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Intern plans military career based on mentoring, class experience at IWP

Above: IWP founder and president John Lenczowski speaks with the spring interns at their closing ceremony in May 2019.

IWP intern Zack was sitting in a class on Counterterrorism and the Democracies with Prof. Aaron Danis this past spring when he heard his classmate Chris mention that he was in the military and happy to answer any questions about it.

Chris had returned to IWP to finish his Executive M.A. in National Security Affairs. An active Army Officer, his experience includes a host of operational leadership positions with DoD, combat deployments, and support to numerous interagency task forces.

“To his credit, Zack was one of the few who was bold enough to go ahead and ask a bunch of questions,” remembers Chris.

“I had been considering military service for a long time,” said Zack. “We started talking, and pretty much every class after that, I would ask him questions. I would ask him about his own experience in the military and how someone interested in intelligence and related national security issues could go about joining the military. He gave me a lot of great advice about Officer Candidate School vs. enlistment.”

DC is a busy town, but Zack and Chris used the long commutes as an opportunity to chat regularly. They covered topics like enlisting through Officer Candidate School (OCS) programs vs. other commissioning routes, career options within the military, nontraditional assignments, the Intelligence Community and other government organizations, considerations for future employment, building relationships, and the value of understanding the broader national security enterprise even while serving at a junior level.

IWP is a national treasure.  If I can help future leaders better prepare for challenges ahead, I’m glad for the opportunity.

Chris noted, “IWP is a national treasure.  If I can help future leaders better prepare for challenges ahead, I’m glad for the opportunity.”

He commented further: “Most folks don’t realize how much DoD is integrated into every aspect of national security.”  Military service can be a great launchpad for any career. DoD trusts young leaders with immense responsibility. The training and life-building experiences are priceless.

“A lot of our discussion went beyond the military and job experience to strategizing for,” said Chris. “I would challenge Zack to think about his long-range vision and goals.”

Chris highlights a whole-person approach that includes focus on spiritual growth, professional development, relationships, and financial fitness to support long term objectives.

“You can party hard, but don’t forget to invest in yourself early to earn the freedom to chart your own path. That takes hard work, discipline, and focus,” he said.

In addition, Chris connected Zack with several contacts, including an OCS commander at Fort Benning and a colleague with significant experience in the special operations community. They spoke with Zack several times and connected him with other military service members.

Chris said: “These guys were honored to share their time and experience, and it relates directly to Zack’s genuine personal interest.  Don’t be afraid to ask!”

“These meetings informed my decision making in a way that would not have been possible without IWP and meeting Chris,” said Zack.

Other experiences at IWP also helped with his decision, including a class with Prof. David Glancy, which introduced Zack to the non-kinetic side of warfare. “That helped broaden my horizons and played a huge role in my decision to go into the Army,” said Zack.

Ultimately, Zack decided to enlist with the Army because it was the most direct path to spending some time on the ground doing the work in which he is the most interested. In the meantime, he continues to work on Prof. Danis’ counterterrorism team, which he first joined as a part of his internship in the spring. Zack will graduate college in December.

To future interns, he advises: “Make connections and talk to people in class. You will be in class with students who have expertise in the subjects you’re studying. It’s a friendly environment, and everyone is willing to help and wants you to succeed. Take advantage of the time you have.”

Learn more about the internship program