April 2017

Field Trip: Hawaii


Report by Reid Pauly, graduate student


Over Spring Break, SSP military fellows led 14 graduate students on a field trip to United States Pacific Command in Hawaii. Each day was devoted to a different Service—Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines—highlighting the missions each train to perform, the capabilities they possess in theater, and the threats they perceive to American interests in the region. At USPACOM Headquarters, substantive sessions included an Operations brief, a thorough analysis of maritime law with JAG lawyers, and a detailed assessment of Theater Security Cooperation efforts. Further substantive discussions with MARFORPAC (Marines), PACFLT (Navy), USARPAC (Army), and PACAF (Air Force) provided additional perspective. The graduate students asked incisive questions of briefers and pushed senior officers to go off script and critically assess American strategy in the Western Pacific. Word spread quickly of the presence of the inquisitive MIT delegation and many backbenchers came to listen in on subsequent discussions. Overall, students emerged from the briefings with a good sense of American military operations in the Pacific, though little consensus that those operations were always backed by the right strategy. The research will have to continue back in Cambridge.


In addition to strategy briefings, students had the opportunity to see some military hardware up close, including an Arleigh Burke-class DDG destroyer (USS Halsey), an MV-22 Osprey, an AH-64 Apache helicopter, and an F-16 Fighting Falcon. The trip would also not have been complete without a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor.


Trip supervisors Roger Peterson and Joli Divon Saraf allowed for some leisure time at the beach, while the military fellows preferred to sniff out the Mai Tais. On the final night, the group celebrated a successful trip at a luau. 




January IAP Contemporary Military Topic Series

The five military fellows presented a variety of different seminars for the public in January during MIT's Independent Activities Period.


Navy Commander Bob Holmes (Navy) discussed the art and science of electronic warfare (EW) and the Navy's newest EA-18G "Growler."  Bob recently commanded Electronic Attack Squadron 132 and provide dan unclassified presentation pertaining to EW, Growler capabilities & Navy equities within the Dept. of Defense.  He recapped the highlights of a recent deployment and showed a motivational video shot from the cockpit.


Eric Gilbert (Air Force) invited Air Force Captain John Boyd who discussed his mastery in tactical flying blossomed into a demonstration of expertise at the operational & strategic levels of warfare, paving the way for his famous Observe, Orient, Decide and Act (OODA) Loop.  The OODA Loop is widely used today in business, athletic and military strategies, yet many fail to understand its significance in representing future conflict and the next generation of warfare. 


Joe Vongs  (Army) presented a seminar which examined some of the basic tenets of Sun Tzu, the author of The Art of War. Lessons learned from Sun Tzu were analyzed through the perspective of a military advisor to an Iraqi Intelligence officer from 2008-2009. Embedded in the seminar, Vongs also discussed decision making in grey environments.


Joe Vongs  (Army) also presented jointly with Dan Coleman (Marine Corps) on the United States government's wide range of available capabilities in the event of a crisis, domestic or overseas.  The US military has units trained to respond to a range of possible scenarios on short notice. This seminar provided an overview of capabilities from the Army and the Marine Corps, offering insight into these units, how they are organized, trained, and prepared to respond during times of crisis.


Shawn Creamer (Army) presented an overview of the 4 theater-level commands operating in So. Korea: Combined Forces Command; U.S. Forces Korea; UN Command; & the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff. Creamer covered their respective responsibilities, authorities, & communication channels, as well as their interrelationships & how the 4 commands influence and facilitate decisionmaking during crisis & contingencies on the Korean peninsula.