In U.S. academic life today, there are relatively few opportunities for civilian students to gain firsthand familiarity with the faces of America's armed forces. Similarly, too many military officers find themselves with less exposure to the fullest range of academic life and inquiry just as their responsibilities require them to have wider horizons.
A pioneering effort to redress both of these problems can be seen in the U.S. Army War College's Army Senior Fellow Program. For the second year in a row, The Institute of World Politics (IWP) has welcomed an Army Senior Fellow into its academic program. IWP is one of only 36 institutions which have been recognized, approved, and chosen to host senior War College fellows, who traditionally are colonels or lieutenant colonels in the top 10% of their class and are likely destined to become general officers.
COL Gregory D. Gadson, IWP's 2009-10 Army Senior Fellow, has brought his own unique expertise and experience to share with IWP students, faculty, alumni, and friends and has also been conducting research and benefitting from exploring the knowledge, experience, and history of professors and students at IWP.
Colonel Gadson has served in every major conflict of the past two decades, including Operation Desert Shield/Storm (Kuwait), Operation Joint Force (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq). His awards include the Bronze Star (3), Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Field Artillery in 1989 upon graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and holds a Master's Degree in Information Systems from Webster University and a Master's Degree in Policy Management from Georgetown University.
After obtaining his Master's Degree at Georgetown, COL Gadson found the idea of a senior fellowship - an opportunity to exchange ideas and share perspectives with other experts in the use of the various instruments of national power - to be compelling. After hearing "nothing but good things about IWP" from 2008-09 IWP Army Senior Fellow COL J.T. Thompson, COL Gadson applied for the fellowship.
The fellowship has afforded COL Gadson the flexibility to speak around the country, share the IWP message and mission, and interact with other service members. He has received numerous awards along the way, all the while remaining involved in the academic life of the Institute.
He has guest lectured in Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz's Geography and Strategy class several times, sharing with IWP students the valuable lessons he learned in the field. COL Gadson has also been attending a wide variety of lectures from visiting professors and experts, and has attended many IWP classes as both a student and contributing guest. He even has attended IWP intern debates, where he has offered his advice and insights. He also delivered a moving address as the keynote speaker for IWP's annual Pearl Harbor Day Dinner in December 2009.
He is currently writing a research paper exploring the policy gaps between DoD and the Veteran's Administration with respect to severely injured service members who continue serving on active duty - a recent policy change in the Department of Defense. COL Gadson is able to use his personal experience as a part of this study, as he lost both his legs to an IED in Baghdad in service to the Nation. He is also writing a paper focusing on the strategic impact that wounded veterans have on military service and the general public.
COL Gadson enjoys being in an environment where he has found "refreshing open-mindedness." He finds that "IWP is an amazing place to express your ideas." Gadson finds that the Amy Senior Fellowship at IWP allows the interaction of a senior and seasoned officer - a representative of military leadership - with IWP students and professors, many of whom have also dealt with non-military instruments of power in their careers. IWP professors and students enjoy discussing their ideas with an experienced military officer who can share practical advice. IWP Professor Ken deGraffenreid observes that, "Much of what happens in American foreign policy happens outside of the Beltway... This is why practical knowledge from the field is so important for our students." In turn, COL Gadson is able to benefit from the faculty's knowledge of the interagency processes of the U.S. government and is learning more about the broad picture of U.S. policy.
Of the Army Senior Fellowship Program, COL Gadson observes that, "This program can yield tremendous benefits in the future... It fosters and stimulates relationships that are not traditional, and it is destroying the myths that military thinkers are inflexible, and that civilian thinkers don't care about what goes on on the ground. We realize that we have a common objective, and it's necessary to work together to create greater synergy and effectiveness. There's a lot that that [the military and the non-military agencies] can offer each other."
With this spirit of teamwork and shared pursuit of understanding, the Institute's partnership with the Army continues to yield meaningful dividends for all concerned - with the promise of much more to come.