Raising Cultural Awareness Aboard USS Nimitz

Sailors aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68) participated in Regional Security Education Program (RSEP) classes April 21 – 25. The RSEP classes were taught by four instructors from major universities and military campuses.

The classes are part of an outreach program during Nimitz’ current deployment to teach Sailors about historical, cultural, diplomatic and political-military issues they may face while overseas.

“There are four of us on board representing the RSEP program,” said Michael Rubin, senior lecturer at Naval Post Graduate School. “We are led by retired Rear Adm. Steve Loeffler.”

Rubin, a former professor at Yale University, is one of the nation’s leading authorities on Iran.

“My goal [while on board Nimitz] is to help provide insight on how Iranians think, how they might act and what goes on in their heads when they see us,” said Rubin.

According to Rubin, Sailors make for some of the best students he has ever given lectures to.

“I’ve taught at universities and ships and I would say that by far the best students and the best questions are when I’m on board the ships of the U.S. Navy,” said Rubin. “When I was teaching at Yale, I would listen to 18 year-olds talk just to hear themselves talk, but they wouldn’t actually be saying anything. On a ship every word a Sailor speaks matters.”

Educating Sailors while at sea is an opportunity and experience that Rubin doesn’t take for granted.

“I learn just as much being on the ship and talking to Sailors who’ve been around the world in the Navy than I do in a graduate classroom,” said Rubin. “[The Nimitz] is the seventh carrier I’ve been to in three years and the reason I keep coming back is that being on a ship is both a privilege and an education.”

Another of the instructors who visited Nimitz for the RSEP classes was Andrew Erickson, an associate professor at China Maritime Studies Institute Naval War College. Erickson’s expertise is on China and it’s national security, military service and technological developments using Chinese language and open sources.

“We’re scholars that are deployed to different ships,” said Erickson. “The idea is to match the expertise of the scholars to the areas the ships are deploying to. We try to help the command while they are underway to prepare for whatever they may encounter so they will be prepared for any potential situations. We try to cover all the different spectrums they may encounter.”

For Erickson, his time on board Nimitz has provided for not only an opportunity to teach Sailors, but to learn from them as well.

“Every professor likes to say they learned from their students,” said Erickson. “But we learned so much from the students on board the ship. We’ve learned so much more from the operation exercises and what the technological experts had to say than we have shared at our lectures. We’re the ones who are really learning. By being on the ship I’ve learned more about Naval operations than I could possibly imagine.”

Paula Holmes-Eber, a professor at the Center for Advanced Operational Cultural Learning (CAOCL), also gave lectures to Sailors during her visit to Nimitz. Her expertise is in the Arabic Middle East.

“I provided the briefs on the Arab Middle East, the Arab uprising, the Islamic movements and the Islamic religion [during my time on board Nimitz],” said Holmes-Eber.

Holmes-Eber usually works as an anthropologist with the U.S. military. This week’s trip to Nimitz marked her first visit to a U.S. naval vessel to give lectures to Sailors.

“I was surprised at how helpful everyone was on board,” said Holmes-Eber. “I didn’t expect to find [the Sailors] to be so helpful since they are so busy, but they all took time to answer any questions I had.”

These words of praise for Nimitz’ Sailors are echoed by Erickson.

“I really wish that more American tax payers could come to the [Nimitz] and see how talented and hard working everyone is,” said Erickson. “I think American tax payers would be very impressed with how well they work together and what a great value American tax payers are getting for their tax dollars.”

Naval Today Staff, April 29, 2013