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“We like to leave that situation better than we we got there…”

Writing earlier this week in the U-T San Diego newspaper, Lisa Deaderick profiles the journey of an inspiring Marine at the University of San Diego. Gunnery Sgt. Gabriel Adibe enlisted in the Marine Corps in June of 2001 out of a desire to serve his country, and he saw the Marines as a group that can make a difference: “When we go into a situation, we like to leave that situation better than we we got there.” After serving as a logistician in the Marines–where he has been deployed to both Indonesia and Afghanistan—in 2009, as part of the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program, Adibe started attending the University of San Diego, where he participates in ROTC.


No more urban officers?

Drawing on Cheryl Miller’s 2011 report “Underserved: A Case Study of ROTC in New York City,” Colin Daileda takes a look in The Atlantic at the hurdles ROTC cadets in the nation’s largest city must face to participate in the officer training program.


Drafting our kids?

In yesterday’s New York Times, Thomas Ricks, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, echoed a call recently made by General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of international forces in Afghanistan, to bring back the draft.


It worked for me

In Colin Powell’s most recent book, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, published last month, the retired four-star general, secretary of state, and national security advisor shares stories about his life and provides his thirteen rules to live by.


Congratulations Columbia vets!

This week, 41 U.S. military veterans graduated from Columbia University’s School of General Studies, the largest number of undergraduate veterans to graduate from the school since World War II. Retired General George W. Casey, the 36th U.S. Army chief of staff and the commanding general for Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004-2007, gave brief remarks at the graduation ceremony on Sunday.


Ivy League opening its doors to retired military officers

In their Wall Street Journal op-ed, Cheryl Miller and Jonathan E. Hillman argued that the military could strengthen ROTC on Ivy League campuses by creating new coursework and offering classes taught by its top officers. Now, the New York Times reports that Ivy League schools are hiring former military officers to teach, based, in part, on the popularity of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s  seminar on leadership, which “is nearly as hard to get into as Yale itself: this past semester some 200 students applied for a coveted 20 spots.”


Colin Powell commissions ROTC cadets

As another school year draws to a close, graduating ROTC cadets across the nation are being commissioned as officers in the U.S. military. This past Thursday, Gen. (Ret.) Colin Powell administered the commissioning oath to 13 Northeastern University cadets who were made 2nd lieutenants in the Army.


Arms and the University

At Inside Higher Ed, Mitch Smith interviews the authors of a new book that looks at ROTC in higher education, Arms and the University: Military Presence and the Civic Education of Non-Military Students. Authors Donald Alexander Downs (University of Wisconsin at Madison) and Ilia Murtazashvili (University of Pittsburgh) argue that a strong ROTC presence on college campuses helps the military by providing an officer corps that reflects the nation and benefits the colleges themselves by exposing students to the military and lessening the civil-military gap.


Harvard prepares for Army ROTC

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday, Harvard University welcomed Army ROTC back to campus. The program first came to the University in 1916, but was closed in 1971 during the Vietnam War-era protests. After Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed, Harvard brought Navy ROTC to campus last year–but, as the Harvard Crimson reports, “cadets in that program still must travel to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to take courses.”


More ROTC options for Harvard and Rutgers

More good news on the ROTC front: as the Boston Globe reports, “six months after welcoming Naval ROTC back to campus, Harvard University is making space for an Army ROTC unit as well.”


“No prohibition against U.S. veterans”

Over at Via Meadia, Walter Russell Mead points to an op-ed by Princeton professor Uwe Reinhardt on veterans at elite universities.


Mid-week roundup

Mid-week roundup:

  • Inside Higher Ed has an interview with Christopher P. Loss, author of the new book Between Citizens and the State: The Politics of American Higher Education in the 20th Century. As Loss explains, “One of the key arguments of the book is that during the 20th century the federal government turned to intermediary institutions to create administrative capacity in a political culture fearful of ‘big government.’ I contend that higher education was one of those intermediaries — it served as a key site where citizens learned about their government and the government, as a chief sponsor of higher education, learned about its citizens.”

Upcoming Event: The Muslim-American Muddle: Where Do Muslims Fit in American Society?

Date: Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Time: 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM
Location: Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor, AEI
1150 17th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

“A decade after 9/11, America has reached a political and intellectual stalemate regarding the Muslims in its midst,” writes Peter Skerry in his timely essay in National Affairs, “The Muslim-American Muddle.” According to Skerry, complacent elites and alarmist populists alike misunderstand the real challenges Islam poses to America, while Muslims themselves are conflicted about their role in American society. At an event sponsored by AEI’s Program on American Citizenship, a panel of leading experts on Islam in America will discuss Skerry’s essay and the critical issues to consider as Muslims in the US assume their responsibilities as American citizens.

1:15 PM: Registration
1:30 PM: Presenter: Peter Skerry, Boston College

Hillel Fradkin, Hudson Institute
Souheil Ghannouchi, Author
Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review Institute
Justin  Vaïsse, Brookings Institution

Moderator: Gary J. Schmitt, AEI

Register at AEI.


Mid-week roundup

What’s happening in the citizenship world? Here’s a mid-week roundup of recent tidbits we found interesting:

  • The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) has a number of recent findings about youth voting behaviors. We’ve covered their ambitious report “Understanding a Diverse Generation: Youth Civic engagement in the United Statesbefore, but they’ve since come out with more information–including a comparison of the number of young (18-29 year old) voters to those over 65 (in case you were wondering, there are more of the former); an analysis of current voter registration by young Americans in key battleground states as compared to the 2008 voting cycle (the number of new, young Democratic voters have dropped); and a look at youth voting in the Iowa Caucus.
  • Peter Levine–the director of  CIRCLE–shares this research and offers some lessons in an op-ed published in the Cedar Rapids Gazette–now available in full at Peter’s blog.
  • And finally, we shared this with our Facebook friends last week, but the story is too good to not post about here: Air Force ROTC cadet Matt Pirrello, who lost his entire right leg in a training accident, is still determined to become a pilot. Read about his inspiring journey here.

ROTC retrenchment?

Are we seeing the start of an ROTC retrenchment in the Northeast? St. John’s College in New York City expanded its Army ROTC unit to Staten Island, and Columbia University has restored ties with the Navy.  Connecticut will get an Air Force and Naval ROTC unit at Yale next fall (the only NROTC program in the state), and now Rutgers is starting a Navy unit (likewise, the only one in New Jersey). The opening of Rutger’s program will mark the first time since 1972 (when Princeton discontinued its program) that New Jersey students will have the opportunity to participate in NROTC.

Progress is occurring,  slowly but surely.


Fewer vets at elite schools?

Last December, Congress amended the G.I. Bill fully covering tuition at public schools but placing a $17,500 cap on tuition and fees for student attending private universities. The cap will save the government money, and is intended, in part, to encourage private universities to increase their Yellow Ribbon aid.

With looming defense cuts, the decision to cut back on tuition reimbursements–particularly to pricey elite schools–is not unreasonable. Yet, as with the ROTC, lawmakers need to consider more than just budgetary bottom lines. It may be more expensive to fund student vets at Columbia University than at State U, but their presence at top campuses like Columbia  is critical to restoring ties between elites and the military. As a Columbia student vet explains:

“Because there’s no draft anymore, most people aren’t connected to the military,” said Dan Lagana, GS and the president of the U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University. “They’re not connected to the wars we’re funding or the people that are fighting the war. Having veterans in school with you, in class with you, helps bridge that divide, that disconnect.”

By their simple presence, student veterans can help break down stereotypes and remind their fellow students that military service is an honorable calling. A recent Pew study found that while 82 percent of veterans would recommend the military to a young person, fewer than half of Americans would do so. This can be explained, in part, by the well-known burdens placed on servicemembers during two long and increasingly unpopular wars. But much more of it has to do with how little Americans know about the day-to-day life of those in uniform. For the most part, popular culture depicts the military as either superheroes or victims–a job description that, not surprisingly, puts off a lot of young people without other experience of military life.

The Pew report helps to explain some of the advantages of military service–a sense of pride, personal growth and maturity, self-confidence, improved interpersonal skills, the opportunity to challenge oneself–but the only way to truly change people’s perception of  military life is to make the military more visible to them. It’s striking to compare how top investment banks recruit students; as Yale English major Marina Keegan writes, few students arrive at Ivy League schools planning to work on Wall Street, and yet by the time they graduate, 25 percent will have entered the consulting and finance industries. The high salaries aren’t the main pull, Keegan notes. Instead, Wall Street aggressively recruits, repeatedly visiting campuses to interview anxious students who have little idea how to otherwise get a job. A few years at Goldman Sachs (or, just as frequently, law/business school) quickly becomes the default option while students try to figure out exactly what they want to do with their lives.

To be sure, military service is not quite the same “low-risk” option, and it doesn’t come with a great apartment in Manhattan. It does bring real rewards, as the Pew respondents attest, and like Goldman Sachs, it needs to make those rewards more apparent to students. Student veterans at top schools can offer their peers a positive example of military service and a fuller understanding of life in the armed forces.

Already, student veterans are helping to heal old wounds. Just this past weekend, Columbia University sponsored a float in the city’s annual Veterans Day parade, inviting all its veterans, past and present, to participate:

According to GS Dean Peter Awn, the school decided to sponsor a float after considering the hostile treatment of Vietnam War veterans who returned to Columbia’s campus in the 1970s.

“We simply wanted to reach out to people who really may have thought that Columbia could never ever do anything that would be positive for veterans,” Awn said. “The invitation was what mattered, the sense of reaching out and saying, ‘We want you back.’”

To its credit, Columbia is continuing its efforts to actively recruit veterans. The military must reach out, too.


Crimson Valor

Captain Phil Keith USN (Ret.), a Navy fighter pilot commissioned through NROTC at Harvard, has just published a history, Crimson Valor, profiling the 17 graduates of Harvard who have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Harvard has more alumni Medal of Honor recipients than any other institution of higher learning other than West Point and the Naval Academy. The website for the Advocates for Harvard ROTC provides a brief sketch for each of the recipients,  including U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert C. Murray of the 196th Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division. His Medal of Honor citation reads:

S/Sgt. Murray distinguished himself while serving as a squad leader with Company B. S/Sgt. Murray’s squad was searching for an enemy mortar that had been threatening friendly positions when a member of the squad tripped an enemy grenade rigged as a booby trap. Realizing that he had activated the enemy booby trap, the soldier shouted for everybody to take cover. Instantly assessing the danger to the men of his squad, S/Sgt. Murray unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own safety, threw himself on the grenade absorbing the full and fatal impact of the explosion. By his gallant action and self sacrifice, he prevented the death or injury of the other members of his squad. S/Sgt. Murray’s extraordinary courage and gallantry, at the cost of his life above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

Half of all proceeds go to activities supporting the mission of the Advocates.


Brown U to ROTC: Not in Our Backyard

ROTC will not be returning to Brown University—if the Corporation, the university’s highest governing body, follows the recommendation just released by President Ruth J. Simmons.

In her report, Simmons recommends that Brown still allow students to cross-enroll in Army ROTC at Providence College. However, as to establishing a program on campus, she writes:

We should proceed to explore the possibilities for Brown students to participate in cross-institutional Naval or Air Force ROTC programs housed on other campuses. In addition, we should commit to helping to arouse greater national attention to the discrimination of the military and others against transgender individuals.

With no Air Force or Navy ROTC program in the state of Rhode Island, Simmons is really recommending that either students drive two hours to MIT or that some other college president—one less cowed by campus radicals, perhaps—establish a program for Brown students to attend. As Jonathan Hillman, an alum and chairman of the Brown Alumni for ROTCwrites in the Providence Journal, “In short, the message is: It’s okay, just not in our backyard.”

If the Corporation accepts Simmons’ recommendation, it will ensure that Brown remains the lone Ivy League holdout on ROTC. It will be going against the recommendations of its own committee, which voted in favor of bringing Naval and Air Force ROTC back to campus—not to mention the 77 percent of Brown students who also favor expanding ROTC. Moreover, it will be evading what even Simmons recognizes as the crucial question at stake: whether the “University understands and acknowledges its role as a national university in participating in the development of leaders for the country, including its military.”

At the moment, it looks like the answer is no. If that’s the case, there’s an easy solution to the halfway house situation Brown is currently in. As Hillman notes:

If the corporation decides that ROTC is incompatible with Brown’s mission, it should sever relations with Providence College’s ROTC program. In doing so, Brown should be prepared to forgo the roughly $10 million in Defense Department funding it receives annually. For too long, the university has pretended that holding ROTC at arm’s length satisfies its obligations under the Solomon Amendment, which lets the defense secretary deny funding if university policies prevent or prohibit ROTC and military recruiting on campus. The only reason why Brown’s funding hasn’t been taken away is because the Defense Department hasn’t enforced the law. Whatever the corporation decides, it’s unacceptable that Brown continue its policy of equivocation.



Who serves?

Ann Marlowe, a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, has a provocative op-ed in the WSJ today debunking common myths about military demographics. In an attention-grabbing lede, she writes:

It should no more be necessary to write this article than to prove that there were Jews killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11. And yet the mythology refuses to die. Just last week, two well-educated and well-known writer acquaintances of mine remarked in passing on the “fact” that those who serve in the U.S. military typically have no other career options. America’s soldiers, they said, were poor and black.

Marlowe proceeds to rip apart these assumptions, relying on data collected by the Heritage Foundation. (For those skeptical about Heritage’s findings, take a look at this column by Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, this study by military scholars David and Mady Segal [p. 24], this study by RAND researcher Beth Asch [p. 10], or DOD’s own numbers. They all tell the same story.) So why do these myths persist? Marlowe suggests one explanation:

One reason is lack of firsthand exposure to the military: Doing a journalistic embed with American troops or visiting a U.S. military base—or simply having some friends in the military—would disabuse my acquaintances of their beliefs.

This detachment is the result of a withdrawal of our urban elites from military service. And it suits the interests of many members of the urban elite to believe that the military they do not join is composed of poor, uneducated victims of an unfair society.

Marlowe is right that urbanites have little contact with the military, but that detachment is as much a result of the withdrawal of the military from urban areas and the Northeast. As my colleague Gary Schmitt and I noted in another WSJ op-ed, current recruiting policy means that military service is essentially left to the imaginations of city youths. It shouldn’t surprise us that what they imagine is so far from the truth.


Air Force ROTC returns to Yale

Air Force ROTC will return to the Yale University campus starting in the fall of 2012. On Monday, the secretary of the Air Force and the president of Yale held a ceremony renewing ties between the school and military. Both the secretary and Yale’s president noted the crucial role of ROTC in ensuring that a broad range of perspectives are represented within the officer corps.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley commented:

“It will be a reminder that while the United States military’s all-volunteer force remains one of our nation’s strengths, this strength depends upon broad participation by its citizens—participation that includes fellow Yale colleagues and must include men and women from every part of America.”

And President Levin noted the challenges posed by manpower and budget cuts:

“I commend Secretary Donley, General Rice and General Peck for seeing the big picture, and for seeing the importance, even in difficult financial times, of making it easier for future officers to get the benefit of a Yale education.”

The upcoming return of  on-campus Navy and Air Force ROTC to Yale proves that the obstacles to reinvigorating ROTC’s civic mission are not insuperable–so long as military and university leaders are willing to work together to make it a priority. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus  and Columbia president Lee Bollinger should heed Yale’s example, and work to strengthen the Navy ROTC presence on Columbia’s campus and in New York City.

(As always, the Advocates for ROTC has all the links you need.)