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Public Affairs : CMO expert encourages cadets to think globally, jointly

CMO expert encourages cadets to think globally, jointly

By Mike Strasser
Assistant Editor

The West Point Center for the Study of Civil-Military Operations hosted its first guest lecture Aug. 23 for cadets enrolled in the Center for Enhanced Performance’s Information Literacy and Critical Thinking course.

A Class of 1974 graduate, retired Col. Bill Martinez is the deputy director for programs within the Center for Civil-Military Relations at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and spoke to an audience—mostly freshmen—about how CMO will impact their future military careers.

“Whether you’re interested in it or not, you’re going to have to live it,” Martinez said. “When you graduate here as a second lieutenant you will work with civilian populations, I guarantee it.”

Martinez told cadets to think broadly about their military careers and consider the people they’ll be working with outside of the Army, which is at the heart of the civil-military field.

“If all you know is the Army, and all you can talk is the Army, you’re not going to be very successful dealing with civilian populations,” he said. “I’m talking globally—and jointly—because that’s how you’ll deploy.”

Martinez said U.S. military personnel are serving in nearly every country, so it is probable cadets today may be interacting with government and non-government agencies, NATO forces, host nation organizations and local populaces sometime in their careers.

“You could be deployed as a second lieutenant in a foreign country where you’re on patrol in a neighborhood and you’re now dealing with civilians and a culture you know very little or nothing about,” Martinez said. “You could be deployed with your unit to respond to a natural disaster; or you could find yourself assigned to an Army staff and become a country desk officer.”

To prepare themselves for the global, joint missions ahead, Martinez advised cadets to study languages and consider the practices of lifelong learning.

“Whatever you do and wherever you go, learn as much about it as you can—about that operation, that mission and that country and its people,” Martinez said. “There’s too much for you to learn right now, even if you were to take every course at the academy. There’s always going to be something you don’t know. But in your career, you can learn as much as you can before you deploy or before the mission and realize that you will always be learning.”

Martinez, a highly-decorated retired combat officer who served in various infantry and special operations positions, related an experience in Somalia where a healthy civil-military relationship went negative. It took weeks of damage control, and he said in situations like that the actions of one or a few individuals are perceived as an offense by an entire nation.

“People are people. You’ll find one thing in a civil-military relationship that the people you deal with—whether they are civilian or military—they are just like you,” Martinez said. “The majority of people in Iraq want the same things we do; they want to provide for their families and have a decent life. They may have a different culture or been brought up differently, but they are still people.”

John Melkon, the CSCMO outreach coordinator, introduced Martinez to the cadets and said for its inaugural lecture, the center aimed high and succeeded by bringing in a highly-distinguished CMO professional.

“The ability for cadets to hear practitioners who’ve spent time in those fields and dealt with the dilemmas and issues can only help fuse their minds to the problem-solving aspects of CMO,” Melkon said.

The center was established in March to integrate CMO education within the curriculum at West Point by creating a broader framework of understanding of the military’s expanding role this field.

Melkon said the center will sponsor a regular guest lecture series, as well as co-sponsor workshops and conferences on key studies. Programs will benefit faculty members as well, Melkon said.

“We have rotating faculty that go right back out to the field, so there’s the opportunity that while they’re here within an academic environment, they can be exposed to some of these issues and ideas they maybe didn’t see in the active Army or maybe when they go back to it they can take these ideas,” Melkon said.

This summer, the CSCMO and the West Point Minerva Research Institute sponsored an Academic Individual Advanced Development which allowed Class of 2015 Cadet Astrid Colon-Moreno to intern at the U.S. Institute of Peace. She worked on a project for Ambassador Robert Loftis, interagency professional in residence, to catalog the complex relationship between USIP and the Department of Defense, while researching major policy statements from major combatant commands engaged with the organization.

In a letter to Kristine Ringler, MRI research associate, Loftis wrote: “All of her work contributed greatly to my project of mapping out a comprehensive strategy for strengthening USIP’s ability to work with the Department of Defense in promoting peace.”

Additionally, Colon-Moreno accompanied Loftis at meetings, attended lectures and met briefly with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

“At the end of the day, the center exists for the education of cadets,” Melkon said. “It’s making a better, smarter, broader cadet who can deal with a nuanced environment with a lot of stakeholders. When you talk about deploying into a strategic theater, you’ve got a variety of governmental and non-government agencies, host nation organizations, multi-national forces and so many players—all with their own stakes in it.”

The center will continue to seek out AIAD and Cadet Troop Leadership Training opportunities for cadets to provide service-learning experiences in the field, Melkon said. To that end, the center has developed a strategic relationship with the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the 85th CA Bde., at Fort Hood, Texas.

“The key thing we want to focus on is the cadets and cadet learning,” Melkon said. “There are a lot of discussions here about that and it’s obviously the focus of everything that happens; the center’s primary goal is to keep that focus by directing all our energy toward learning opportunities for cadets. We’re hoping it will have a lasting impact.”

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​​Class of 2015 CadetAstrid Colon-Moreno met briefly with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta while interning at the U.S. Institute of Peace.                                   Courtesy Photo
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Retired Col. Bill Martinez spoke with cadets Aug. 23 about their future association with civil-military operations.         Mike Strasser/PV