In early June, I had the extraordinary honor and privilege of participating as a new member in the 58th Annual National Security Seminar at the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania.
The war college conducts an annual 10-month program for students with an average of 20+ years of military service each. Though many of the 368 students hail from the U.S. Army (mostly colonels), all branches are represented along with 67 International Fellows from allied armed forces across the globe.
Of course, those selected to attend the full program have already achieved notable success in their military careers and this training is designed to further enhance their leadership and strategic thinking skills as they rise through the ranks. Immediately after graduation, the students go on to their next assignment for at least another three-year commitment on U.S. bases all over the world though many will serve well beyond that.
The USAWC alumni list reads like a “Who’s Who” of U.S. military icons such as John Pershing, Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, Omar Bradley, William Halsey, William Westmoreland, Norman Schwarzkopf, Richard Myers and Raymond Odierno — and there’s no doubt that the next generation of future generals and admirals were sitting among us.
Lt. Gen. Vincent Brooks, United States Army
During the final days before graduation, the USAWC hosts approximately 150 civillians selected among hundreds of applicants each year to participate in NSS week. We heard from some amazing speakers such as Lt. Gen. Vincent Brooks, Prof. Gordon Adams, Norm Ornstein and Dr. Paul Kan with wide ranging topics including the current situation in Afghanistan, an assessment of the U.S. economy, a review of the American political landscape and the impact on border security related to the alarming growth of Mexican drug cartels.
I also participated in a comprehensive “staff ride” tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield with USAWC faculty member, noted military historian and author Col. Len Fullenkamp. He walked us through the three-day Pennsylvania battle that was fought during the American Civil War from July 1-3, 1863 (149 years ago today) and shared various stories of valor, leadership and supreme sacrifice. This was a real highlight of the program.
However, the best part of the week was spending time with the students in seminar. Each of the new members were assigned to one of 21 seminar groups and we met several times during the week to discuss current events, international affairs and the role that the military plays in our modern society.
One primary theme that often emerged during the week revolved around the USAWC motto, “Not to promote war, but to preserve peace…” Some indicated that the soldier is usually the last who wants to fight, but if the call comes — they stand at the ready to act and complete the mission. Another common phrase from the week that stuck with me describes the need to be able to move at the “speed of trust.” I think this sums up the complicated nature of our global relationships perfectly.
During the week, I couldn’t help but wonder what my grandfather John C. Almacy would’ve thought about my participation. He proudly served in the U.S. Army as a member of The Fighting 69th Infantry Division and retired as a sergeant major.
As we celebrate America’s Independence this year, let’s never forget those who have served and sacrificed in the creation of our great nation as well as those who stand up to defend our freedoms today.
Thank you… and Happy Birthday, America!
National Security Seminar encourages civilian, military discussions (USAWC Public Affairs, 6/7/12)
2012 U.S. Army War College Graduation (The Patriot-News, 6/9/12)
2. Caption: From left, Colonel Bernard Lindstrom, Colonel Sean McKenney, Colonel Lester Moore, Lt. Colonel J. David Price and Brigadier Arvind Thakur of India bow their heads during the invocation at the 2012 U.S. Army War College Graduation held at the Carlisle Barracks. JOE HERMITT, The Patriot-News