Tag Archives: Nicholas Kariuki

Sport is strong diplomacy tool for the world’s militaries

WASHINGTON — Mungyeong in South Korea’s North Gyeongsang Province is a former coal-mining city now turned scenic tourist destination. Along with national parks, museums and a traditional tea bowl festival, travel sites highlight Mungyeong Saejae, a mountain pass that once served as the province’s gateway to and from Seoul.

In October this year, roughly 5,000 military personnel from up to 134 nations will converge on the city to try and best each other in competition. No weapons will be drawn in malice. There will be no prisoners or intentional casualties and locations like Mungyeong Saejae will be left completely intact — well maybe save for what the boost in tourism causes.

The sixth installment of the Military World Summer Games will mark the 20th year of the sports diplomacy initiative. The event is one of many regularly organized by the International Military Sports Council, more widely known as the Conseil International du Sport Militaire, which serves as the sports governing body for the world’s militaries.

Prof. Omari Faulkner, an adjunct instructor at Georgetown University’s Sports Industry Management program, said that the World Military Games does a really good job to take some of the world’s most athletic and disciplined men and women and put them into friendly competition.

The CISM was founded on Feb. 18, 1948, and is now the world’s second largest multi-sport discipline organization, bested only by the International Olympic Committee. Operating under the motto “Friendship through sport,” its mission through competitions like the World Games and symposiums highlight the role that sports can play rebuilding societies ravaged by conflict or natural disasters.

When you get past the initial irony of trained combatants engaging in friendly competitions against what may be considered enemies in real-world contexts, it’s easy to see why soldiers are well suited to play the role of athletes. Military personnel are in top physical condition, they are driven and well-disciplined with a clear sense of the mission at hand. What’s more, they have placed a value on team work and representing something greater than themselves at a level that all coaches dream of when working in professional and amateur settings.

Faulkner said that much of the benefits from global military sports is seen within the military circles. Through the common understanding of a sport, people from different backgrounds and with different world views can form interpersonal coalitions through a relatable practice.

The U.S. joined the organization in 1951. The growing popularity of more global sports such as soccer domestically provided a better common ground with the world than the country’s more popular sports such as football or ice hockey. With the greater participation in all sports from all the participating nations (in total, the Armed Forces competes in 19 of the 26 offered by the CISM, according to the Department of Defense) comes more fields for sports diplomacy to take root.

“We no longer live in a stovepiped sports world,” Faulkner said. “What’s happening in Europe or what happens in the United States is very relevant to what going on in China or in the Middle East, in regards to sports.”

Sports diplomacy also has its place in disaster-relief situations. After Hurricane Sandy the United Arab Emirates responded with a $4.5 million donation towards the rebuilding of a new soccer stadium in New Jersey.

“I think that the Department of Defense, State and even the White House can now really wrap their arms around the fact that you can help use sports as a tool to rebuild communities, to rebuild countries who have been by either war or weather disasters,” Faulkner said.

What the CSIM loses in commercial appeal and restrictions to entry, it makes up for in being comprised of well-organized and disciplined organization with far greater concerns than the results of the competitions or the financial payoff of a major sporting event. Solely sporting organizations such as the IOC, and more recently soccer’s governing body FIFA, have several instances of corruption that have diminished much of the strong development and outreach that has always been a major mission in their long histories.

It’s naïve to think that sports diplomacy is going to end a war or rebuild destroyed infrastructures. What it does do for the CISM is offer a strong non-combative means for military personnel to better connect with each other and those that they are helping.

Leadership of the CISM met in Kuwait City for the organization’s 70th General Assembly from May 17 to 23. Among the activities were the drawing of the lots for Mungyeong.

“I think everyone is now really in sync to understand that sports is basically a strong diplomacy tool,” Faulkner said. “It can’t fix all of our problems, it’s not going to be the solution for everything but it is a really strong tool in our diplomacy tool box.”

Florida postal worker who landed gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn pleads not guilty

  • Doug Hughes speaks after his hearing at the U.S. District Court. (Nick Kariuki/MEDILL NSJI)
    Doug Hughes speaks after his hearing at the U.S. District Court. (Nick Kariuki/MEDILL NSJI)

WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) — Doug Hughes, the Florida mail carrier who landed his gyrocopter on the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn last month, appeared in court on Thursday to plead not guilty to all six federal charges against him.

Among the charges against Hughes are two felonies: operating an aircraft without a license and flying an unregistered aircraft. He faces up to nine and half years in prison.

“As long as I’m free I’m going to introducing voters to groups with solutions to problems of corruption that the vast majority of voters recognize and oppose.” Hughes said after the hearing.

On April 15, tax day, Hughes piloted the low-altitude aircraft from Gettysburg, Pa., to Washington, landing on the Capitol lawn.

Hughes carried 535 two-page letters, one for every member of Congress, highlighting the need for campaign finance reform because of what he sees as the corrosive effect of money politics. He described his actions as an act of civil disobedience.

“I’ll never do anything like this again, but I would do it exactly the way I did,” Hughes said.

Capitol Police arrested Hughes after he landed the small aircraft. He was later released on bail and remained under house arrest in Ruskin, Fla., where he wore an ankle monitor.

Mag. Judge Alan Gray allowed Hughes to move within Hillsborough Count,y where he lives, though he still must wear the monitor.

The judge also refused to let Hughes visit the Capitol, White House and other areas in Washington, which he was banned from doing immediately after the incident.

Hughes was also put on administrative leave from his job at the U.S. Postal Service.

The postal worker’s protest has raised concerns from lawmakers about the security of the Capitol. Hughes flew across 30 miles of some of the nation’s most restricted airspace on his route to D.C.

The Tampa Bay Times wrote about Hughes’s protest plans before the flight. He also informed the Secret Service and other news organizations by email and live-streamed the event on The Democracy Club, a website dedicated to congressional reform.

Hughes has stated his frustration at the focus on the security concerns raised, rather than the reasons for his flight:

“I have faith in a jury of my peers and will accept whatever consequence I must,” Hughes wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “I simply hope by putting my freedom on the line, others might realize how precious their freedom is and join those of engaged in this fight to preserve and protect our government of, by and for the people.”

Members of CODEPINK, the women-led grassroots activist group, presented Hughes with a framed stamp after the hearing.

Published in conjunction with UPI Logo

Helping Veterans Become Small Business Owners

CLINTON, Md. — From soldier to CEO is a more natural transition than many veterans realize. A large support network has sprung up to help vets start their own businesses, but many do not know it exists.

On Tuesday night the Small Business Administration and VetFran partnered with Marriott’s TownPlace Suites to host a workshop aimed at educating veterans on the basics of entrepreneurship as well as special programs available to former service members. The two biggest components for veterans preparing to start their own business are choosing the right kind of business for them and securing capital, they said.

They also recommended that aspiring business owners take time to think about their passion.

“If they’ve always wanted to own their own business they should definitely write down what they’re passionate about, what their interests are, what they want to do,” said Paul C. Rocchio, senior director of development and member services of International Franchise Association, which owns the franchising organization, Vet Fran. “Maybe tie it into what they did in their military service – what kind of responsibility, what kind of job they had.”

VetFran Manager George Eldridge works with veterans every day

He helped an Air Force veteran start a franchise in his living room and garage that has become so successful the vet has opened a showroom and warehouse.

“He is in his third year of franchising and in the program and doing great,” he said.

Eldridge encourages vets interested in business ownership to do their research and examine all possibilities.

“In the military you think ‘I can’t fail,’ but sometimes you have to think about the risks you’re getting into and have a balance expectation when getting into something like this,” he said.

Veterans interested in franchise ownership may find a good match for their interests on Vet Fran’s website, which offers a plethora of options, he said. Over 100 different industries franchise, the most active being food, followed by hospitality, home-based businesses, childcare and pet care.

Contacting SBA is also a good place to start, advised Laurie Sayles Artis, a Marine vet who owns Civility Management Solutions, a management consulting firm.

“The reason I say that is because they are free mentors there to do just that,” she said. It’s a cost-effective way to decide what area a vet wants to work in compared with paying for training that turns out to be in an area outside of the vet’s passion.

“I’ve watched people fumble through who didn’t know what business they were getting into before they got there,” she said. “I highly recommend no training until you decide what training you want to get.”

Financing opportunities also abound for veterans. The Small Business Administration, which has 68 field offices around the United States and 1,000 resource partners, has Veterans Business Outreach Centers throughout the country offering information on how to gain access to capital.

For veteran-specific programs, the SBA helps businesses obtain reduced loan fees for any loan under $350,000.

Earlier this year, the SBA also launched LINC, Leveraging Information and Networks to Access Capital, an online tool that simplifies the connection between loan seekers and lenders. By answering just a few questions, an applicant can reach out to lenders all over the country.

“If you qualify for something, and even if it’s maybe a non-traditional loan or a micro-loan, the lender will reach back out to you and say hey, maybe this is we can talk about and this is the next level,” Chris James, a SBA assistant administrator said.

At least 3,000 vets have used LINC to make a connection since the program launched two months ago.

“That doesn’t mean it translates into a loan exactly, but at least it’s linking up a business with a potential lender all around the country, and not just your bank,” James said.

VetFran does not provide financing, but, like LINC, it connects veterans to help with funding, working closely with the Small Business Association and lenders within its supplier group to help them afford the franchise opportunity they want.

Those shopping for a franchise can expect to pay from $10,000 to $20,000 for a home-based business, Rocchio said, to in the millions for a McDonald’s or hotel brand, with options everywhere in between.

“Our members that are participating in the Vet Fran program are offering their franchise at a discounted rate or in some cases are waving the initial franchise fee to make it easier for [veterans] to become an owner operator and to own their own business,” he said.

Rocchio and the other speakers urged veterans to think like entrepreneurs and be aggressive in reaching out for help.

“As veterans you do have a few more opportunities than some other folks,” he said.


Text by Holly LaFon. Video by Nick Kariuki.

Published in conjunction with Military Times Logo



Obama to wounded warriors: ‘We’ve got your back’

  • President Barack Obama speaks with spectators after the cyclists have set off on the Soldier Ride. (Nick Kariuki/MEDILL)
    President Barack Obama speaks with spectators after the cyclists have set off on the Soldier Ride. (Nick Kariuki/MEDILL)

WASHINGTON — Under clear skies, President Obama blasted an air horn Thursday to start the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride from the White House’s South Lawn.

Speaking before the bikes rolled out, Obama said the event was “a chance to say to all the returning heroes that you’re not alone. That we’ve got your back. We’re going to be with you every step of the way.”

The nationwide, annual ride offers wounded service members and veterans the chance to salve the physical, mental and emotional wounds they may have suffered through cycling and the common bond of military service.

Over 50 riders from all branches of the armed forces signed up for the three-day, 60 mile challenge, many riding on adaptive bicycles.

Obama was joined by Vice President Joe Biden and Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald. This year marked the sixth time that the event was welcomed to the White House.

The first Soldier Ride was in 2004 when Chris Carney, a Long Island, New York, bartender, biked across the country to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that supports injured troops.

The WWP claims over 68,000 alumni and more than 10,500 family members involved, as of April 1.

Published in conjunction with Military Times Logo