The faculty filled the stage of Bliss Hall at the Army War College, and the USAWC leadership introduced the "amazingly talented group," ready to assist students of the Class of 2015 in the "movement to contact in the arena of strategic ideas." The commandant charged the students with three priorities: to pursue strategic thought, to refine your professional identity as a strategic leader, and to build personal capacities as a resilient leader of character. Ten months of graduate-level studies began today for the Army War College Class of 2015 -- comprising U.S. students and International Fellows of the resident program, and USAWC Fellows who will study at other institutions -- as well as another 367 students completing the curriculum by distance learning. The largest International Fellows group in USAWC history -- and the largest at any US military school -- will integrate 79 officers representing 73 countries into the class. The 308 U.S. students of the resident class represent a cross-section of the national security community: 217 Army officers, 32 Air Force, 17 Marines, 12 Navy and 1 Coast Guard officer from Active and Reserve components, and 29 senior federal civilians. The USAWC Fellows include those US Army officers who will spend their year at universities, research centers, and think tanks around the world although their base institution remains the Army War College and they are an integral part of the Class of 2015. In his welcome to the class, USAWC Commandant Maj. Gen. Bill Rapp noted the diversity of perspectives across the student body, and the potential of those selected for the Army War College education. If historical statistics hold, from this class will emerge about 50 U.S. general officers and admirals, and as many flag officers from among the international fellows. "If there is so much talent and potential already present among you, why do we need to take a year out of your lives to hit the books and intellectually explore the big strategic ideas and major issues facing our military and nation?" he asked. "The world we live in now is hugely complex and uncertain," he said. "But we do have the means, skills, and human capital and, dare I say, in many parts of the world the responsibility to shape security environments and prevent wars around the globe. "How, when and where we do that shaping and preventing of conflict, in an ear of declining resources not only in the United States but among our friends and allies, is the huge strategic question facing our militaries today. "It is for this reason that Gen. Ray Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army, has asked The War College to lead the strategic renaissance as we slowly come out of America's longest wars," said Rapp. "For us, this renaissance is the renewed intellectual effort placed against the inherently entrepreneurial re-examination of landpower strategy: a much needed deeper look after 12 years of tactical and operational focus due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It is a rededication to think through creative ways of employing the joint, interagency, and multinational force to influence the human domain so integral to concepts of strategic landpower," said the commandant, as he reminded the students that the class of 2015 is squarely in the van of the effort. "The vanguard of any formation explore various routes, develops the situation, and builds options for decision makers. Strategic scouts like you need openness of mind, willingness to explore new concepts, energy to build and unemotionally argue for your positions, and ability to work collaboratively to expand the range of alternatives available for our military and civilian leadership.