NEWPORT, R.I. – The war in Iraq has already made it into classes taken by Lt. Col. Jim Brown.
He's one of the 550 students from 60 countries at the Naval War College, a storied institute founded in 1884 that teaches military strategy and policy.
"Here we are, studying the art of war and how to plan and successfully conduct campaigns, right while it's happening," Brown said.
The timing is bittersweet for the 43-year-old native of Santa Monica, Calif., who came to the college from Kosovo, where he was commanding an Army battalion.
"My best lifelong friends, the soldiers that I've led, are serving in battle," said Brown. "It's very hard for all of us to be watching this from our living rooms."
The war has added depth and urgency to some seminars, while creating distractions for others.
Joan Johnson-Freese, chairwoman of the school's national security decision-making department, recently gave a lecture on globalization. The topic usually generates many questions, but this time, the class was mostly mum. She soon found out why.
"Somebody from the back of the room yelled out: 'We're a little distracted,' meaning globalization is not touching their lives right now and the war is — even if they're not there."
The war plays out differently in the school's three departments — joint military operations, strategy and policy, and national security decision making.
"This actually, just as Afghanistan did for our last class, provides us a great relevant case to refer the things we'll be talking about," said Patrick C. Sweeney, a professor in the joint military operations department.
In one of Sweeney's recent seminars, students were comparing the space, time and force elements of the World War II battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines to the current situation in Iraq.
While the joint military operations department teaches the "nuts and bolts" of planning and conducting warfare, the strategy and policy department studies past wars to develop strategy, said Thomas M. Nichols, department chairman.
While professors in the department don't ignore the war outright, "we also like them to come out of here being able to take a longer view," Nichols said. "We don't want to give them knowledge or have discussions with them that have a really short shelf life."
To keep her classes from straying, Johnson-Freese discusses significant developments in the war and then ties them into lessons.
For example, the class used war-cost figures released by President Bush last week in a discussion of the overall economy.
"When you're talking about domestic economy and you have all this new information that's just come out, it certainly makes for an interesting class discussion," Johnson-Freese said.
"We haven't rewritten our curriculum," she said. "But we're looking at the current situation because, quite frankly, that's where the students' attention is."
And it's evident in a stroll through the halls of the college. Students chatter in the halls and rubberneck past televisions that blare 24-hour news channels.
The college's campus off Narragansett Bay occupies part of a Naval base and houses students who compete for assignments from all military branches, the Coast Guard and some federal agencies.
Students in Brown's class may end up in the Middle East. But they won't go until they graduate in June with master's degrees in national security and strategic studies.
"We like to tell them that the best way for them to help the war effort is to stay here and finish their education so that they're prepared to take up the burden next," Nichols said.
Brown says he is ready.
"I, and every other soldier that's here, would gladly pack our rucksacks and take the first plane to join our comrades," he said. "But my time will come, no doubt."