WASHINGTON – Nineteen Medill graduate students and four alums, all part of the school’s National Security Journalism Specialization Program, embedded at the National War College for two days in early November, attending lectures and seminars with senior military and government officials who both inspired and challenged the students.
Our visit began Nov. 5 at the gates of Ft. McNair at 0715 (military time), an historic post that now houses the War College and other graduate programs that are part of National Defense University. War college Dean David Tretler explained the rigorous one-year graduate program, saying those nominated by their service or government agency were tapped based on future leadership potential. Among the college’s graduates are Colin Powell and Dwight Eisenhower.
The speaker for that day’s lecture was Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command; he also is a National War College alum. Afterward, we participated in small group seminars with the college’s students to discuss issues of cybersecurity and military strategy.
A campus tour and lunch buffet afforded us even more quality time with the senior military and government officials, where we engaged in deep discussions regarding global politics, economics and security. I had the opportunity to meet a female Army officer who has had four deployments to Afghanistan; we discussed topics ranging from her experience serving overseas, to health crises facing India’s population, to my aspirations as a journalist interested in social justice, security and health issues.
Our first day at the college ended with a panel discussion covering issues between media and military to better inform our stories. Defense reporter Kristina Wong of The Hill noted the difficulty of reaching sources and accessing necessary information, while Col. Edward W. Thomas, Jr. noted the potential security problems facing the nation should the wrong information be reported.
The second day of our visit included a lecture on defense diplomacy by Col.l Robert Timm and additional time in our seminar groups. The visit concluded after a working lunch where expert professors and military personnel touched upon issues of energy and oil, Europe’s impending economic decline and China’s growing naval strength as part of a strategy to assert power and territorial dominance in the region.
The Medill National Security Specialization students, most in their first quarter of the graduate program, had the rare chance to not only learn about our nation’s security challenges and threats from top experts, but to witness first-hand how senior military and government leaders learn to think strategically about the U.S. role in dealing with those issues. That understanding will certainly inform our reporting as we move forward through Medill and into the professional journalism world.