Harvard FAS Office of Career Services

Harvard Welcomes ROTC


This past fall, Harvard University welcomed the return of the U.S. Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), thus offering new opportunities for growth, service and leadership. To help students explore how a Harvard education might apply to a military career, the Office of Career Services hosted a panel featuring several Harvard alumni (and one MIT alumnus) who found themselves, at one point or another, serving their country in the line of duty. Subdued yet dignified, the participants shared a wide range of experiences and wisdom drawn from their time in and out of the U.S. military.

Moderating the panel, and representing the U.S. Army, was Robert Wheeler, a Fellow at the Harvard Business School Forum for Growth and Innovation, and now a consultant for Bain & Company. Also representing the Army was Erik Malmstrom, a joint M.P.P.-M.B.A. candidate at Harvard Kennedy and Business Schools. Peter Brooks (COL ’06) stood in for the U.S. Marine Corps, also a joint M.P.P-M.B.A. candidate. Now a civilian employee for an energy software and consulting firm in Boston, Stephanie Hendricks (COL ’05) was present for the U.S. Navy. Finally, current HBS student and MIT alumnus Ashley Claybourne spoke for the U.S. Air Force. Together, the panelists displayed the diversity of paths available to Harvard students interested in military service, as well as expressing the concerns and realities of such a career.

Though careful not to paint too pretty a picture of life in the military, the panelists glowed with praise for their experience and the men and women with whom they served. “Everything is geared toward a goal, toward making good decisions and taking action,” said Robert Wheeler, emphasizing the “heavy responsibility” military officers carried. “Learn from them, but also share your college experience,” he encouraged. Peter Brooks echoed Wheeler, saying, “The people you work with will be your greatest reward and your hardest challenge.”

In this vein, panelists noted what they observed to be a “change in personality” of military recruits over the last decade. Before 9/11, they explained, the military was more of a “club.” Now, the quality of the recruits is the same, but the “passion” is different – those joining the military now “know what they are joining – we’re in a war, and will be for decades more,” said a visiting National Security Fellow at Harvard present in the audience. “The work is now largely peacekeeping and rebuilding, expeditionary and austere,” he explained. “There will be no ‘welcome back’ parades.”

In considering a military career, the panelists highlight significant facets of the job. “Keep in mind that you will move every two to three years,” said Ashley Claybourne. In his reflections, Erik Malmstrom discussed other challenges of a military life, including the “reintegration process” upon returning from service as well as the “quality of life” you may experience. Having served in Afghanistan, Malmstrom also addressed the issue of morale, saying “It’s hard if you lose faith in what you’re doing.”

Despite their range of experience and opinion, the panelists were sure to express their desire to help any and all interested students determine whether this type of work is a good fit for them. “We’re not here to recruit anyone,” said another National Security Fellow present. “[Life in the military] isn’t for the majority of people, but for the right person there’s no better step.” Interested students are encouraged to reach out to former service members in the Harvard community, independently or through Crimson Serves.

—Nicandro Iannacci, ’13

For additional coverage of the Army ROTC’s return to Harvard, read the recent Gazette article here. Visit OCS to obtain a copy of “After Harvard: Considering Military Service,” a publication written by Crimson Serves. Excerpts follow:

imageCaptain Robert Wheeler
Harvard College 2005, Harvard Business School 2011. Formerly: US Army Air and Missile Defense Officer. Currently: Consultant at Bain & Company
“I joined the military knowing I wanted to serve my country for four years and then return to the private sector for my career. In the military, I received an awesome amount of responsibility planning and managing America’s air and missile defense system for current and future conflicts. I know that I made a difference, contributed to American security, and made a difference in lives of the men and women I led. And now that I’m back in the civilian sector, I realize that the military prepared me incredibly well for a career in business and management. In fact, sometimes my tasks seem downright easy compared to what my fellow soldiers and I were asked to do in the Army.”

Web Resources

www.military.com – This website is a must-visit for answers to any questions you have regarding military life, benefits, and any type of information you are looking for regarding the services.

www.airforce.com; www.goarmy.com; www.gocoastguard.com; www.navy.com;www.marines.com These are the official recruiting websites for the five US military services. These sites will give you a good idea of the types of jobs available, answer common questions that new recruits often have, and point you in the direction of resources and recruiters who can help you go through the process of joining the military.

http://www.craigmmullaney.com/content/behind.asp?id=list – Provides a great reading list of books relevant to the military profession. Whether you are trying to figure out what combat in Afghanistan is like, what training is like, or how service fits in with your personal ethics, you will find a book to help you here.

http://www.afoats.af.mil/ots/; http://www.goarmy.com/ocs.html; http://www.gocoastguard.com/find-your-career/officer-opportunities/programs/officer-candidate-school; http://www.ocs.usmc.mil/; http://www.ocs.navy.mil/ – For most of those reading this, the most common path to commissioning will be through one of the services’ Officer Candidate Schools. These websites provide extensive information on what to expect, how to prepare, and what life is like at the various courses.

http://web.mit.edu/navyrotc/; http://www.mit.edu/~afrotc/; http://web.mit.edu/armyrotc/These are the websites for the MIT Navy, Air Force, and Army ROTC units. If you are interested in ROTC or learning more about the military, they are a great place to start.

http://www.crimsonserves.comCrimson Serves is a non-profit organization that seeks to maintain and improve upon the bond between Harvard and the military. Crimson Serves includes many Harvard graduates who chose to pursue military service after their education. At CrimsonServes.com, you can find Harvard graduates who will be happy to speak with you and answer any of the questions you have about service after Harvard.