Deploying. Again.

We’ve been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for longer than we fought in WWII, without a draft or any national call to serve. While the political fight over withdrawal continues in Washington, the reality for now is that President Bush’s 21,000-troop surge is underway — and it’s clear that the military is too small to sustain its current troop levels easily in a protracted ground war.

The result is that many servicemen and women are now in their third or fourth (or even sixth) tours of duty. And for some those tours are getting longer: last month, the Army extended them from 12 to 15 months.

The military is also boosting its numbers through the “backdoor draft.” This became an issue barely a year after the start of the Iraq war when the Army announced sweeping use of stop-loss policies. (Stop-loss forces troops to finish tours with their units even if their individual service commitments would otherwise end mid-way through.) Another part of the “backdoor draft” involves recalls from the Individual Ready Reserve — soldiers and Marines who are no longer on active duty. The Army has been using its IRR for several years; and the Marine Corps recently announced its biggest call back to active duty since the early days of the Iraq war.

With the weight of the war falling on soldiers and Marines (and their families) who have to cope with multiple and extended deployments, we want to ask some of them who are about to start their third or fourth tours: How different is it this time around? Does your sense of mission change as the war in Iraq grinds on? Or if you’ve seen many casualties in previous tours? Or if you just feel you’ve done enough for your country already? What stops you from creating family or medical excuses to avoid a recall? How do you leave family behind again and what kinds of conversations do you have to have?

Update, 5/30 8:00 pm

Sometimes the production process takes you in directions you don’t anticipate. We thought we’d focus primarily on different attitudes towards repeated deployments. But the pre-interviews led us to recast the show a little bit. We found three Marine Corps officers just finishing or slated to start Harvard Business School. It turns out that the military’s well represented in the ranks of HBS and other b-schools, and we’re curious to know more about that connection. We’ll definitely still talk about what it takes to serve repeatedly in Iraq or Afghanistan. But we also want to ask how the draw of leadership — being led and leading others — affects your willingness to return. And how that experience carries over to civilian life and the business world later on.

Seth Moulton

Captain, USMC Reserve

Deploying on 4th tour in Iraq to work for Gen Petraeus

In previous tours: infantry platoon commander; worked for Gen Petraeus training Iraqi Security Forces

Accepted to Harvard Business School and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government

Donovan Campbell

Captain, USMC

Deploying on 3rd tour in Iraq

In previous tours: intelligence analysis officer; and infantry platoon commander

Class of 2007, Harvard Business School

Sarah Stokes

[Sarah unfortunately won’t be able to join us because of a delayed flight.]

Captain, USMC

Deploying to Afghanistan on 3rd tour

In previous tours in Iraq: logistics officer

Class of 2007, Harvard Business School

Extra Credit Reading
Why Military Officers Make Successful MBAs, Military MBA: “Through active practice and experience, military officers live a life of leadership. Officers are known for their values, ethics, and strong leadership skills such as problem solving, decisiveness and succinct communication. They have experience developing teams and working with large groups of diverse people to accomplish organizational goals. These character traits are important factors for success in both graduate school and corporate America.”

Debra M. Schwartz, Military officers courted by Olin School, The Washington University Record, September 10, 2004: “Veterans have always been welcome at the Olin School, said Joe Stephens, assistant director of M.B.A. admissions, who has responsibility for military recruitment. But “there wasn’t a steady stream,” and the school wanted more because they add value to the educational experience.”

Janet I. Farley, Using the Right Lingo, Operation Hero for Hire: Resource Corner:

“In the Military: First Sergeant

In the Civilian World: Personnel Manager

In the Military: Squad Leader

In the Civilian World: Team Leader/Team Chief

In the Military: Supply Sergeant

In the Civilian World: Supply Manager/Logistics Manager”

Lee Iacocca with Catherine Whitney, Where have all the leaders gone?, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 26, 2007: “I’ve never been commander in chief, but I’ve been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top… We should look at how the current administration stacks up.”

sig, Learning to lead, SigSpace: Form Without Function, May 20, 2007: “I was hoping that a few days at home would give me perspective on the NCO development course I just finished, the so-called Warrior Leadership Course (previously known as Platoon Leader Development Course, before the Army’s penchant for calling everything Warrior-this and Warrior-that). What has actually happened is that I am quickly forgetting things. This may be for the best.”

Ken Lovell, ‘Winning’ in Iraq, Blog, January 11, 2007: “The new measures are a mix of military optimism and Harvard Business School Management By Objectives (MBO), circa 1975. First to the military optimism.”

Robert J. Williams, J. Douglas Barrett, and Mary Brabston, Managers’ business school education and military service: Possible links to corporate criminal activity, Human Relations, 2000: “The study utilized data from 184 Fortune 500 companies. The results suggest that both graduate business education and prior military service among members of a firm’s TMT strengthen the relationship between firm size and corporate criminal activity. Further, the results provide no support for the moderating influence of managers’ graduate business education or prior military experience on the relationships between firm strategy and corporate criminal activity.”

Related Content