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Alumnus Spotlight: Service in Military Intelligence

Above: “Daniel” before his Commencement Ceremony on September 11, 2021.

“I believe that service is an important part of being a citizen. If I was capable of serving, I almost felt obligated.”
-“Daniel,” Class of 2020

“Daniel,”* a member of the Class of 2020, worked with IWP Career Services to achieve his goal of working in military intelligence, and he found that his IWP education served him well once he was in this field. Below is his story.

When he graduated college with a degree in history and was working in finance, Daniel decided that he was ready to serve his country by joining the military. He had spent a college summer working at an internship in Israel, where military service is mandatory, and he was inspired by the level of patriotism he had seen. While the military was not going to be his “forever” career, Daniel wanted to give back to his own country before continuing his career in business.

After trying to join the military for a year – ultimately learning that a medical reason would preclude him from joining – he decided that he would like to serve his country in a different way.

He would go into the national security field.

Choosing a practical degree program

This is when he found IWP, got accepted, and moved to Washington, D.C.

At the time, he had only a little knowledge of the national security field, but his knowledge “increased exponentially with the curriculum and the help of the professors,” Daniel said. “I fell in love with the subject matter.”

He had chosen IWP because, “I wasn’t looking for a very academic/theoretical graduate school experience. I wanted to have instruction by practitioners, people who had done the job, not just political theorists or tenured professors. I wanted teachers who had real life experience, and who taught in a way that would build me into a professional rather than a student. IWP advertised that aspect of the school well, and it was correctly advertised. The faculty is pretty impressive.”

In addition, Daniel was pleased to see that he would be able to take more credits for his master’s degree at IWP (52) for a similar price as other programs, which required fewer credits for an M.A. He also felt immediately welcomed when he spoke with IWP’s recruiters.

I wanted teachers who had real life experience, and who taught in a way that would build me into a professional rather than a student.

Beginning a national security career

Once he was at IWP, his national security career quickly started to take off. He says, “I owe pretty much everything to IWP Career Services.” During his first two months at IWP, he applied for the job that he has now. He commented, “I would not have known about it or thought I was qualified without IWP Career Services.”

Working with Derrick Dortch, IWP’s Career Director, Daniel edited his resume for the national security field, as it had previously been focused on the private sector. He leveraged the experience he obtained in his IWP courses in his updated resume, even though he had only been taking them for a few months.

Government jobs sometimes take a long time to materialize, as they involve a lengthy acceptance process, conditional offer, and clearance process. Daniel did not waste any time. While he was waiting for this job to come through, “I got a lot of additional experience thanks to IWP Career Services that made me a better employee when I entered.”

When Daniel shared with Mr. Dortch what he hoped to do in his career, Mr. Dortch provided options geared directly towards Daniel’s interests. Because Daniel was interested in the military, Mr. Dortch advised that he get as close as he could to the military and security experience.

Daniel ended up getting a job with a private security company. “That was one of the better decisions I made in the course of being at IWP. It was hands-on – intelligence in a different way. I was using my brain and my hands,” said Daniel.

Daniel obtained certificates in private investigation and protective security, and he worked in his company’s intelligence cell. In this job, he gained valuable experience learning how to research like an investigator, how to write various types of analytical products, how operational units function and communicate, and how to handle firearms.

Through another internship recommended by Mr. Dortch, Daniel also gained more experience doing academic-style writing while also expanding his subject matter expertise on various topics in international affairs. This internship led to more opportunities at other high-caliber Washington, D.C. internships that further strengthened his resume and skills as an analyst.

Ultimately, Daniel’s IWP education, finance background, private investigation experience, and research internship experience all combined to make him a well-rounded applicant for many jobs in the field of national security and helped him land his current job working in military intelligence.

Using lessons learned at IWP in military intelligence work

In his current role in military intelligence, Daniel continues to draw upon these experiences, as he conducts both hands-on work and intelligence writing. He has deployed in support of tactical units, and, when working at home in the U.S., he writes intelligence products for strategic and operational decisionmakers. “It is a really unique position to be able to contribute at so many different levels,” said Daniel.

When he began his work at his current organization as an intern, “I went in humble. I knew I couldn’t expect to know everything in intelligence as a student.” During this time, he met an experienced intelligence officer – “a wise old man” – who said that Daniel knew more about this subject than he thought. This proved to be true.

“You can’t learn it all in school,” Daniel said, “But I was given the foundation at IWP about how the national security system works, how intelligence works broadly, and how to think critically about these issues. I was at the level already where I was easily able to absorb new instruction and prepare myself for my actual job.”

In fact, because Daniel was so well-prepared by his IWP academics and his internships, he was able to step in and fill a gap in his office that occurred when there was a lack of manpower. “I was able to hit the ground running in my first year as a full civilian employee,” said Daniel. He was given multiple awards in his first year due to his ability to step up quickly when there was a need.

I was able to have a higher impact than my GS grade allowed, and that was a testament to my experience and education at IWP.

“I worked really hard,” said Daniel. “I was able to have a higher impact than my GS grade allowed, and that was a testament to my experience and education at IWP. I just did the best that I could.”

Daniel has found that having a graduate degree is important in his field. Although he had relatively little experience in military intelligence, some weight was given to his ideas because of his educational background. In addition, he found that he did often know much more about national security matters than other colleagues who had recently entered government service.

Passing along IWP knowledge

Recently, he has been teaching fellow junior analysts lessons learned at IWP – how intelligence works, the relationship between intelligence and policy, how to write intelligence papers without advocating policy, and all about the history of U.S. intelligence and national security. “You think you wouldn’t need to know these things, but they come up all the time!” said Daniel.

Daniel was also able to teach an unofficial training module related to how the national security enterprise worked “off the cuff,” based on his IWP studies. He drew on his experience in IWP courses such as National Security Policy Process, Covert Action, and Intelligence and Policy to aid in teaching the module.

“IWP is not just having an impact on current students and alumni; it is affecting other people with whom we alumni come into contact,” said Daniel.

Looking to the future

Daniel has received conditional offers from many other organizations in the field, but he has turned down some of them because he very much enjoys his current work.

In the future, Daniel will probably continue to deploy and seek opportunities that have the best chance of helping him make a positive impact on U.S. national security. While he still is planning to return to the private sector at some point after serving his country, he is open to different possibilities.

“I have so many opportunities in front of me to do whatever I want, to choose what I want to do,” said Daniel. “I couldn’t be in a better position right now. When I first moved to DC and imagined what my ideal job would be, I never thought it would actually turn into reality, but IWP made it happen.”

*Name changed for security purposes.

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