Freshman Whitney Bobbin gets his head shaved—a
rite of passage—during NROTC orientation.
By Laura Ewald
Photos by Julie Woodford
In wartime and peacetime, strong
leadership and broad knowledge are valuable traits
in military elite—traits that are called
upon to save lives and enhance the quality of
life. Though the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force,
and Marine Corps train their officers for vastly
different duties in vastly different ways, the
branches are united by the need for these and
other valuable qualities. While many might say
these are often innate characteristics in members
of the armed services, GW students, faculty members,
and alumni demonstrate through scholarly and
practical pursuits that these skills can be fostered
and sharpened in the classroom.
Learning and working in close proximity to
the nation’s top military bases, GW’s “brass
in training” benefit from the University’s
location, resources, history, and mission. They
give back to the University with unique perspectives
from the field, admirable codes of conduct and
work ethics, and service to the campus community
and to the nation. And they are in good company.
From the University’s namesake to modern-day
heroes former Secretary of State Colin Powell,
MBA ’71, Hon. DPS ’90, and former
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Ret.
Adm. William Crowe, former J.B. and Maurice C.
Shapiro Professor of International Affairs, GW
has long been linked to the military and called
to the education of its leaders. Here are a few
of the numerous and varied ways in which GW and
the armed services connect.
GW’s chapter of the Naval Reserve Officers
Training Corps, which has more than 150 midshipmen
members, most of them scholarship awardees, is
among the 10 largest of more than 70 NROTC programs
in the nation. Its mission: to train students
as commissioned officers in the Naval or Marine
Corps Reserve. The NROTC program is the largest
single source of officers for both services.
GW students training in the Army ROTC and Air
Force ROTC take classes and attend training sessions
at the nearby campuses of Georgetown and Howard
universities, respectively. GW’s NROTC
consortium includes Georgetown, Howard, Catholic
University of America, and the University of
Maryland, College Park.
Lt. Katrina Butler, assistant professor
of naval science, and Cmdr. Fred Stein,
associate professor of naval science, oversee
NROTC orientation activities.
The program’s commanding officer is Capt.
Peter J. Healey, who since 2003 has brought nearly
three decades of service to the classroom. He
also is chair of GW’s Naval Science program,
which offers nearly a dozen classes primarily
designed for NROTC students but which are open
to civilians. (Topics such as evolution of warfare
and amphibious warfare have proven interesting
to students seeking degrees in history or international
affairs, for example.) NROTC students take one
of these courses per semester while earning degrees
school and major of their choosing.
Preparation begins at NROTC orientation, a
sink-or-swim experience that involves head shaving,
uniform assignments, boot camp-like activities
run by upperclassmen, and a week
at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia for
Their education is complemented by weekly drill
periods, uniform inspections, marching, daily
physical training, and participation in related
organizations such as Semper Fi, a Marine Corps
service fraternity. Upperclassmen take responsibility
of running units of about 20 midshipmen, serving
as “platoon commanders.” Commissioning
ceremonies, the annual Navy-Marine Corps Ball,
competitions with other universities, and demonstrations
put on in conjunction with GW, such as Veteran’s
Day celebrations, give NROTC students a deeper
sense of history and tradition.
“NROTC activities help build both a support
system for all the students and leadership skills
for the older students. Building these levels
of trust, cooperation, and dedication will later
help them make the transition into their full-time
service careers,” says assistant professor
Lt. Katrina Butler. She says the mission of the
program is to train “students first” and
to instill NROTC members with the skills they
need to adapt to and excel in future assignments
“Going to school on an NROTC scholarship
is similar to being a varsity athlete. Time management
becomes the most important aspect of your life.
As a freshman Marine Option Midshipman I would
get up every day at 0530 while most students
were just getting to bed,” says 2nd Lt.
Joe Fry, BA ’05, coordinating officer for
this year’s GW NROTC freshman orientation
class. “I had the opportunity to learn
from upperclassmen and take part in basic military
training that has been taught for centuries.
Midshipmen prepare themselves mentally and physically
in order to gain an understanding of how the
military works and what their role as an officer
After graduation, NROTC alumni owe the Navy
or Marines four years of service, usually completed
immediately after graduating. Each goes into
some time of warfare specialization—service
on a ship, submarine, into the Marine Corps,
or aviation training.
In addition to the “culture shock” many
NROTC students experience during their first
few weeks at GW—taking on collegiate courses,
moving away from home, and military introduction—Fry
experienced a different sort of wake-up call:
the 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and
the World Trade Center. Though he says he had
planned on joining the military from a very young
age, Fry had to quickly adapt to world events
in order to prepare himself to “join the
operating forces in an effort to fight and win
that war.” In September, he attended Basic
School in Quantico to train as a basic rifle
platoon leader; from there he will be assigned
to Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla., as a
student aviator. He hopes to eventually fly in
the Fleet Marine Forces.
“It’s very possible that within a
month of graduating from GW, they can go straight
into a contact zone,” Butler says. “In
the military, you take on enormous responsibility
very quickly, from servicing millions of dollars
worth of aircraft and equipment to protecting
peoples’ lives, and we do our best to prepare
our students for that.”
While exposing NROTC students to military life
and training them for future service is the primary
goal of the program, the University benefits
from having NROTC students on campus, Butler
“One aspect of the program that is becoming
increasingly important is that NROTC students
bring a human element to the military—when
they go to their classes or attend campus events,
they are the public face of the military to other
students and members of the GW community,” Butler
says. “They break down stereotypes just
by being here.”
In the mid 1990s, GW won a contract to create
an organizational management master’s
degree program for the Air Force, which was
seeking accelerated courses for their best
and brightest. Those admitted are no strangers
to the themes they are learning about—strategy
and change management, leadership and communication,
and performance and talent management; the
fact that they were accepted into the pres
tigious, rigorous program speaks to the high
quality of their service and their potential.
Second Lt. Joe Fry, BA ’05, coordinating officer for this
year’s NROTC freshman orientation class, prepares new members for
Admission is based on outstanding service performance
and recommendation by superiors. Combining
classroom learning with internship experience
at the Pentagon, State Department, Andrews Air
Force Base, and other nearby sites, the program
puts outstanding individuals on the fast track
to high-ranking positions. Attesting to the success
of the program, one hundred percent of program
graduates have been selected for the rank of
major/lieutenant commander and 100 percent have
been selected for command positions; 70 percent
of program alumni have been selected for the
rank of lieutenant commander versus 2 percent
of Air Force officers overall. Ninety-two percent
of program interns have been selected to attend
the War College versus 20 percent of Air Force
“These people are high flyers going in and
high flyers going out. The focus of the program
is to help the Air Force develop a deep network
of young leadership, the ‘next wave’ of
leadership for the Air Force,” says David
Costanza, chair of the Department of Organizational
Sciences and Communication.
Classes are taught by interdisciplinary GW
instructors at the Graduate Education Center
in Arlington, VA. During their first semester,
students take four classes and re-adjust to full-time
academic work; during the second semester, they
begin the first of two six-month internship assignments.
“All of the armed services do a lot of leadership education; but it is
all training that is focused on each particular branch of the service,” says
David Burt, director of the Arlington center. “What the Air Force wants
is for their top leaders to have a broader sense of leadership and command—this
is a more universal educational approach, which teaches students about theories
and practices that will work in a variety of settings. They are more universally
prepared as a result.”
A broader knowledge base has helped Capt. Brian
DeGennaro provide support to senior Air Force
leadership through his internship at the Pentagon.
It was knowledge and experience gained the hard
way, as DeGennaro found it challenging to transition
from Air Force life to academic life at the start
of the program.
“It is humbling to be taken out of your element and put in a classroom
with 20 other talented, driven people in an academic setting,” he says. “GW
has expanded my thought process—I think better, I write better. The way
I present myself is more polished. When I compare the papers I wrote during my
first week of class to the papers I turned in during the final weeks of class,
the difference is striking.”
Benefits of the program also include camaraderie
between classmates and interns. While military
life tends to bring service members together,
the program gives students the unique chance
to learn and work alongside members from different
aspects of the Air Force, DeGennaro says. While he says they “check their
subcultures at the door,” each is driven by the accomplishments and work
ethic of the others.
“It’s very competitive, but we bring out the best in one another,” DeGennaro
says. “We look out for each other. Our motto is ‘No intern left behind.’”
NROTC students learn how to pack and use
their new gear through a drill.
Helping one another transition from base to
classroom to internship has been an invaluable
process because of the pressure interns take
on with increasingly complex assignments. Capt.
Eries Gibson, who provides support to the Department
of Defense, says that she strives to learn not only for personal gain but
to also be able to share her knowledge and experiences
with her peers and subordinates once she graduates
and goes back to base level.
“This is a great opportunity to explore my career field from a different
perspective. I am involved on a day-to-day basis with senior leadership,” Gibson
says. “One of the most valuable lessons is how to identify ways I can improve.
I’ve been taught to be more aware of myself and my behavior, to actively
seek out feedback from my peers and my superiors on how to improve performance.
I’ll share these experiences and lessons when I go back to the base. Mentoring
is an important aspect of serving in the Air Force.”
Liz Davis, program director for the Department
of Organizational Sciences and Communication,
says the program’s success is a result of both the department’s
strengths and the contributions of the students.
“The Organizational Sciences program and its philosophy represents cutting-edge
work in the field of organization and leadership—its focus and objectives
are to provide new ways of dealing with organizational effectiveness based on
systems thinking—we are lucky to have some of the armed forces’ best
and brightest to work with in the classroom,” Davis says. She notes that
graduates often stay in touch with their instructors and administrators—even
when they return to bases or go on service tours—to report what they learned
in the program that they are putting into practice in their careers.
Beyond the need to educate future leaders,
the armed services turn to GW’s resources
and researchers to develop new technology and
training methods (see “Harnessing Success” on
page 7). They also lend expertise and firsthand
experience to the University through lectures
and teaching positions; for example, in 2001,
GW’s Elliott School of International
Affairs welcomed the University’s first
Federal Executive Fellow, Cmdr. Jeffrey Harbeson.
One of only 20 fellows in the nation at the
time, Harbeson joined GW’s Security Policy
Studies Program and Center for International
Science and Technology Policy from the Navy.
The program allows military officers to work
on research projects and interact with the
academic community at universities known for
outstanding international programs. During
his time at GW, Harbeson lectured on his expertise
in Asian regional security.
Utilizing the University’s location and
historical preservation expertise, the Army tapped
GW’s Graduate Program in Museum Studies
to aid in the creation of the National Museum
of the United States Army. The memorandum of
understanding for the project was signed in December
2003; GW develops course material and assists
in the training of future staff members for the
museum. Scheduled to open June 14, 2009, the
234th birthday of the Army, the museum will be
located on the grounds of Fort Belvoir, Va.
MBA student Norm Sun attempts to complete 20 pull-ups as Marine Corps
officers cheer him on. Officers visited campus in August to recruit
students for the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class.
And, independent of “official” ties
between the University and the armed services,
military personnel are attracted to GW for the
flexibility and renown of its programs and services.
One example is the part-time MBA program: of
the 700 students enrolled in the part-time MBA
program this year, an estimated 10 percent are
in the military in some capacity, says Albert
Razick, administrative director of specialized
degree programs in the School of Business.
Desire for a diverse set of skills is important
to both military and nonmilitary students, Razick
says, and some military students “want
to acquire the skills necessary to advance within
the military in a different capacity and others
want to have transferable skills that they can
use when they leave.”
They are attracted to the program, Razick says,
because many of them are stationed nearby on
two-to three-year assignments, and the program
can be completed in that timeframe. It also is
flexible, which allows them to continue full-time
service. “The word is out, particularly
in military circles,” Razick says, citing
the skills they’ve gained in the armed
services as the foundation for their success
at the University.
“Our military students are extremely disciplined,
motivated, and skilled in time management,” Razick
says, noting that they also have “a greater
sense of urgency… because they know they
can be called into duty at a moment’s notice.
“Our faculty and administration understand
and appreciate the sacrifices made by these students.
We work closely with them to help them serve our
country and to help them continue to pursue their