Pledge of Allegiance: Civilian and Military Students Break Down Barriers

Program News | Posted Apr 1, 2008

From the Tufts Parents Newsletter - Undergraduate Life

At a time when the United States is at war, the Alliance Linking Leaders in Education and the Services (ALLIES), one of the Institute for Global Leadership's (IGL) interdisciplinary programs, is working to connect emerging leaders in the civilian and military sectors in order to improve understanding and mutual respect between these two seemingly disparate communities.

Formally established in the spring of 2006, ALLIES is continuing the IGL's long tradition of engaging the service academies in symposiums that explore international themes. Partnerships between Tufts University, West Point, Annapolis, and the United States Air Force Academy have enabled this unique program to facilitate dialogue between students, cadets, and midshipmen as a way of narrowing the gaps in communication and curriculum that have historically distanced military academies and liberal arts institutions from one another.

Sherman Teichman, A09P, director of the Institute for Global Leadership, encouraged his students to create ALLIES as a step toward ameliorating what he saw as a growing schism between civilian and military leaders in this country. Having come of age during the Vietnam War era, Teichman witnessed the fury over the U.S. military presence in Southeast Asia, the abuse of presidential power, and the disintegration of civic unity and civil discourse.

"It's intolerable that we're going that way again, this time intensified by the privatization of war and the challenges to civil rights. The military fighting the war is disconnected from the very society it is sworn to protect," Teichman said. It's unconscionable that students and faculty of elite universities shoulder almost none of the responsibility, Teichman added. "We talk unceasingly about active citizenship, but we do not walk the walk in one of the most critical arenas of public life. I wanted Tufts to be a leader in confronting this schism," he said.

Teichman sees his students as change agents. "Something unusual happens here," he said. "Our Tufts students accept challenges. It's in their DNA and at the IGL we want to nurture that. They are unafraid of complexity. They want to be engaged in the world," he said. "It's why things happen here." This year Teichman invited Gregg Nakano, F01, a Naval Academy graduate who served as a Marine infantry officer during the first Gulf War to serve as one of the Institute's INSPIRE Fellows. A civil-military affairs officer for the Office of Foreign Disaster assistance for United States Agency for International Development who participated in the 2006 institute's "Voices From the Field," alumni program, he now advises the ALLIES students. "This is really a student-driven program. Nothing is being pushed down from the top. The ALLIES students at Tufts realize that soldiers their age are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq and want to learn more about their military counterparts. ALLIES is a strategic opportunity to engage students in their formative stages of inquiry and awareness to increase the number and variety of policy options examined," Nakano said. An IGL External Advisory Board member, Jeffrey Blum enabled this fellowship, critical to ALLIES maturation. According to Teichman, ALLIES concerns range from confronting constitutional issues, whether they're inherent powers of the presidency or legal interpretations of habeas corpus, core to the military academies whose students are sworn to protect it, to ethical issues over torture and the rules of war as well as the implications of waging war or deploying peacekeeping forces.

This year, ALLIES began with a two-part event called "The Dilemmas of Darfur," focused on raising student awareness of the complex issues and humanitarian needs in Darfur, Sudan. The event began with the showing of the award-winning documentary The Devil Came on Horseback and was followed by a panel discussion, which included institute board member Hunter Farnham, a retired USAID officer who worked extensively in Sudan when it was the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance. ALLIES founders Peter Maher, A07, Susannah (Su) Hamblin, A07, and Padden Murphy, A09, were all enrolled in EPIIC's 2004 theme of "The U.S. Role in the World" when they realized how important this interface was and sought to institutionalize the relationship between the IGL and the academies. "Our first full year of operations was capped off with a joint research project with four Tufts students, three West Point cadets, and one West Point faculty member in Amman, Jordan," Maher said, adding that there is sometimes a misplaced assumption that ALLIES is a student military organization dedicated to advancing a military agenda.

"I was an international relations major," Su Hamblin said," but I knew nothing about the military, nor had I considered it while studying foreign policy. I was interested in participating in a place where different perspectives came together. What I realized is that our ideas aren't that far apart." Current ALLIES co-chairs Nancy Henry, A09, a ROTC member who will join the Air Force when she graduates, and Jesse Sloman, A09, who intends to join the Marines when he graduates, are as much invested in the dialogue generated between their military counterparts as they are in their desire to serve their country. "If our leaders had a nuanced understanding of the benefits and limitations of military force, there might be less of a rush to arms," Sloman said. "You can't understand American power without understanding the military." "Maybe better judgments would be made before going to war," Henry said. Navy Commander Arthur Gibb, who taught ethics and international relations in the Department of Political Science at the Naval Academy, credits Teichman with being the "driving force behind ALLIES." Gibb observed that the Naval Academy, much like Tufts, is populated by overachievers. "But, the academy can be a cloistered environment. Our students were very much impressed with the academic research and independence Tufts students have," Gibb said. Gibb was confident that the civilian and military students involved in ALLIES would one day be in leading decision-making positions for the government. "When civilian students are making choices about when to use military force, I want them to have a connection to the military," he said. Major Eric Bjorklund, F06, was thrilled when his students approached him while he was serving as the West Point faculty liaison with the IGL. Stating that he did not expect to see much tension between civilian and military students, Bjorklund was aware from his experiences at West Point and Tufts that misconceptions do exist. Students may "naturally seek different strategies to meet challenges, but this can only foster a better understanding and increase the overall expertise of the students, exactly what they will need to be global leaders in the future," he said. Tufts' stellar reputation was a draw for Major Scott Taylor, who is currently an instructor of american politics, policy and strategy at West Point. "The opportunity for our very talented cadets to interact with students from Tufts was too good to pass up," Taylor said. But Taylor also cited the need to dispel a stereotype that the United States Military Academy "turns out robots." "Working with people who have different ideas than you isn't a bad thing at all. The implications of a program like this one for us are that when a military response is needed for either some domestic or national security crisis in the future, the military leaders and the policymakers both have a common framework from which to draw," Taylor said. Teichman and Nakano envision an inter-university initiative that would allow the collaborative development of civil-military education programs. "ALLIES hopes to nurture a generation that can achieve the acme of generalship, which Sun Tzu defines as, ‘Defeating the enemy without going to battle,'" Nakano said.

More Info: