Hamilton Society of Columbia University

Monday, December 31, 2007


Army Lieutenant Sean Wilkes, Columbia College 06
Army Lieutenant Josh Arthur, Columbia College 04
Army Lieutenant Emily Shin, Columbia College 04
Former Marine infantry lieutenant Erik Swabb, Columbia College 02
Army Major Paul Barnes, Columbia College 90
Marine Lieutenant Colonel (ret) Stephen Brozak, General Studies 82, Columbia MBA 94
Army Colonel Jonathan Newmark, Columbia MD 78
Navy Captain (ret) Ted Graske, Columbia College 59
Former Air Force officer Paul Gomperz, Columbia College 58
Navy Rear Admiral (ret) B. James Lowe, Columbia College 51

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Testimonial: Army Lieutenant Sean Wilkes, Columbia College 06

NEW GRADUATE - Army Lieutenant Sean Wilkes, Columbia College 06

27JAN06 General Body Meeting 10
Army LT Sean Wilkes, CC 06, and USAF Lt Bob Wray, CC 06

My participation in the Reserve Officer Training Corps granted me the opportunity to do something that is more than just an occupation, something that I, as many warriors have before me, look upon as an honor and a privilege: the chance to lead our nation's servicemen and women as a military officer. Throughout its history, Columbia has been known as source of great leadership, an institution that hones the knowledge and skills of officers in the arts and sciences and informs them upon the very philosophical and ethical foundations of the free and democratic society of which they stood in defense. Wars may come and go but the necessity to protect and defend our constitution as well as our lives, liberties, and pursuit of happiness will always remain. This is your military. And for you, the best and brightest of this nation, the charge to serve has always been greater, for you have been vested with the immense responsibilities that arise out of great intelligence, knowledge, and influence. Recall that our constitution and the political and moral philosophy upon which it is grounded was forged and remunerated by Columbians. That among the great officers who fought for these rights and civil liberties we today enjoy were the likes of John Jay, Governor Morris, and a certain Army Colonel by the name of Hamilton. War, politics, and governments change. What remains, however, is the continued need for great military leadership, tempered by a broad liberal education in philosophy, history, science and economics, and a worldly understanding of global affairs. I entreat you, my fellow Columbians, to take up the torch of leadership and bring to our armed forces the values of leadership, knowledge, and understanding that Columbia has imparted to you. Remember well the words of Lt. Gen. Sir William E. Butler, "The nation that will insist upon drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking by cowards."

Sean L. Wilkes, 2LT, MS, USA

Columbia College 2006

Testimonial: Army Lieutenant Josh Arthur, Columbia College 04

CONTEMPORARY – Army Lieutenant Josh Arthur, Columbia College 04

December 2006: LT Josh Arthur CC 04 with his Columbia 'good luck' banner in Baghdad, Iraq.

Part of me, I suppose, has always enjoyed being a maverick. Superficially, joining and participating in ROTC while at Columbia was no different: I was, as far as I know, the only Army cadet in my graduating class (CC 2004). To say that I was alone, though, would be misleading. To be sure, Columbia is a Liberal institution. I won’t soon forget the presence – or the sudden, hushed reticence and disbelieving looks – of the Socialist/Marxist groups on College Walk as I would walk to the subway in uniform. The majority of my classmates and schoolmates, though, were curious about my participation, not disapproving of it. My friends were unquestionably supportive (one, in fact, has since joined the Army and received a commission himself after graduating). And while I was alone for most of the time I pursued my commission, I joined the ranks of the largest brotherhood I could possibly imagine. I have since had the opportunity to experience things my classmates couldn’t imagine: the ordeal of U.S. Army Ranger School; commanding a tank during maneuver training and firing tank rounds during gunnery; commanding a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and leading a mechanized infantry platoon during maneuver and live-fire training, including one rotation to the National Training Center; spending two weeks in New Orleans helping recovery efforts for Hurricane Katrina 24 hours a day; firing mortar rounds and preparing to lead a battalion’s mortar platoon during a year-long deployment to Iraq. I’ve had duty assignments taking me to parts of six different states and two foreign countries in the two years since my commissioning, not including my deployment to Iraq. Above all other opportunities and experiences, though, has been the honor to lead American soldiers. I respect my classmates and friends for all they do, and by no means do I think their jobs easy. I have friends pursuing law degrees, Ph.D’s, friends working in finance, friends scattered through the country and the world, all of whom continue to challenge themselves. I cannot think of anything I would rather do, however, than lead soldiers. To earn and keep the respect of fighting men is a special charge, and the very real, life-and-death decisions of combat leaders present challenges that no other line of work can provide. I wish I could speak more favorably of Columbia’s view toward the military as an institution, particularly given its fine heritage. I speak from experience that students’ opinions are another matter, though. And even if you’re concerned they may not be – that you’ll be unsupported, disrespected, looked upon strangely – don’t be afraid to be a maverick. The rewards are beyond compare.

Joshua B. Arthur, 1LT, INF, USA

Columbia College 2004

* Josh's letters home from Iraq are linked here.

Testimonial: Army Lieutenant Emily Shin, Columbia College 04

CONTEMPORARY – Army Lieutenant Emily Shin, Columbia College 04, currently attending Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons

I spent the summer of 2003 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, at Army Basic Combat Training because I am a flutist in the NY National Guard Band. I expected it to be a survival exercise, but it turned out to be an opportunity to learn how to work with, get along with, love, and lead many different kinds of people. Yes, there were drill sergeants yelling and screaming and demanding our obeisance, just like in the movies, and we were subject to many physically demanding activities. I realized that it didn’t matter that I was applying to medical school and had an Ivy League education and played the flute all over New York City and overseas. I had to obey and respect the drill sergeants, who for the most part had never gone to college. I had to ask for permission to speak, to accept verbal abuse, and to do pushups on command. I was just a private, subject to “corrective punishment,” required to train like everybody else, to be broken and reformed into the correct soldier shape. I had moments of panic and moments where I wondered why I had gotten myself into such a predicament, but as the nine weeks progressed, I realized that the lessons in respect, conformity, and humility were actually lessons about perseverance, teamwork, gratitude, and service.

To survive basic training is an exercise in perseverance. The drill sergeants are so demanding and encouraging because they want to motivate the soldiers to push themselves to their limits in the areas of physical fitness, mental training, and overall discipline. This strange motivation helped me push myself further than I had deemed possible: I ran two miles in 12:30, finished a 23 km road march with over half of my weight on my back, withstood riot gas attacks, and developed a very loud yell. The experience showed me that I could get through the intensity of medical training and the demands of the practice; if I could survive a whole day of road marching and crawling in the sand with bullets whizzing over my head on three hours of sleep, I could not only survive being on call, worrying about my patients, and working long hours, but also enjoy myself at the same time.

Most important, basic training was a lesson about service. “The greatest thing about this institution is that it is established to serve,” said our battalion commander. Yes, we were there to learn to be soldiers with the ultimate goal of defending the U.S. Constitution and protecting our freedoms. But on a more human level, support services’ duty is to serve the people of the country directly, as I do when I play in the National Guard Band. For example, my unit played at a veteran’s retirement home last February. We played patriotic marches and tunes from the 1940’s to World War II and Korean War veterans. It didn’t matter that we weren’t the New York Philharmonic or the Boston Pops, because I could see how appreciative they were of our simple, out-of-tune gesture of remembering their services to our country. I remember seeing the joy in their faces, and that I almost wept when a couple hobbled from their chairs to the front of the stage and began to jitterbug—what beautiful memories must our performance have brought them. I realized at that moment that I wanted to be a physician to be able to bring people like them even greater happiness, to bring them health, and to bring the encouragement to cope with illnesses and treatments.

Another thing I learned about service was the importance of compassion and empathy. I come from a liberal background full of intellectual individualism. By contrast, the vast majority of the other trainees had the attitude that they were serving to protect the freedoms of their fellow countrymen. They could love the average joe so easily while I came from a place where people were condescending towards the average joe. In working as a team to survive basic training, I realized that I could overcome my individualistic attitude and truly know and appreciate my fellow countrymen. I learned to love and respect people like my fellow soldier Morales, a Cuban immigrant who was the first person in her whole family to graduate from high school. I befriended Attson, a Navajo girl who had a life of running from cops and seeing family members in and out of jail. In this way, it was undeniably a “put yourself in the other’s shoes” kind of experience that taught me things I will use as a doctor to understand my patients. For a summer, I spent meaningful time getting to know first-hand the general population that I plan to serve as a doctor.
The army definition of selfless service is “To put the welfare of the Nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.” In the same way, being a physician is about service, about putting the patient’s needs in high esteem, and I am thankful I joined the armed forces if only to experience this lesson.

Emily Shin, 2LT, USA

Columbia College 2004

Testimonial: Erik Swabb, Columbia College 02, former Marine infantry lieutenant

CONTEMPORARY – Erik Swabb, Columbia College 02, former Marine infantry lieutenant, currently attending Harvard Law School

I first considered military service back in 2000 when there was no veteran presence on campus and no ROTC advocacy. I researched Marine officer opportunities online and attended Officer Candidates School through a 10-week summer program in 2001. It was the equivalent of a paid internship where students can see if they like military life without having to commit to serve. For me, it was a great option because I had doubts about military service. I thought about it relatively late in college and I did not know anyone currently in the military. I was worried about whether I would fit in coming from a liberal, non-military background. I was also concerned that I was not a good athlete. After finishing my 3.5 year tour, I can easily say it was a critical formative experience in my life.

The Marine Corps provided incredible leadership experience, immense responsibility, once-in-a-life opportunities, and exposure to different types of people. As a young officer, the entire time in the military consists of leadership training, but one probably receives close to a year of formal schooling. A young lieutenant is constantly learning new ways of motivating and challenging people. As for responsibility, I would challenge anyone to name an occupation where a 22-year old could be in charge of up to 40 lives, millions of dollars of equipment, and preparing people for an incredibly stressful job. It is no coincidence that so many top executives served in the military. I served as an infantry officer, which as the most physically challenging specialty in the military means that no student should worry about not being an athlete as long as he or she is motivated enough to train. I deployed to Iraq for seven months. It was an experience of a lifetime being a part of history (the battle of Fallujah in Nov ’04) and making history (the first elections in Iraq in Jan ’05). Again, the military offered an unparalleled opportunity. Finally, I was grateful for meeting some truly special people while serving. From every imaginable hometown and socio-economic background, people join the military. I found a common bond that I have never seen among such different people: the willingness to sacrifice for something greater than oneself: be it one’s buddy, platoon, or country. It was humbling to work with such people.

In the end, the military is not for everyone: it is hierarchical, it is demanding on families, and it is difficult to enjoy unless you like “military stuff.” However, if you think you would like it, the military is not an opportunity to pass up. I think of my military service as both a foundation for the rest of my life and a defining accomplishment.

Erik Swabb

Columbia College 2002

Testimonial: Army Major Paul Barnes, Columbia College 90

MATURE – Army Major Paul Barnes, Columbia College 90

As I write these words, I am sitting in one of Saddam’s former palaces in Baghdad, Iraq—a long way from College Walk, and not just in terms of physical distance. I did not come to the military by way of ROTC. When I was at Columbia, I did not even know that it was possible to be a part of ROTC. When I was in high school, I applied to West Point, but was put on their waiting list and then offered a spot at their prep school in New Jersey. By that point, I had already accepted at Columbia. But in the back of my mind, I still had the notion of serving in the Army: I liked the idea of being a part of something bigger than myself, of serving my country, and of the discipline involved.

I spent my junior year studying in London and because I was a terrible procrastinator, I had not done all the work I was supposed to and had not received all the credit I should have. So the spring of my senior year back at Columbia I found myself taking 22 credits in order to graduate on time. That spring, as I was taking all those classes, I went to a recruiter in Harlem—I rode my bicycle there—to inquire about enlisting in the Army. He drove me up to the Bronx to take some tests. But then I came down with mononucleosis from my heavy workload and decided not to join the Army right away, opting instead to sell wine on Madison Avenue. That summer, Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded Kuwait.

It was not until March of 1991, as the ground portion of the Gulf War was coming to an end, that I finally enlisted in the Army. As an enlisted soldier, I trained to be a Russian linguist, the Army sending me to the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, California. A couple years later, I put in my packet to go to Officer Candidate School to become an officer. I spent four years as an Infantry Officer before transferring to Military Intelligence.

As with any career choice, the military has negative and positive aspects and is largely what you make of it. But it has provided me with some great opportunities. As a new second lieutenant, I led a platoon of over thirty soldiers not far from the DMZ in Korea. Currently, I head a cell made up of thirteen officers from ten different countries. Our job is to examine various aspects of the situation here in Iraq from a non-American perspective. One of the strengths of the military—as well as of Columbia—is its diversity. Although it is an all-volunteer force, it is made up of men and women from all parts of the country and from all backgrounds. This diversity is vital to ensuring that the military continues to represent the highest ideals and aspirations of our nation.

Paul E. Barnes, Major, U.S. Army

Columbia College 1990

Testimonial: Marine Lieutenant Colonel (ret) Stephen Brozak, General Studies 82, Columbia MBA 94

MATURE – Marine Lieutenant Colonel (ret) Stephen Brozak, General Studies 82, Columbia MBA 94

I can remember the exact moment when I understood how my military service balanced and completed my Columbia education. It was more than 20 years ago during a military exercise in the desert. It might be more compelling if I said the desert was in the Middle East, but that desert experience was in a remote part of California. As exercises go most activities took place at night, leaving the days for reading and contemplation. Armed with different books, ranging from former Lit. Hum. requirements such as “The Histories” to Herman Wouk’s “The Caine Mutiny” I understood the common bond that every Soldier has faced in carrying out their mission throughout history. Of even greater importance, I understood how unique our system of democracy was in ensuring that there was a system of checks in balances to protect our Country and those who serve from reckless decisions.

It was because Columbia Graduates from earlier years had participated in our defense and even challenged the system at times that our fighting force was not only the strongest, but clearly different from any force the world had ever seen. I now find a great sting in explaining the importance of my military service after having attended Columbia. There can be no other description for trying to put into plain words the void that exists in most of today’s graduates in their understanding of the world around them without the benefit of service to country. I do not speak of jingoistic patriotism, but about an education well started, but incomplete and unfortunately all too common and not just at Columbia. The sad irony in writing this is that within two generations the light has gone dark in the very essence of “In Lumine Tuo Videbimus Lumen.” There is no longer an understanding, forget about recognition, of how to use the privilege of a Columbia education to participate in and sometimes even challenge our citizen soldier model.

A year after graduation, as a Marine Corps Rifle Platoon Commander, a unique appreciation of what Herodotus and Thucydides spoke about in conflicts and potential conflicts came alive for me, and the lessons learned earlier were mine to use or not. The reality that my decisions no longer just effected a grading curve, but could produce significant change in people’s lives or the outcome of meaningful struggles brought home a lesson of empowerment that is missing in today’s Columbia graduates.

The simple lesson my Marine Corps service instilled was the understanding that through focused effort and with the right preparation, an individual’s capacity to effect change is limited by only that individual’s will and good fortune. Today that effort must be focused on how to rekindle that light at Columbia and in doing so safeguard our unique democratic system.

Stephen G. Brozak, Lt Col, USMCR Ret.

General Studies 1982
Columbia Business School 1994

Testimonial: Army Colonel Jonathan Newmark, Columbia MD 78

MATURE – Army Colonel Jonathan Newmark, Columbia MD 78

When I was a college student, ROTC had been eliminated, and I got into the military by a very roundabout route. I never seriously considered the military even as a part-time career until much later. I joined the US Army Reserve at age 35 and unexpectedly came on active duty on my 40th birthday, making me one of the Army's oldest rookies. I can tell Columbia students, though, that my only regret was that I didn't join earlier. I became a physician, completed my residency and three fellowships, and had a very rewarding career as an attending university faculty neurologist and in private practice before I ever came on active status. When I came into the Army, I thought I was being recruited to use my previous clinical and teaching skills, and I have done that. But I had no idea that the Army would also turn me into several other things: a mass casualty planner dealing with threats of terrorism in the Middle East; a subject matter expert asked to approve medical support plans for the Iraq invasion; a primary physician for several hundred soldiers stationed in the Central American jungle doing humanitarian missions; a chemical weapons expert deploying on State Department and FBI teams to deal with terrorism worldwide; co-host of the largest continuing medical education courses ever televised; adviser to the assistant secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services for public health emergency preparedness; co-author of a chapter in the most widely read English-language medical textbook, Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine; and a plenary speaker at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in front of 5,000 people and the medical press. The Army has given me opportunities I would never have dreamed of in my previous life, of which these are only the highlights. But there are two overarching benefits that I value even more in military service over and above the privilege of being a physician. First, I don't just assume responsibility for my patients, but, in a small way, I also take care of the country, and that is a source of personal pride. Second, I serve alongside women and men of astonishingly high quality -- I say that having had the opportunity to work in multiple civilian settings, giving me a good standard of comparison -- and these people greatly motivate me to live up to them. Military medical professionals serve out of love, not need or monetary gain; most of us could easily make more elsewhere with les risk. I would encourage any young person to try to find a place to work among people who do what they do for more than just a paycheck. It's worked for me.

Jonathan Newmark, MD, FAAN

Class of 1974, Harvard College
Class of 1978, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University
Colonel, Medical Corps, US Army
Deputy Joint Program Executive Officer, Medical Systems, Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical/Biological Defense
Consultant to the US Army Surgeon General for Chemical Casualty Care
Adjunct Associate Professor of Neurology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

Testimonial: Navy Captain (ret) Ted Graske, Columbia College 59

HERITAGE – Navy Captain (ret) Ted Graske, Columbia College 59

Upon entering Columbia College, I was faced with several dilemmas. First, I really did not have a clue as to what I wanted to do after college, but I knew I just didn't want to sit at a desk and “run numbers” in a faceless corporation on Wall Street. Second, although I was very interested in broadening myself through a liberal arts education, I did not just want to read books and write papers. I wanted something other than a typical college experience. ROTC looked like it had potential to meet these needs.
In retrospect, the Columbia Liberal Arts curriculum provided me with lifelong appreciation of the arts, humanities and social sciences. ROTC provided experience in leading others and developing self-confidence in handling stressful situations. I learned how to be influential in a group. Some of the ROTC course work, such as celestial navigation proved just as difficult and challenging as my regular courses but left me with concrete skills. The focus on core values of honor, integrity, commitment and courage etc. helped prepare me for the ethical ambiguities that you face in later life. It also turned out to be heaps of fun. The summer training and mid-semester training exercises provided unique, stimulating and sometimes humorous experiences. I made lifelong friendships.
ROTC is not for everyone. It is extra work to slog up to Fordham or Manhattan to participate in the program. However, if you want a challenging, rewarding and out of the ordinary college life, I highly recommend you check out ROTC.

Ted Graske, Captain, USNR (Ret)

Columbia College 1959

Testimonial: Paul Gomperz, Columbia College 58, former Air Force officer

HERITAGE – Paul Gomperz, Columbia College 58, former Air Force officer

I was a member of the last Air Force ROTC Class at Columbia. With all due respect to the Columbia Curriculum, AFROTC provided the following opportunities.

1) I was taught practical and useful management techniques I have used throughout my life.

2) The course material was interesting.

3) The money I was paid in my Junior and Senior year was the only financial aid I received at Columbia.

4) When I graduated, I had a job.

5) I was two months short of my 21st birthday when I graduated. Over the next three years, I had responsibilities and opportunities that a 21 to 24 year old who was not in the military would never have.

Paul Gomperz

Columbia College 1958
Treasurer, Columbia University Club of Northern New Jersey

Testimonial: Navy Rear Admiral (ret) B. James Lowe, Columbia College 51

HERITAGE – Navy Rear Admiral (ret) B. James Lowe, Columbia College 51

When I first entered Columbia College in '47 it was on the wings of a NROTC scholarship. At least 50% of my classmates were vets returning from WWII under the auspices of the GI BILL. One of my NROTC classmates was Bob Hayman who had been in the Battle of the Bulge as an infantryman and had seen over 50% of his infantry company decimated by the German attack. When I asked Bob why he elected continuing naval service rather than simply accepting the benefits of the GI education bill, his reply was straightforward: " I guess I felt that I still owed my country and my buddies a debt.

While many of my NROTC classmates may not have had this great a commitment to start -- they by the end of '51 and our commencement had acquired it. The Great Book Courses and the education acquired at one of the finest universities in the world permitted us to infuse our credentials and principles into our assignments in the Navy and the Marine Corp. We clearly saw the imminent threats to our nation and society; The Korean War was ongoing; President Truman had issued the Executive Order for integration of minorities into all functions of the service; the Cold War was commencing in earnest: and the need for new strategies, new tactics and new defensive and attack weapons to meet the threats of the nuclear age were upon us. It was a challenging leadership and management opportunity. Every day posed a new and different problem.

I kept close contacts with my classmates -- and they were most successful in their Service tours. In one case, the Commanding Officer of a ship wrote the Superintendent of the Naval Academy to voice the opinion that the Ivy Leaguer he had on board was head-and-shoulders above his Naval Academy colleagues. And guess what? The Naval Academy started changing its curriculum! By the end of 1970 the impact of NROTC on the Navy had changed the character of the Naval Academy from being called contemptuously the “Steam School” to respectful acknowledgment that it was a unique university embracing humanities, history, foreign policy studies, business management and other liberal art courses.

Those in my Columbia College graduating Class of 51 who elected to leave to return to civilian life achieved almost without exception major professional and business success. Why? In discussions with my classmates, they stated that the immense responsibilities placed on them from "Day 1" gave them more of a sense of discipline, moral perspective and shared obligation to their comrades and assigned personnel than they could have possibly obtained first by civilian employment. In civilian life, their service was honored and respected.

In my own case, after Destroyer duty and Submarine assignments, the Navy sent me to MIT for three years postgraduate work. Later in the Navy -- and then in civilian life I had the immense satisfaction of making some unique technical and scientific contributions. Many of my fellow Columbian NROTC'ers did the same.

The camaraderie, the long term friendships based on shared hardships, the knowledge that a network for professional or emergency reasons was, and is, always there--- cannot be achieved anywhere else -- other than possibly that which can be obtained by a close and bonding family.
Now in this new millennium, we are facing new threats to family and Nation. The challenges and the opportunities are immense. Columbians should be there to insert the highest principles and standards into the Government and the military service. We should strive to make every effort to ensure the understanding that must exist between the military and the society that they serve and protect.

I wish that I could embrace those opportunities --and rewards-- again!


Columbia College 1951