The Best Defense

NDU: In worse shape than Tom thinks

By Robert Goldich

Best Defense department of academic accreditation

I recently had a lengthy discussion with a faculty member at an NDU institution. This person is very concerned indeed. Longtime high quality staff is retiring and not being replaced. The downgrading of the NDU president to two stars and the NWC and ICAF commandants to one is, correctly in my view, seen as an assault on the prestige of the institution and is viewed as unquestionably diminishing its bureaucratic clout. The placing of NDU under the J-7 is construed as interposing yet another layer of bureaucracy between the central joint PME institutions in the country and the CJCS/JCS.  

This faculty member (a civilian) also suggested that as the U.S. military component of the student body is down to a little more than 60 percent, the military orientation of what are, after all, military institutions is being significantly eroded. There are, for example, 35 international fellows in this year's National War College (NWC) class. Almost everybody I talk to values the presence of the international fellows, but the sheer number may be constraining the ability of in this case NWC to focus on U.S. national and military strategy. Similarly, everybody at both NWC and ICAF understands the significance of whole of government, interagency, etc. But too large a proportion of U.s. government civilian students also dilutes the military/war/defense broth.  

What all this suggests to me is that nobody in high places, from the current CJCS on down, seems to attach particular importance to NDU, both its PME institutions and its research components. This is particularly surprising and disappointing in that I have been told by people I respect that Gen. Dempsey was a clear standout in the class of 1996 at NWC. It seems to me it is time for comprehensive study, analysis, and reflection both within the department and congress about the future of NDU and its components. Right now it is incoherent, in steady decline, and adrift. The one bright spot -- the student body, by all accounts, continues to be as high a quality selection of officers and senior civilians as ever, if not more so -- deserves better.

Tom again: Speaking of academic troubles, I was surprised to see the people who recently decapitated the University of Virginia hide behind legalisms: "consistent with sound employment practices, it is the policy of the Board to keep confidential matters of disagreement and those relating to evaluation of progress against mutually agreed upon goals." You can't fire the head of a large and prestigious institution and then pretend its an employment dispute.  


The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: A tribute to Australia's first dog handler KIA and his bomb dog Herbie

By Rebecca Frankel

Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

June 7, 2010 would prove to be a bloody Monday for Australian Forces fighting in Mirabad Valley in Afghanistan. It was the first time since the Vietnam War that they saw two soldiers killed in action on the same day -- three including Herbie, the unit's explosives detection dog.

Earlier that day the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment patrolling in the southern province of Uruzgan had discovered three "substantial" weapons caches including "1600 rounds of ammunition, 23 rocket-propelled grenades and five mortar rounds plus fuses." Leading the mission that day was Herbie, the three and a half year old border collie cross, his handler Sapper Darren Smith, and another military engineer who specialized in disarming explosives, Sapper Jacob Moerland. Reportedly, Herbie had alerted to explosives on the road ahead, but though the team knew of the IED that would ultimately claim their lives, the insurgent tracking them from a distance would detonate the IED before they could clear the danger in time. Herbie was killed instantly, as was one of the soldiers. The other, not identified, was rushed by U.S. medicav to an "Australian-staffed field hospital" at Camp Holland but "succumbed from shock and blood loss soon after he arrived."

In an interview he gave a month prior to his death, Sapper Smith called his partner Herbie his "best mate." Smith, 25 at the time of his death, was the first of Australia's canine handlers to be killed while working with his dog in a combat zone.

Now, almost two years to the day, a special working dog memorial has been dedicated to the memory to the working dog team. The national monument located at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Wacol headquarters has been constructed as a tribute to all of Australia's working dogs -- not just those that have gone to war.

As Retired Lieutenant Colonel George Hulse put it, a memorial was needed that would honor, "All who have dog teams as well ... from time to time sadly they lose someone who is killed on duty, as well as some dogs that are killed on duty."

In the above photo, explosive detection dog Harry rests in a moment of reflection before a picture of his pal Herbie and handler Sapper Darren Smith during a memorial service at Base Tarin Kot in Afghanistan in June 2010.

Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Free Press.