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Making a difference: Army officer David Ray Pate finds IWP “has had more of an impact than anything else”

CPT David Ray PateIWP student CPT David Ray Pate, USA has always been a patriot. More than that, however, he has combined his academic work and Army training with old-fashioned good judgment to make a difference in Iraq. Now, as he nears the completion of his education at IWP, he’s looking forward to new challenges that he’s sure the Army will give him.

David grew up on a farm in West Virginia, and earned a full football scholarship to college. He remembers, “But I didn’t want to play football – I wanted to be in the Army.”  David is a man of action, so he did just that: after two years of college, he enlisted.  “And this led me to IWP ultimately,” David reports. After enlisting as an active duty soldier in 1999, David was promoted to sergeant.  He went to Officer Candidate School, was promoted to second lieutenant, and served in Korea.  He finished his undergraduate work at Hope College in Michigan, where he majored in political science.  

Intelligence and cultural diplomacy work in Iraq

David volunteered to serve as an intelligence advisor for the Iraqi Army for a year. While there, he worked to transform life in the Iraqi prison at his base, and he started by organizing better living conditions. David focused on developing relationships with some of the prisoners: “It was a good educational experience for me.”  

David met with local tribal elders, and asked them what his Iraqi brigade could do to help the town of Abu Ghraib.  The answer was unanimous: the wives, mothers, and children wanted to visit their husbands, sons, and fathers in prison. David passed this along to his Iraqi commander, who thought it would be a good idea.  

Because the Iraqi Army had no money, David went around to U.S. bases, seeking donations of uniforms, cleaning supplies, and medicine. The supplies improved the morale of both the soldiers and the prisoners. The base then held the prison’s first “family day” in the new Iraq. After having heard horror stories about the prison, the people of Abu Ghraib were happy to see that their family members were being cared for and were being treated well.

“These family days immediately changed people’s perceptions towards the Iraqi and the U.S. Armies. It was such a big success that we would have family day every other Friday, and 3-4,000 people would visit the base,” David recalls. The soldiers would also take people for tours of the base, and the Iraqi people could see how their money was being used.

Life for David and the Iraqi soldiers became increasingly positive. “When I would go on the daily patrols, the people would start waving and smiling. The soldiers and the people in the town really started to bond.” Even more significant for David’s role as an intelligence officer, “they also helped us to locate those who had ill intentions toward the Iraqi Army and the U.S.”  

In addition, the reconstruction projects in the town were able to resume. “Before the family days at the prison, every time we would try to repair a building or pick up trash, there would be people who would attack the soldiers. The last three months I was there, the reconstruction was really picking up because people were supporting the building projects…. It was my first opportunity to see how governments meet the needs of the people.”

Meanwhile, David started to ask for donations from different organizations and businesses in America . Uniroyal Tire of Holland , Michigan sent David 200 soccer balls to give to Iraqi children. David comments, “You talk about getting the mothers and the children on your side….” When he met with a principal and gave some of the soccer balls to the school, the children started playing soccer, tournaments were organized, and parents were happy to see their children engaged in this activity. David says, “Their normal life could go on, even during war.”

David also received donations from Boy Scout troops and rotary clubs: notebooks, pencils, drawing supplies, Hello Kitty and Cinderella coloring books, and other school supplies. After returning from Iraq , David took 30 days of leave, and used it traveling to seven states and Canada to thank personally each person and business that donated.  He says, “It was their generosity that really helped us turn a corner [at Abu Ghraib].”

Eisenhower Fellowship

About a year after his return from Iraq , David became a student at IWP, where he is currently pursuing his M.A. in Statecraft and National Security Affairs. In addition, David is the 2010-11 Eisenhower Fellow in the Presidential Fellows program at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. Michael Maibach, IWP alumnus and supporter, has been sponsoring an IWP student to be a part of this program each year.  (Please click here to read more about Mr. Maibach and this fellowship.)

David has enjoyed the fellowship thus far. Earlier this month, he attended a three-day weekend with about 70 other undergraduate and graduate Presidential Fellows from around the country. The fellows participate in lectures and seminars with various leaders in government to learn more about the U.S. governmental system. 

For this fellowship, David is writing a 30-page research paper about the impact of the U.S. budget deficit on our national security. He noted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have stated that the debt is, in fact, our greatest current national security threat. During this weekend, David gave a ten minute presentation on his topic and research, and had the opportunity to receive feedback from instructors and classmates. David observes, “It was great to be around so many smart and aspiring leaders.  I was really impressed with the quality of the people there, and I felt honored to be a part of that weekend.”

Studies at the Institute

David is also enjoying his time at IWP. “Personally, this school has had more of an impact on me than anything else,” he says.

Learning more about Western civilization been a transformative experience for David. He remarks, “I had no idea the West had so much to be proud of…. Between studying Locke, Burke, Aquinas and Augustine, I learned about the intrinsic difference between justice and revenge. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we aspire to justice and to living by a higher standard. We also understand that human nature is flawed, and that we are imperfect as humans. We have tried for millennia to organize governments that can restrain our vice so that we can be ruled by virtue. We are honest, and we understand our limitations. We’ll never be perfect as a people, but we work to perfect our civilization. It’s something to be proud of.”

David finds that the biggest personal lesson he has learned at IWP is “the value of being ruled by reason… It’s easy to get caught up in the passions of the day, especially in D.C., where there are so many heated political debates. This school has taught me the importance of having a core of beliefs, and of ruling oneself with reason and prudential judgment. Dr. Lenczowski emphasizes in class that he wants to instill in us a lifelong commitment for a cultivation of virtue. If we’re going to be leaders in government, this is the type of leaders we need to be. We have to be ready to do what is just and right, and be ruled by those timeless virtues…. This school has grown me up a lot, and helped me develop an inner sense of self. I don’t think you can get that anywhere else. I’m really grateful for this place.”

In the future, David hopes to return to another area like Iraq and be able to apply what he has learned about government, statecraft, nation building, and institution building. He observes, “I would have loved to have this education when I was serving in Iraq .”

The Institute salutes CPT David Ray Pate, who will be promoted to the rank of Major in December 2011.