In this interview, we speak with LTC John Rose, USA, who transitioned his U.S. Army career field to Strategic Intelligence based on his IWP experience. He has been awarded a fully-funded Ph.D. scholarship and faculty position under the National Intelligence University’s Professor of Strategic Intelligence Program. He is currently a second-year Ph.D. student in Old Dominion University’s International Studies program.
“I came out of Iraq a little disillusioned and confused, but I wasn’t sure why. I had a gap, but I didn’t know what it was. Nothing satisfied this gap until I read the IWP website.”
John Rose was intrigued by the idea of a professional education in statecraft and national security for those who are doing it, with a scholar-practitioner faculty, and with the background of the Western moral tradition.
Later in his career, he would witness the arts of statecraft he studied at IWP playing out as he supported military and diplomatic leaders at the highest levels in Cyprus, the Middle East, and at the Pentagon. He commented: “I have been in both academic and professional settings where the skills and knowledge developed at IWP served me well.”
A Navy family
John’s story began growing up in a Navy household. His father was stationed on an aircraft carrier when his mother was pregnant and was able to fly back for John’s birth. His father’s career inspired John, who asked many questions as he grew up about the military services, their rank structure, and what makes each unique. “I knew it was something I wanted to do, but I didn’t know where,” John remembers.
His father’s career also brought John to Spain when he was 12 – his first international experience. “It made me realize that there is something beyond the U.S., and the norms and customs I am used to are not universal. I began to understand that as a human race, we are all on a similar path but approach things differently.” He began to develop a curiosity about deep philosophical questions as a result.
Meanwhile, John was struggling with dyslexia. “I wasn’t a good student,” he remembers. He dropped out of high school at 16 and worked odd jobs while studying for the GED examination. A few years later, he started to think about his options for joining the military. With a GED-waiver he was able to join the Virginia National Guard.
As a Guardsman, John attended community college in order to satisfy Army enlistment requirements for those with a GED. After meeting his future wife, he realized he needed to do something different.
An Army career
Then, everything happened at once. He married his wife in February, began his first duty station in Fort Carson Colorado in June, and was sent to Croatia to support NATO’s Operation Joint Forge in September.
There, his squad leader said something he would never forget. “Rosey,” he said, “Always remember that if you are not challenged and you are not pushing yourself, then you are wrong. There are a lot of great things that we can do. If we are not challenging ourselves, we sell ourselves short, and we sell everyone else short.”
Inspired, John took more classes at community college and was selected by his Division Commander for a two-year ROTC scholarship, which started him on a path to a B.A. and a commission in the Army. As a First Lieutenant, he served as a platoon leader for 24 months. He was then moved to a desk job, where he managed personnel stats, meetings, and coordinating with Protocol.
After deploying to Iraq, John learned about the Expanded Graduate School Program (EGSP), and his Executive Officer encouraged him to apply, even though John’s Army career manager advised against it, as most applicants were more experienced than he.
Graduate education at IWP
To his surprise, John was accepted. As he was considering different graduate schools, John received an email from IWP and read the website.
“I don’t think that before that time, I ever really consumed something – read it multiple times to let it sink in. I did that with the IWP website,” remembers John.
Feeling disillusionment after his experience in Iraq, John had been reading the writings of Mortimer Adler and C.S. Lewis. Adler covered ideas about the Western moral tradition, describing its uniqueness. Lewis, who served as a soldier in World War I, described the reasons for the Christian faith in his Mere Christianity and The Weight of Glory.
The ideas from these writings, combined with the emphasis of IWP in educating national security leaders about these traditions, stood out to John.
John soon became one of the first three Army-funded students to come to IWP. In working with the IWP administration on his special circumstances with the Army, he discovered that “IWP is not about your pedigree, but it’s about where you are going and what you need.”
Armed with an IWP education
After IWP, John went to the 82nd Airborne Division, which deployed to Afghanistan. Before deploying, he reached out to Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz to ask what he needed to know to be effective in his work there. Dr. Chodakiewicz gave him several books to review, which were helpful preparation for his time in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, he was thinking about the lessons about the different arts of statecraft that he had learned at IWP, and especially “the idea that there is so much more beyond the military instrument of power… If you use only the military instrument, you will be ineffective.” He had heard FA-59 Army strategists speak at IWP during his time in graduate school and considered joining the FA-59s.
In researching his next career move, John remembers: “I came across the strategic intelligence functional area. I liked it even more.” He knew that the strategy world needed to be influenced by a rich understanding of the environment and the people we are working with, and he hoped to translate the actions of our allies, partners, and enemies into the strategy world.
A second M.A.
After being accepted to the strategic intelligence track, John attended National Intelligence University for a second M.A., which is mandatory for strategic intelligence officers. There, he focused on science and technology intelligence with a concentration in Weapons of Mass Destruction.
He commented: “I found in my graduate studies at the National Intelligence University and now as a Ph.D. student at ODU, the philosophical and historical foundation I gained while at IWP is second to none. I felt as though I had an enormous head start over many of my peers. This meant from the first day of class I could confidently engage, and at times challenge, the positions held by the faculty.”
Strategic Intelligence with the Army
Upon completing his M.A., John was assigned to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. He soon found himself in Nicosia, Cyprus, where he served as a DoD Representative to the Maritime Joint Planning Group in support of the UN/OPCW’s efforts assisting in the removal and destruction of the chemical weapons from Syria. This was a challenge, as Syria was in the middle of a civil war and was unable to do destroy them itself. John supported a process by which a Danish and Norwegian vessel would move the weapons from Syria to a loading point, where they would be placed on a U.S. vessel with destruction capability.
“Whether briefing the Ambassador and country team, or engaging with Senior State Department professionals, the critical thinking and communication skills honed at IWP proved essential,” said John. “During that process, I could see Dr. John Lenczowski’s analogy of the various arts of statecraft play out in front of me. It was amazing. My IWP experience allowed me to better understand how other people think. For instance, a diplomat would not immediately think through a military power lens – what tool of statecraft would they reach for first? I was able to craft messages that were sensitive to their priorities.”
After this deployment, John worked in the Department of Army headquarters with the G2 intelligence branch, where he amassed information that may be important for senior Army leadership. He served as an executive briefer to the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff. John was driven to understand the needs of senior leaders – what keeps them up at night, and what information they are looking for.
On one occasion, John was able to accompany the Chief of Staff of the Army on a multi-country trip in the Middle East. “It was an amazing, eye-opening experience to see the enterprise from a different perspective, and recognize how the military aspect intersects with other instruments of power to drive towards an objective.”
Watching the Chief of Staff navigate these arts of statecraft so expertly while asking the right questions, John reflects: “In that moment, I really began to understand at a deeper level the value of IWP. What makes IWP unique is its faculty of career public servants who have spent a lifetime doing what they teach. They are an expert, a student, and they can practice statecraft well. Their exposure on the level of policy, application, etc. blends together in a timeless aspect that can apply to any situation, while being sensitive to the bureaucracy, theory, and policy. This is what I experienced in the classroom with Amb. Piedra, Dr. Chodakiewicz, Dr. Lenczowski, and others.
“I am a better communicator because I can wrestle with different perspectives from that toolkit, and a sharper thinker because I have watched practitioners ask questions. Their questions are different from those that a scholar or a practitioner would ask,” John said.
Preparing to teach strategic intelligence
LTC Rose is now pursuing his Ph.D. at Old Dominion University, with concentrations in International Political Economy & Development, and International Relations & U.S. Foreign Policy. He is planning to prove that once again, and despite his high school struggles, he can be successful in an academic environment.
His primary reason for pursuing this degree is in service of his country: “The exposure I have had to a world outside of the U.S. perspective makes me know that there is likely a Russian version of me, Chinese version of me, Iranian version of me, that is better than me. My answer to that situation is that I am going to have to get better. With this doctorate, I will also be able to teach at NIU to make better strategic intelligence officers than I am.”
One day, John hopes to teach a seminar on the life and writings of Mortimer Adler as they relate to national security, foreign policy, and the political economy. As a father of a son with special needs, John’s other dream is to become more involved with the special needs community as an advocate or entrepreneur.
John commented: “In all of these unique and exciting opportunities, the time spent listening, thinking, and exploring under the tutelage of IWP faculty and staff is perhaps the richest time of my professional life.”
Advice for prospective IWP students
When asked what he would say to a prospective student, John offered three points:
- “The course of study at IWP under scholar-practitioners is timeless, important, and consequential. It is so important that you can’t not take this journey. You are at a fork in the road, and if you are serious about working in national security or foreign policy, it would be tragic if IWP was not considered as a top choice.
- “As with any endeavor of this magnitude – it is no small feat – you will feel imposter syndrome, fatigue, strain, and work that you are unaccustomed to. That is normal. Go in expecting that you will feel this way.
- “The reason why the imposter syndrome and fatigue are manageable is that IWP is one of those places where you have expert guides who will guide you through the whole thing. At other institutions, once you hit commencement, you are an afterthought. That is not the case at IWP. That partnership, and that guiding, continues beyond commencement. It is a lifelong commitment to a community of scholar-practitioners that you have become a part of.”