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CAPSTONE training for NNSA leader not a finishing touch, but an important step in lifelong learning

A portion of the Great Wall of China.

The men and women who combine active duty military service with a complementary role at NNSA bring their unique experiences and leadership skills to their careers while building upon those skills with ongoing armed forces training. This training enriches NNSA’s workforce and enhances its ability to fulfill national security missions.

Earlier this year, Brig. Gen. Michael J. Lutton, NNSA’s Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Applications and an officer in the U.S. Air Force, completed a month-long multi-service military training course called CAPSTONE to sharpen his skills in national security decision-making. It’s hosted by the National Defense University and features guidance from retired four-star generals and flag officers.

 “Any opportunity for further education and training really assists in professional development,” Lutton said. “With professional development, we become more effective at our current duties and contribute to mission success – it is critical to never stop learning."

CAPSTONE is designed to enhance military officers understanding of national security issues in a larger strategic perspective. The course takes participants across the nation and around the world to support education in joint and combined operations. Lutton’s course began in Washington, D.C., with briefings from various national security agencies. This was followed by four days of operations training at the Joint Warfighting Center in Suffolk, Virginia, and visits to various military bases across the country for field studies.

The purview of the U.S. Pacfic Command.For Lutton, one advantage of the course was the extensive overseas travel. CAPSTONE training alternates between three international itineraries. His class traveled to countries that fall under the U.S. Pacific Command’s domain (one of the Department of Defense’s six Unified Combatant Commands).

The overseas trip began in Beijing, where the class met with representatives from the Chinese National Defense University and participated in roundtable discussions.  The second leg of the trip took participants to Seoul, South Korea, where they visited the U.N. Command Military Armistice Commission and the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. The final international destination was Tokyo, where the class met with a special adviser to the Japanese Prime Minister and the National Security Secretariat.

“The discussions of regional security concerns with allied senior, foreign military leaders and international partners within the Pacific remains critical,” Lutton said.  “Such engagements underscore the importance of continuous dialogue at all levels to share views and concerns in order to increase regional prosperity.”

The command areas of the Chinese military.In addition to important lessons on strategic policy issues, the curriculum includes official cultural events scheduled by the U.S. embassy during overseas fields studies. “In China, we visited the Great Wall. I found it fascinating, from an engineering perspective and because of the sheer human effort to build the wall. Visiting South Korea, I was inspired by the dedication of the South Korean people to rebuild their nation into a great economic and cultural center, but also to be such a great ally to the United States. Finally, Japan was beautiful, and I enjoyed the people I met as well as the ancient Japanese history right next to modern Tokyo. They are also truly a great ally,” Lutton said.

Soldiers outside the U.N. Command Military Armistice Commission Conference Building near the demilitarized zone.

The class’s next destination was Honolulu, home to the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies and Pacific Command headquarters. Upon returning to Washington the participants’ spouses were invited to join for an Executive Spouse Development Course, which discussed international regional issues as well as military family policies and health.

During his time in the course, Lutton met people from many different organizations, ranging from the Department of Homeland Security to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“One of the best parts of the CAPSTONE training is the chance to meet and work with members of different agencies and services,” he said. “Such diversity of experience is an asset to our U.S. national security team.”