I am nearing the end of my master’s degree program in international relations. Although the Army’s Command and General Staff College (CGSC) program for us majors is a graduate-level program it does not grant a degree (unlike the Navy, Air Force, and USMC). Apparently this is actually written into the Congressional statue that provides for CGSC – so for whatever the reason, if you want to get a master’s degree while here, you need to do extra work. The program I am in is through Webster University (based out of St. Louis, MO). The military has arrangements with many colleges and universities to run extension programs. Webster’s program here accepts many credits from CGSC. In the end, my requirement has been to take 6 additional classes, two at a time over the course of the last 7 months during the evening. The final requirement is a thesis paper. I am, at long last, done with the six classes and am working on my paper. It has been a tough few last months trying to balance the normal class requirements during the day and meeting the requirements for the classes at night. I will be a happy man when my thesis paper is complete.
As a break from my studies, I went to a National Weather Service (NWS) spotter class sponsored by the Leavenworth County Emergency Services folks. I last attend training back in Virginia. I’d have to say that the people here in Kansas take their weather a bit more serious than the Hampton Roads crowd. The training was conducted at the National Guard Armory in one of the briefing rooms… and the place was packed. It wasn’t just the amateur radio crowd either – there were high school students, CERT members, the elderly Neighborhood Watch types, and the storm chaser fanatics. The class and presentation was excellent, my hat is off to the NWS.
Yesterday we had Gen. Sir Richard Danatt (Chief of the General Staff, the head of the British Army) speak to our CGSC class. It was an excellent talk and he brought up a few key points. As an Army, our focus has been (at least in the last 100 years) on the 3rd phase of operations, the domination phase. The first two phase are deterrent and preparatory and the 4th phase is stability and transition. The domination phase, phase three, can be characterized by major combat operations – and that has always been our focus in training. We close with and destroy the enemy – that is how we have won our wars. Gen. Sir Danatt observed that perhaps the 4th phase is the real decisive operation and I think he makes a good argument for it. I think our Army realizes this is the case, but we don’t have buy in across the board. Gen. Sir Danatt made an observation about the possible French re-entry into NATO. It is a good thing, but he observed that the French Army would be behind the ball when it comes to operating as a team in a NATO operation. They haven’t participated in all the NATO exercises or the associated planning, which will leave them with a steep learning curve to assume a meaningful role in NATO. The last point that Gen. Sir Danatt made that really hit home with me was that if we fail in Afghanistan than it may signal the end of NATO – essentially signifying that NATO is incapable of achieving results. Since the fall of the Soviet empire, the existence and purpose of NATO has always been in question. History tells us that alliances never last forever – it will be interesting to see how long NATO can continue its run.
I am going to see how many little projects I can knock out this weekend – try to take advantage of the good weather…. oh, and also work on my thesis paper.