U.S. Army Forces Command hosted 17 Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctorate students and military fellows for an academic discussion and command overview--connecting students' academic focus areas with U.S. Army programs and initiatives--during a visit March 25 at the command's headquarters on Fort Bragg, N.C.

The group included an international collection of doctorate students and candidates, and active-duty U.S. Army, Air Force and Marine Corps military fellows, all participating in the MIT Security Studies Program, a graduate-level research and educational program based at the institute's Center of International Studies. The participants' dissertation topics cover a variety of international issues ranging from counterinsurgency and foreign policy to defense acquisition and technology.

After a brief tour of the FORSCOM General George C. Marshall Hall headquarters complex, the group met with senior FORSCOM staff members to discuss and learn about the command's role in manning, training and equipping the Army's conventional forces.

"After hearing their dissertation topics, it's clear these individuals are taking on really complex issues, such as civil war, the changing nature of resources, and conflict and conflict resolution," said Col. Daniel Williams, FORSCOM's senior plans officer, after meeting with the group. "[The students and fellows] are studying defense--not offense, which is what the military does. If they can get their work right, then we benefit."

"Their service to country, although it may not be articulated in the same way as ours in the military, is in trying to prevent war, trying to understand war and its consequences, and trying to shape policy and decisions a few years down the road," he said.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Bailey, FORSCOM's deputy chief of staff for operations, led a two-hour discussion with the MIT visitors, where he introduced and described the command's mission of preparing conventional forces to serve combatant commanders in the defense of America at home and abroad. During this unclassified discussion, representatives from FORSCOM's staff explained how concepts - including modularity and regional alignment - are being developed within FORSCOM's units, which make up approximately 85 percent of the Army's conventional force.

"These guests are academics with their eyes on the future, so we made sure to remind them that our Army is still engaged overseas and has a fight to finish," said Williams, who has earned two master's degrees of his own in defense studies.

"We're also getting ready to go back to peace in a resource-constrained environment; the way we go about trying to solve our problems can't just be approached fiscally," he said, emphasizing the significant impact that mentorship, leadership and innovation will have on the development of the Army of 2020.

Williams emphasized the "human context" of leading men and women during military operations, urging the students to remember the effect policy decisions can have on service members and their Families.

"When you're doing academic work--theorizing and asking questions--you need to remember that there's a human being at the other end, serving in our military. The results of getting something wrong can be fatal, and can cost us blood and treasure," he said.

Program leaders from MIT included FORSCOM on the group's tour of military units in North Carolina because of the command's role in maintaining the U.S. Army's capability and readiness, said Cindy Williams, a member of MIT's faculty as a principal research scientist with the Security Studies Program, who holds a doctorate in mathematics.

"The staff [at FORSCOM] laid things out in a way that was understandable; they were great at encouraging and participating in dialogue with our pragmatic academics," Dr. Williams said.

During their two-day visit to Fort Bragg, Dr. Williams and her group met with various units on post to learn about their roles in supporting the nation's military strategy. Col. Williams, who began his military career at Fort Bragg while assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, said the post's unique variety of tenant units offers visitors a valuable look at many commands' responsibilities and relationships within the U.S. Army's structure.

"Fort Bragg has a combination of tactical and strategic units all in one place, including the 82nd Airborne Division, 18th Airborne Corps, Joint Special Operations Command, U.S. Army Special Operations Command and FORSCOM," he said. "If you're in academia, or you have to take a trip but don't have a lot of time, a group like this can come to Fort Bragg and see the units that support different levels of war."

"I think this was a great opportunity," Col. Williams said "This exchange of ideas between academics and users--folks who have been out in the field--that's a very necessary mix."

Page last updated Wed March 27th, 2013 at 10:04