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SANDS creates experts, leaders of the nuclear enterprise

Class members of the second iteration of the School of Advanced Nuclear Deterrence Studies began the course June 1, 2016. The course features an expanded class size and a refined curriculum. (U.S. Air Force photo/Todd Berenger)

Class members of the second iteration of the School of Advanced Nuclear Deterrence Studies began the course June 1, 2016. The course features an expanded class size and a refined curriculum. (U.S. Air Force photo/Todd Berenger)


 KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The School for Advanced Nuclear Deterrence Studies, or SANDS, began its second iteration June 1, 2016, at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

This growing graduate-level degree program aims to create “masters of the nuclear enterprise,” Dr. Adam Lowther, SANDS director, said.

“The class not only develops experts, but leaders who will move on to provide sage advice to commanders, as well as quality mentorship to our nuclear forces,” Lowther said. “The broader shift from expertise to leadership is a recent change with this course and will result in a more reliable and stable nuclear deterrent in the future.”

Air Force Global Strike Command hand-selected each of the students, all of whom have a background in nuclear operations. Unlike the inaugural course, the second class boasts more enrollees, including a civilian employee, a U.S. Naval officer and an officer from the United Kingdom.

“Our country has a nuclear arms agreement with the U.K.,” Lowther said. “They’re the only country that we have such an agreement with, so we accept students from their nuclear forces to strengthen relationships with our allies.”

U.S. Navy submarine officer Lt. Jeremy Dawson, has served on two separate nuclear-capable submarines — the USS Kentucky and the USS Jefferson City. Dawson says the course challenges him personally and professionally and has given him perspective on the importance of the nuclear enterprise.

“This course has given me the opportunity to work closely with Air Force professionals who represent the other two legs of the triad,” Dawson said. “Their experiences and perspectives, combined with the curriculum, have provided insights into the overall strategic enterprise that cannot be replicated in any other environment. This will help me to communicate the significance of nuclear deterrence to my Sailors in a way that helps them to appreciate how important their day-to-day roles and responsibilities are to protecting the sovereignty of this nation and many others.”

Dawson will go back to sea for a third tour as an executive officer following his graduation from SANDS and a year tour with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Course staff have refined the SANDS curriculum since its inaugural launch. Regardless of changes, each course is designed to represent the full scope of nuclear operations. Students are expected to complete a class project that pertains to their career field within the nuclear enterprise. They will also have an opportunity to spend 90 days out of a 13 month program visiting other commands, in the continental United States and overseas.

Although SANDS will expose students to all aspects of the nuclear deterrence mission, each student will specialize in an area related to their career fields. The result is a nuclear force that is more cognizant of its role in the world and in relation to each of its parts, according to Lowther.

The first class to start SANDS is scheduled to graduate Sept. 29, 2016. Each course is approximately a year long.