From the blackboard to Baghdad, West Point mathematician deploys
July 1, 2010
WEST POINT, N.Y. (July 1, 2010) -- The Global War on Terror has many different fronts on which its battles are fought. Some of the fronts are in the cities where 5.56-millimeter and 7.62-millimeter rounds cross the street, and others are in the shadows where intelligence and data are exchanged constantly.
One of the Soldiers responsible for presenting that data to the upper echelon is Lt. Col. William Fehlman, the director of the differential calculus program in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at West Point, N.Y.
Last month, Fehlman voluntarily deployed to Baghdad to serve as the Chief of Strategic Assessments for the U.S. Forces-Iraq Strategic Plans and Policy office.
Fehlman is working in the American embassy there, assessing Iraq's ability to support and defend itself in terms of economics, military and force structure. As an operation research systems analysis officer, he will review data and statistics to see how the new government of Iraq is reaching its goals.
His responsibility after the data is collected and analyzed is to turn those complex figures into coherent information. This is then presented to the chain of command for further review to make decisions on how the United States can best assist Iraq in its development.
"I'm hoping that the contribution I can make will be very valuable to the decisions that general officers and politicians can make regarding our involvement in Iraq," Fehlman said.
Fehlman continued the dedication of academy faculty serving overseas in the Global War on Terror by replacing Lt. Col. Dan McCarthy from Systems Engineering.
When he returns in about six months, he will bring back valuable lessons from the current strategic environment.
"I think it (deployment) is important because it gives the senior faculty experiences that they can ... share with cadets (and) faculty," Fehlman said.
He believes that this and future deployments are important to the study of applied mathematics because the data he collects will be used to improve the current curriculum.
This, in turn, keeps cadets' education moving at the speed of current warfare and prepares leaders for the situation in theater.
"Part of the cadet leadership development model that we have says that this model evolves based on the strategic environment," Fehlman said. "In order to bring back experiences in the strategic environment and possibly help the model evolve, you need senior faculty to deploy."
Although the sensitive insurgent data is reserved for the commanders on the ground, what Fehlman brings back to teach at the academy will educate cadets on current and future trends in how the enemy operates in Iraq.
"The unclassified piece of that can be shared with the cadets and they can be wowed by how we can use mathematics in the real world," Fehlman said. "We're always looking for real-world applications for the cadets, and relevant applications for using mathematics in the Army."