Can you tell us a bit about your current job?
I just started teaching at the Cyber Center of Excellence, which is the Department of Defense’s joint training facility. We prepare future leaders to employ cyber defensive and offensive operations. It’s a five-month intensive program for junior officers, which prepares them to lead IT and cyber professionals, along with combat-proven soldiers in the world of cyber warfare. The program covers everything from basic officership to mission development and mission planning to cybersecurity.
What about the MAAIS degree program appealed to you?
One of the things that really stood out for me was the timeframe, because it was a 10-month, accelerated program. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in academia away from my profession.
The other thing was the applied part, dealing with the capstone project. I’m starting to look forward to what the civilian world is like. Getting a chance to be in Seattle and away from the military for almost a year, and getting a chance to work with corporations, really appealed to me.
What MAAIS class or experience stood out as particularly valuable?
I really enjoyed the crisis simulation exercise. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who is a huge name in the State Department and government, was the chief negotiator. We went through a crisis negotiation of the South China Sea, and what’s going on there. We all played different roles and we also see what’s happening in real time too, with the Hague coming down with their verdict. That was pretty awesome. It was intense — crisis negotiation simulations are always a lot of fun, and this one was especially fun.
What kinds of connections and networking did the program offer?
They have the Civic Council team, which is made up of multiple different actors from NGOs, government and businesses. Every Thursday a different person would come in and you’d have an hour or two of one on one with a senior government person or a senior NGO official, CEOs, founders of different organizations.
That was probably one of the biggest benefits of the program, learning from corporate and government leaders who’ve been doing it for 20, 30 or 40 years. A lot of my cohort networked and used that time to find jobs, and to find other jobs out there that you don’t always think of.
What were some of the more interesting takeaways from the program for you?
The thing that surprised me is the program really touches base on so many different aspects. From war to energy crises to the Arctic, through refugees and forced migration and disaster relief. There was a lot that piqued my interest.
I’m a war guy — I’ve been deployed five times. So to be able to see the background of how war started, and what’s going on at a higher level, was extremely interesting. We spent some time reading into the Iran NPA [Non-Proliferation Agreement], and how that had formed really sparked my interest.
A lot of things that I learned weren’t necessarily from the professors, but more from my cohort. A large amount of my cohort was coming from NGOs and nonprofits that have worked on the ground with refugees, or worked closely in Africa with poverty, and I haven’t. To learn from them was probably the best aspect of the program.
How do you think earning this degree will affect your career outlook?
It will shift the way I look at missions as I grow. I’m about to be promoted, and I’ll be at a field grade level, so I’ll have a larger oversight of operations. Now I value the NATO efforts and the humanitarian elements that we work with in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. I understand more how valuable their job is. I think it will shape how I command and how I grow in my profession.
I think the military as a whole is trying to expand their knowledge base. After a conflict, what do we do? That’s why they’re sending people like me to school, to get this knowledge so we can provide it back to them. Now we’re seeing our long-term effects and how we can rebuild countries, and understand other people’s viewpoints and ways.
One large takeaway that may change my path within the Army is that since graduating from the program, I feel a deep desire to work more in-depth with foreign policy and international relations. I have decided to attend the Department of Defense’s Strategist program, which will place me with the personnel who create military plans that are conducted globally.