(Photo: Dr. Stephen Perry, front row, third from left, and Lt. Col. Manuel deGuzman, front row, right.)
The Army War College is the highest level of professional development offered by the United States Armed Services. It prepares military officers to be colonels and generals, and it’s a pretty significant honor even to be chosen to attend, let alone graduate. The opening address this year, for instance, was delivered by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Lt. Col. Manuel deGuzman, a professor of military science and an ROTC instructor with the Southern Guards Battalion, which serves Wofford and three other local colleges, just graduated from the Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, Pa. One of the last portions of his education was the Strategy Implementation Seminar, something that Wofford accounting and finance professor Dr. Stephen Perry was invited to attend.
Both men returned to Wofford offering glowing reports of the other’s accomplishments.
“I was really impressed with the caliber of civilians invited to the SIS,” says deGuzman. “Within our seminar group we had an ambassador, a corporate vice president, and in Steve we also had a professor with an extraordinary background.
“Because of his military experience, Steve was able to talk the talk. He was a mayor, a CEO, and he worked for Exxon for 11 years. He provided excellent insight and different perspectives. Being a professor of finance and having his high-level experience in the corporate world, he often added the economic impact to the discussions with regards to current events such as gas prices, irregular warfare and Iraq.”
The purpose of the SIS is to bring in civilian minds to “seed the discussion,” as Perry puts it, to help deGuzman and his fellow students study strategic issues around the world from various angles.
“I think with each group they said ‘How can we come up with a mixture here where all three people will bring something to the party and bring in new and different ideas?’” says Perry. “I think that was their main objective as far as injecting us into the environment.”
Also in Perry and deGuzman’s group were a former American ambassador to Turkmenistan and a vice president of Raytheon. Perry says he was glad to be of help to the graduating students, but the experience was not one-sided in that regard.
“There’s mutual benefit,” he says. “We got to see firsthand what these students are being taught and how they’re reacting to it on a number of really important topics. I was delighted with the topic they chose for us…irregular warfare.
“It was 40 years between the time I finished my reserve duty and today. War has changed so much in that time, in terms of the insidiousness of it and the religious fanaticism that’s tied in with it. It reminds me sometimes of the book ‘Future Shock.’ We not only have change, we have change at an accelerating rate.
“Having been away from it for 40 years, to have a chance to get immersed in it with people who work on some of these issues as a full time job was thrilling and quite encouraging, I might add.”
For deGuzman, the two years it took him to graduate were tough, but worth it. Having a full-time job meant he had to study at night when he got home, not to mention his duties as a family man.
Perry, for one, is very impressed that deGuzman could pull it off.
“At Exxon, we would have called Manuel and people like him the high potential list,” he says with a smile.
As for deGuzman, he leaves with more than just a master of strategic studies degree for his time and troubles. He leaves with some very poignant advice for those who follow world events.
“Don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper,” he says. “Ask yourself what their sources are and what the author’s agenda is. Another area emphasized at the War College was developing strategic courses of actions for any potential conflicts such as Iran, North Korea, Africa, or even China.”
The idea behind Army War College is to teach big picture issues that will influence military deployments…national security and defense issues, as well as issues with diplomacy. But according to deGuzman, the name of the college can be misleading.
“The purpose of the War College is not only to learn about war,” he says. “It’s also to learn about the preservation of peace.”