FORT BRAGG, NC. -- Six Yale University undergraduate seniors traveled to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) headquarters October 4th, 2019 to meet with Green Beret soldiers. The continuing capstone project with the New Haven, Connecticut, school began in 2018 and gives undergrad Global Affairs students in their senior year an active role in seeing how their efforts can affect a Special Forces mission.
During the students' visit, they were introduced to operational functions of 3rd SFG (A), Headquarters and Headquarters Company. Maj. Justin Crocker, Operations Officer in Charge, led the students on a tour through the headquarters, explaining significant unit history and awards received. The day's activities started bright and early at 7:00 with a dose of Special Forces-style morning physical training, moving onto a discussion about the overall mission, and ending with a Q & A style discussion with Green Berets who recently returned from deployments in Africa.
"The overall intent is to immerse the students' understanding of political and economic drivers of instability in West Africa, in the hopes to focus 3rd Group's efforts," said Crocker, "...and I really look forward to what they bring to the table."
As part of the capstone project, the students are tasked by 3rd SFG(A)'s commander, Col. Nathan J. Prussian, and are expected to focus and refine feasible plans the "client", 3rd SFG(A), could use to deter conflict in selected countries and how those plans will align with current and future U.S. national interests.
With the understanding that their capstone project is no small undertaking, the students expect to meet once a month until semester's end, and brief updated data about terrorist cells, country resources, expected economic growth, and infrastructure for their selected countries. In December, all six students will present their plans in person to Prussian for review.
When asked how these students in particular are well-equipped for this task, Michael Kane, Assistant Professor in Yale University's Biostatistics Department and the liaison for the Yale partnership, confidently responded, "one of the most challenging aspects of this project is defining a set of tasks that are feasible and useful to 3rd SFG(A). The students don't have the domain expertise or experience to suggest prescriptive interventions. However, the students do have a qualitative and quantitative understanding of international affairs through undergraduate experience."
Apart from unclassified data exchanges and briefings, the recently returned Operational Detachment Alpha team members recounted their experiences with the soon-to-be graduates about conducting intercountry missions and the challenges they overcome, such as tribalism and culturism, when working with foreign partners.
"The soldiers provided incredibly well-conceived, insightful perspectives that underscored how complex the situation is. The information conveyed was invaluable and it helped the students reframe the goals of the collaboration in terms that will be more directly applicable, and hopefully useful, to the real-world problems in the region," said Kane.
The entirety of 3rd SFG(A)'s operations team expressed their high expectations of the students and hopes to continue this partnership with Yale University well into the future.