TSDM students were broken down into 23 groups and each group, comprised of 13-15 students, was assigned specific COCOM areas of operation to study throughout the course. <br /> <br /> The groups then participated in a group panel discussion with members of the NSA faculty judging panel on Nov. 4, as part of their final exercise and capstone for the TSDM course. <br /> <br /> “This is the capstone for the TSDM course,” said David Cooper, NWC professor and chair for NSA. “It’s a graded exercise and all [groups] receive a grade. The Stavridis Award is an academic award to recognize the top [group].”<br /> <br /> Of the 23 groups, five were selected to represent NWC and compete in a panel discussion with senior representatives from each COCOM, and to determine the Admiral James G. Stavridis Award for Excellence in Theater Strategic Planning award winning group.<br /> <br /> Stavridis, a NWC distinguished graduate, distinguished alumni and Distinguished Graduate Leadership Award recipient, served as commander, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and commander, U.S. European Command (EUCOM), and emerged as the obvious namesake for the award, which embodies academic excellence and regional combatant command security.<br /> <br /> “Adm. Stavridis was just a natural fit. He’s NWC distinguished alumni. He’s been combatant commander of two COCOMs, SOUTHCOM and EUCOM, and Dr. Stavridis is now the Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University,” said Cooper.<br /> <br /> “He is truly a military scholar in the highest tradition and for all of those reasons he emerged as the obvious choice for naming an award for academic excellence in theater strategic planning.”<br /> <br /> This year’s senior COCOM representatives included: Royal Australian navy (RAN) Commodore Ian Middleton, regional and multinational engagement adviser for strategic planning and policy (J5), USPACOM; RAN Commodore Richard T. Menhinick, director, Commander’s Strategic Assessment Group, USCENTCOM; Capt. James Raimondo, director, Joint Chiefs of Staff EUCOM/SHAPE Liaison Office; U.S. Army Col. William Harmon, chief, Planning Division, J5 Directorate, USAFRICOM; and Senior Executive Service Steven L. Wetzel, deputy director, SOUTHCOM J5.