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New special operator course broadens horizons


The Joint Special Operations Forces Senior Enlisted Academy, one of the first JSOFSEA classes in Tampa Bay, Fla., is so new, it has yet to find a place to call home.

A Cannon Air Commando who recently graduated said the academy provided an insight to a larger strategic picture that he never experienced at other courses.

Senior Master Sgt. John O’Dell, 16th Special Operations Squadron superintendent, said the course was held in a leased building at a marina. It is geared for special operators in all the services and is offered by Special Operations Command.

“This course makes us more relevant as we sit next to the commander. It gives us a bigger picture beyond the military,” said O’Dell.

O’Dell said the course enables senior operators to step into higher levels of leadership and gives its graduates the ability to lead a Theater Special Operations Command.

“At the TSOC level, an NCO would not only be involved with military operations, but would work closely with organizations such as Doctors Without Borders,” he said. Doctors Without Borders is an international organization that provides urgent medical care in countries to victims of war and disaster.

According to its website, JSOFSEA educates Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Special Operations Forces senior enlisted personnel in mission-oriented leadership and critical thinking skills. It prepares its students to effectively advise, lead, and mentor in the future operation environment at the operational and strategic levels.

Before someone can begin the three-month academy, the student must complete an online 40-hour course at home station. During this phase, students complete the Joint Forces Staff College 40-hour online Enlisted Joint Professional Military Education course and a series of reading, research, and writing assignments.

The classroom instruction focuses on critical thinking, leadership, effective communications, resource management, national security strategy, and joint warfighting. It culminates with a multiple-day training exercise requiring students to execute operational-level planning as a member of a TSOC, Joint Special Operations Task Force or Joint Planning Group.

The course, the sergeant said, ran the gamut, as students studied the philosophical musings of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War 2,500 years ago and Kevin Admiral’s Enhancing Operations Art and Design in the 21st Century, to instruction on critical thinking, leadership, effective communications, resource management, national security strategy, and joint warfighting

In addition, students do a National Study Security Assessment as one of their projects that adds to the bigger picture for the senior NCOs. One unscripted benefit of the academy was the interaction between Air Force, Marine, Navy and Army special operators, said O’Dell.

“It’s likely that we could meet again, and that was a valuable part of the academy,” he said.

O’Dell is a 22-year Air Force veteran who began his career as an aircraft weapons system maintainer and became a special operator as a gunship aerial gunner in 1994.


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