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A welcome mat for veterans

first_imgTo a room full of Harvard students with military backgrounds, Gen. Stanley McChrystal yesterday offered words of advice: Loosen up, and reach out. “Throw yourself on that side,” he said of the civilian and academic worlds where the rules may seem different and the people foreign. “This is a magic opportunity here.”The retired four-star general, now a senior fellow at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, was among those welcoming to Harvard new and continuing students with military backgrounds. McChrystal, the architect of the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, was a National Security Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) in 1996.“You’ve been at war for more than a decade,” he added. “You shouldn’t be at war here.”The veterans’ welcome was organized and funded by the Office of the President, the Belfer Center, and the Center for Public Leadership at HKS. Listeners crowded into the main dining room at the Faculty Club.The three-year-old tradition included a welcome from President Drew Faust, a historian of the Civil War and the daughter of a decorated World War II veteran. “Harvard has long had a special commitment to the American military,” she said. Faust pointed across Quincy Street to Loeb House, the longtime residence of Harvard presidents that was taken over by the U.S. Navy for its V-12 officer training program during World War II. (“The Navy treated it as a ship,” she said, including scrubbed “decks” and “polished brightwork,” or exposed metal surfaces.) Seventeen of Harvard’s graduates have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Only the Army and Navy academies record higher totals.One hundred and fifty current or former members of the military are enrolled at Harvard, said Faust, most of them studying business, government, and law. (There are three undergraduate veterans.) The small numbers reflect that just 1 percent of Americans serve in the military, so “it’s especially important for Harvard to connect,” she said. “The military offers special lessons in leadership, and commitment to something larger than oneself.”Event organizer Meghan O’Sullivan also discussed public service in her introduction, saying that veterans add a unique dimension to the concept. “We expect you’ll play a special role at Harvard,” said O’Sullivan, the Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs at HKS and the deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan from 2004 to 2007McChrystal later added a variation on that theme, proposing that civilians be given a one-year opportunity to perform federal service in teaching, conservation, health, and other areas. He came to the Boston area this week in part as an advocate for the Franklin Project, a venture by the Aspen Institute to establish a voluntary civilian counterpart to military service.The generation that came through the cauldron of World War II, including 16 million Americans in uniform, emerged from that conflict “to raise their idea of citizenship beyond war,” he said. Yet today there is “no shared vision” of citizenship and contribution.But there are signs of change, said McChrystal, including at Harvard, where in the beginning of Faust’s presidency 9 percent of graduating seniors applied to Teach for America; that figure is 20 percent today.Time magazine columnist Joe Klein, a fellow at Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center this semester, stood up from the audience to tell the gathered veterans about their next “stage” of service — redeploying the social and leadership skills they honed in wartime. “Thank you for your service,” he said, “but we still need you.” (Klein is using his semester to write a book about media coverage of veterans.)During an hourlong panel of speakers, the veterans got more insight and advice. “Everybody has a different Harvard,” and the rules might seem loose to military minds, said Harry R. Lewis, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science and formerly dean of Harvard College, whose era goes so far back that he has one of the University’s first six email addresses. The best way to get mileage out of the experience is to “build relationships,” he said, echoing McChrystal. “Make Harvard your own.”Linda J. Bilmes, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer at HKS and a leading researcher on the financial tolls of war, used her time to offer research work to veterans, and to define the size of the problem facing the United States. There are 22 million veterans in the country, including a rising percentage of women, she said, but there is little research into costs that accrue around them. Just for current wars, those costs exceed $1 trillion — with no budgetary provisions built in to fund them.“This is a different world, and you are bring something special to this world,” said Bilmes. “But they will teach you a lot too.”With three years at Harvard so far, Army Col. Everett Spain described the civilian and military interactions that sometimes play out as “crossing the street.” The Harvard Business School doctoral candidate called the military and Harvard “the two greatest honors of my life.”Spain, a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, invited his fellows to look at Harvard as a place with a centuries-long military tradition: 1,352 graduates, faculty, and staff have died in American wars, starting with 22 in the Revolutionary War. Like Faust, Spain pointed to examples, starting with nearby Memorial Church and Harvard’s 20 monuments or other symbols of war. But modern Harvard may need to be reawakened to its military connections, he suggested. “The University is diverse,” said Spain, but generally “it only knows the military through you.”Another panelist, Kevin Kit Parker, is a major in the Army Reserves, and a specialist in traumatic brain injury. He took his first faculty position in 2003 barely 24 hours after returning from a combat tour of Afghanistan. Parker has done two tours now, as well as two missions there in 2011 to assess combat medical care.Today, he is the Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, as well as a primary faculty member at both the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.Everyone brings complaints and observations back from a combat zone, and that can be invaluable for academics grappling with problems, said Parker. “Your responsibility is to leave these problems here [at Harvard]. The faculty needs your battlefield experience.”Veterans arriving in an academic setting “already know what good leadership looks like,” said Kevin W. Sharer, who has been at the University for a year. The Naval Academy graduate and former CEO of Amgen is a senior lecturer of business administration at the Harvard Business School. Arriving veterans have already been tested, and some have even “endured the unendurable.” Of his own years in the submarine service, said Sharer, “the lessons I learned … stuck with me forever.”But the world outside the military, and the University setting itself, both contain cautions for veterans, he said, since the rules are not always as clear-cut. “The world is a wonderfully, wonderfully diverse place,” Sharer added. “Be open to that.”At Loeb House, area and University veterans’ organizations set up information tables, including Crimson Serves, HBS Armed Forces Alumni Association, HKS Armed Forces Committee, Harvard Veterans Alumni Organization, and thelast_img read more

US Helps Dominican Air Force Increase Operational Capabilities

first_imgBy Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo January 14, 2019 As part of ongoing cooperation between the U.S. and Dominican governments to provide disaster relief and counter international narcotrafficking, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) assisted the Dominican Air Force (FARD, in Spanish) throughout 2018. The cooperation included equipment donations, training, and combined exercises to improve FARD’s response capabilities in rescue, air security, and the fight against drugs. “SOUTHCOM’s cooperation through the Office of Security and Cooperation of the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic for different FARD squadrons, such as rescue and combat, represents an increase in operational capabilities for our Air Force,” FARD Lieutenant Colonel Damián Castro Ortiz, of the Air Command Rescue Squadron, told Diálogo. “It complements pre-established donations and agreements that include operational capabilities that were not developed.” Among the main cooperation agreements between both countries, equipment donation is essential, as it increases Dominican pilots’ operational security. “The safer the air operations, the more operational they become; they give us the capability to start operations and complete them successfully,” FARD Colonel Randy Y. De los Santos, Rescue Squadron commander, told Diálogo. Since FARD created the Rescue Squadron in 1958, U.S. authorities have helped the institution with donations, including helicopters and joint training to strengthen the military personnel professionally. “U.S. government cooperation is proof of the spirit of fraternity and cooperation that exists between our countries and our air forces,” Col. De los Santos said. The Rescue Squadron is FARD’s most operational group. The institution’s helicopter pilots are the best-prepared units in case of emergency or disaster in the country. The squadron reports up to 3,500 flight hours per year as part of routine operations all along the island’s 4,000 square kilometers to serve the civil population. Mission accomplished “Thanks to the $500,000 worth of aviation and maintenance equipment SOUTHCOM donated to the Dominican Air Force in the last quarter of 2018, personnel of the rescue unit took part in the search for an aircraft that had an accident in the area of La Romana,” Col. De los Santos said. “During that tragic accident we used survival vests equipped with radios and compasses, as well as flight helmets with new technology to descend to that hard-to-reach place and accomplish the mission.” During the accident, the rescue team also used night goggles in their search tasks to reduce potential risk during the operation. The United States donated the night vision equipment in 2013. Night vision technology helps authorities counter narcotrafficking, detect illegal flights, and increase the security of the Dominican airspace, as well as regional stability. Friendly hand Donations and joint training with U.S. service members sustain, strengthen, and increase FARD’s evolution. “Cooperation always arrives at the right time to respond to any contingency and provide direct support for the operations of the Combat Squadron, which monitors illegal or irregular flights,” Col. De los Santos said. “We are on stand-by to assist the aircraft in any kind of situation that might happen during the fixed-wing squadron’s operations.” In December 2018, FARD sent its best cadets to take part in the annual Latin American Cadets Initiative hosted by Air Forces Southern, SOUTHCOM’s air component, to prepare the best officers for leadership positions and improve their knowledge of U.S. military culture. On that occasion, cadets learned about weapons systems, instrument flight services, simulators, and cyberdefense. In May 2018, the U.S. Air Force’s 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron conducted training for FARD members. The mission included stability capabilities in helicopters, corrosion control, hazardous materials management, and radio communications. Maintenance training helped fix a FARD forklift that was out of order for four months. “Each capability lets us expand training and the vision of our personnel,” Col. De los Santos said. “Talking about U.S. cooperation means talking about the U.S. commitment to the Dominican people. The United States has always been a friend and the main strategic partner in terms of security, equipment, training, and instruction; hence, the country is truly thankful through FARD, which has benefited on many occasions.”last_img read more

TENNIS: Federer Beats Becker to Advance in Dubai

first_imgFour-time Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winner Roger Federer beat Germany’s Benjamin Becker in 6-1, 6-4 to enter Round 2 of the 22nd ATP tournament in Arab emirate.The World No.8 played against Becker with relative ease in the first set. The Swiss scored five aces in the encounter which lasted over one hour and 10 minutes Monday, reports Xinhua.Becker hit one ace and improved his game considerably in the second set. Nevertheless, Federer’s speed and power play was a class too high for the German.”I am very happy with my performance today. I like the court in Dubai, the atmosphere here, that’s why I try to play the tournament every year,” said the 32-year old Federer, who has won 17 Grand Slams in his career.last_img