Monday, August 07, 2006

Of Two Worlds: The Synergism of the Military and Civilian Experience

Since I was first introduced to Ward Scott by our mutual friend, Dr. Phil Anderson, I have watched with fascination the diverse career moves that he has made that have enabled him to weave together in unusual ways his training in law, business administration, national security, corporate development, project management, politics and general leadership. I have become a student of the topic of transition from military leadership to leadership in the business world, and of the synergy that exists between these two kinds of leadership challenges. So, I was pleased when Colonel Scott agreed to share some of his thoughts and personal experiences on this subject.

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I have long been a student and practitioner of the synergistic interplay of the military and civilian experience in the professional development of leaders, both in an out of uniform. Accordingly, I was particularly pleased when my good friend, Dr. Al Chase—a proponent of the Renaissance Man (and Woman), asked me to “put pen to paper” on the subject.

The belief that service as a junior officer is highly beneficial (not to mention classically patriotic) right out of college and before graduate or professional school and the launching of one’s civilian career, is widely held, even axiomatic. Moreover, examples are legion during periods of total war (e.g., Civil and the two World Wars) of Officers returning to active service, leaving behind august civilian careers in the process and returning to successful civilian life upon the conclusion of hostilities. Two well known examples are my two favorite attorneys, “The Gray Ghost”--Colonel John Singleton Moseby, and General William “Wild Bill” Donovan.

However, in the years since Korea and until 9/11, the notion of fluid movement between active military and civilian careers has been by far the exception rather than the practice, though the subject of occasional, visionary discussion.
In a speech at the United States Naval War College during the Spring of 2003, Dr. David Chu, Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), spoke of the merits of allowing serving Officers the opportunity to take leave from active service for an extended period to pursue civilian interests and then return to active service if they wished to do so. In this vein, recently, a British Officer was so well thought of by his superiors that when he sought to tender his resignation to pursue a career in the private sector he was given leave for a year with an open-ended invitation to return, without prejudice, should he then wish to do so. On a more limited basis, the Secretary of the Navy offers a fellowship in private industry for Navy and Marine Corps Officers (in lieu of mid-level school).

Moreover, there are individual examples, of course, of Officers who, having resigned their regular commissions were able to return after a hiatus in the civilian world and ultimately overcome, with considerable pain, “lost time” to get their military careers back on track. The example of the late Colonel Nick Rowe, a great West Pointer and Green Beret comes to mind. Colonel Rowe survived five years in Viet Cong captivity, wrote a book about the experience, and left active service to briefly pursue elective politics in Texas, along with full-time writing, before returning to the Regular Army some seven years later and forever leaving his positive mark on successive generations by the Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion (S.E.R.E.) course he designed at the JFK Center for Special Warfare at Fort Bragg.

And, of course, there has been the panoply of executive leadership books and lectures drawing upon the lessons and writings of field generals and strategists seeking to apply the military arts to business leadership.

Certainly the protracted, incremental mobilization of our Nation’s reserve forces, both as units and individuals, since 9/11 represents a model closer to that of the colonial militia than anything since, and it remains to be seen whether, on the macro level, this will prove to be generally disruptive to civilian career development or ultimately beneficial. In any case, the results will assuredly be mixed.

However, what I examine here is far more akin to the model envisioned by Secretary Chu: namely the conscious, passionate pursuit of civilian and military careers in a manner that is complementary and mutually enhancing and which produces a far more effective and seasoned leader—both in and out of uniform—than would have been the case without the two. In this regard, on the eve of retiring from the Marine Corps after a rich career, I would hold out my own experience as one such example, however imperfect, and relatively insignificant compared with those of the illustrious figures mentioned above.

In brief summary, I left active duty (combat arms) in 1989 to settle my family and begin legal practice in a small college town in north central New Hampshire, putting to good use a law degree I had earned along the way. Within months I was back in uniform as a rifle company commander in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Upon my return, I joined the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office as a felony prosecutor and appellate counsel before the State Supreme Court. In 1992, I was elected County (District) Attorney, defeating the 16-year incumbent by a two-to-one majority. During this period I also served as a Platoon Commander and Operations Officer for 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company in Mobile, Alabama, making the trek South after pulling an all-nighter in the office each Thursday of drill weekends, dodging gators on one end, moose on the other.

Two years later I stood for Congress, entering a crowded field of nine candidates with less than three months until the Republican Primary election. Armed with little money but an energized grassroots campaign, I came in a close third. I subsequently served as Senator Dole’s New Hampshire Field Director, during the primary. Having had my fill of elective politics, I jumped at an opportunity to return to active duty, which began the most adventurous and rewarding chapter of my career—military and civilian.

A series of line and staff assignments followed until I was selected by a board to serve as the Navy-Marine Corps Coordinator for the congressionally chartered 50th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration—a three and a half year tour based in Washington but including travel all over the United States and a close working relationship with a wide-range of agencies and constituencies, military and civilian, public and private sector, American and Allied.

Given the most general of guidance: “Honor and remember Korean War Sailors and Marines and their families,” it was left to me to conceive a plan, gain approval and buy-in, and engage agencies who could bring assets to the effort, given that I had none under my own control. This meant convincingly answering questions such as why the commemoration was important, to begin with, why one should participate, and for what and whose benefit. Among other things, I was able to enlist the active support of Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the New York Stock Exchange, NASCAR and a host of business leaders in developing far-reaching commemorative programs that reached wide-ranging audiences.

After my tour of duty in Washington, I attended the United States Naval War College, earning a fellowship that continued through the summer following graduation, followed by an eight month deployment to Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, a year in Iraq (in a civilian capacity, including President of the American Chamber of Commerce of Iraq and Advisor to an Iraqi non-governmental organization). Then, back in uniform, I served a seven-month tour as Senior Advisor to an Afghan National Army Corps, with an 11-province area of operations extending from Kabul east to the Pakistan Border.
Throughout all of these assignments I have found that the tenets of sound leadership and effective action are essentially the same in the civilian and military realm and that the lessons learned and experiences gained in both worlds are mutually supporting and enhancing.

Whether organizing, planning and executing a military mission, political or marketing campaign, or a commemoration, the skills of analysis, effective planning and communication, and persuasion, animated by genuine passion, and inspired by personal example and character, are the critical determinants of effectiveness. They also form the bedrock of lasting relationships that enable enduring and expanded success. The opportunity to test and develop these faculties, and to learn from, and overcome occasional failure along the way, in both military and civilian life, is invaluable. I would not have been as effective an advisor in Afghanistan, building trusted relationships with both Afghan and Allied leaders, had I not had the experience of doing so out of uniform in Iraq beforehand. Nor would I have been as effective in Iraq had I not had the experience as a successful litigator in an overtaxed, under-resourced DA’s office. In the same way, organizing a national commemoration with little resources on the scale that we ultimately achieved would not have been possible without the experience of “bootstrapping” a grassroots congressional campaign or planning and executing a state presidential primary race.

As I prepare to turn the final chapter of the military aspect of my larger, continuing career, I can only be grateful for the fusion of these two worlds by which I have constantly learned and grown. Though, indeed, “the one less traveled by,” this road has made all the difference and is one civilian and military leaders should encourage as they seek colleagues and successors who are agile, seasoned and eager to grow.

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As he stands on the brink of retirement from his distinguished military career, Colonel Scott is evaluating several opportunities in the private sector and with non-government organizations. He holds a current Top Secret/SCI clearance, and would consider senior leadership positions that would allow him to excercise his experience and expertise in the fields of national security, organizational and corporate development, strategic developent, international development. If you are aware of an organization that could use someone of Ward Scott's protean talents and energy, contact me and I will be happy to provide more detailed information on his background.


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