A new class of future leaders in and out of the United States military walked across the stage Friday as part of the 2017 distance education graduating class at the U.S. Army War College.

“Theoretically, we are the ones who will sit now and help write our nation’s national strategic plans,” Pennsylvania Army National Guard Lt. Col. John Pippy, a 2017 graduate, said. “Now, we look at the strategic level. … What do we want to be in 2035 and the people who write those plans, the majority of them — 90 some percent — will have gone through this school.”

While the outside may see the War College as a place where military members go to learn how to best use land power and position tanks, Pippy said it is much more about guiding U.S. military policy strategically into the future.

Pippy said he took classes in strategic communications to fulfill his elective credits of his master’s degree.

“I actually just got back from a deployment (in the Middle East),” Pippy said. “One thing I noticed a tremendous lack of is that we don’t tell our story well. … How do we tell that story not only about the war fighter and what we do but also about the other positive things that we do, and do it in a way that we don’t unintentionally offend our partners?”

Pippy and other members of the Army were joined by members of the other branches of military as well as Department of Defense and congressional employees in their studies.

Pennsylvania Army National Guard Lt. Col. Patrick Monahan said this helped provide a better perspective on all of the decisions that go into planning for the military.

“Leadership is about relationships,” Monahan said. “Everything a leader does. Everything that we do … everything boils down to people.”

Monahan said the program also brought in civilian members and members of local, state and federal governments to broaden students’ horizons.

“It doesn’t just temper, but it causes us to challenge our own perspective and maybe learn a new perspective on a host of issues,” he said.

For Sean Snyder, legislative director for U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, spending two years conversing and learning with members of the U.S. military brought a fresh look at how to shape policy from Congress.

“While I feel that I’ve had a good understanding and grasp of the rationale for a lot of the policy recommendations and why the Army and the other armed forces do what they do, I thought this would be a great opportunity to shorten that proverbial distance between the Pentagon and the Hill,” Snyder said. “I think it was a great opportunity to get firsthand integration and communication with the men and women who are definitely going to be the future leaders of our Army.”

Email Joshua Vaughn at jvaughn@cumberlink.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Sentinel_Vaughn.

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