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A Career in Defense: Insights from Lieutenant Colonel Gavin Rice (’14)

In this episode of the IWP Files, we have the privilege of hosting Lieutenant Colonel Gavin Rice, a 2014 graduate of the Professional Master of Arts in Strategic and International Studies at The Institute of World Politics. Gavin currently serves as a team lead within the Chairman’s Action Group at the Pentagon. Gavin shared with us his experiences, challenges, and accomplishments in the field of national security. Join us as we delve into the insights and lessons learned from a military graduate’s perspective.


Working at the Pentagon: A Day in the Life

Lieutenant Colonel Gavin Rice serves on the Joint Staff and the Chairman’s Action Group at the Pentagon. In this role, he and his team inform and advance the Chairman’s intent and goals. They support strategic planning, contingency planning, and risk assessment. They also assist in drafting congressional testimony and briefings for senior officials. Additionally, they act as staff integrators, providing context and a broader perspective to the Chairman’s decisions. Managing the Chairman’s calendar is also a crucial part of their responsibilities.

Working with a New Chairman: Challenges and Excitement

Recently, Lieutenant Colonel Gavin Rice had the opportunity to work with a new Chairman. With a new Chairman comes a change in leadership and approach. Gavin and his team are determined to support the Chairman’s needs and help him navigate the dynamic environment of national security affairs. 

Career Trajectory: From GI Joes to Strategic Planner

Gavin’s career in defense spans 28 years, with notable experiences such as combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, tours in Europe and Korea, and working with NATO allies and partners. His interest in defense began in the 1980s, inspired by the GI Joe motto of “be all you can be.” After enlisting early and attending the academy, he embarked on a career as an infantry officer. However, a career change led him to branch into strategy, plans, and policy, where he found greater fulfillment and the opportunity to make a difference.

Transitioning from Tactics to Strategy

Transitioning from tactics to strategy presented its challenges for Gavin. Strategic thinking required a broader perspective and considering the impacts of decisions at different levels of war. To better understand operational planning, he attended the School of Advanced Warfighting at the Marine Corps University. This experience helped him connect strategic, operational, and tactical levels of thinking, enabling him to be a more effective war planner.

The Impact of Grad School at IWP

Attending gradudate school at IWP had a significant impact on Gavin’s career. The program provided a deeper understanding of defense, national security, and international affairs. It broadened his perspective and appreciation for American founding principles, natural law, and historical best practices. These lessons proved invaluable in his work, allowing him to draw on historical precedents and apply them to current challenges.

Making the Most of an Education in Defense

To make the most of their education, Gavin advises new students to know themselves and their capabilities. Understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses helps in career planning and personal development. Finding a mentor in a desired position or field can provide guidance and insights. Additionally, he recommends reading, taking notes, and maintaining a curious mindset. Being a critical and creative thinker is essential in defense, as is challenging norms and seeking innovative solutions.

Impacts and Accomplishments

Gavin’s career has been marked by several notable achievements. These include working on the Army Special Operations Forces Strategy for 2030, working with allies and partners in Europe, and contributing to the planning of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. While the true impact of these efforts may not be immediately visible, Gavin takes pride in his contributions to the field and the people he has supported throughout his career.

Gavin Rice

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