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Spc. Kristina Gupton, U.S. Army

Spc. Kristina Gupton, U.S. Army

Should strategy hinge on what one must do or on what one can do? Over the past decade, a lot of American military challenges have stemmed in Africa, and yet American military presence goes remarkably unnoticed on the continent. Even their choice of military investments seems to steer their tactical future away from Africa. European countries have therefore invested Africa, and if the US is intending to tackle the problem from their origin, it needs to re-think the type of equipment it uses.

It’s not to say that the US is not aware that Africa exists, or even that it contains a strategic problem for them. The Pentagon is fully aware that several states in Africa do not control their territory, such as Nigeria, Kenya, and may others: anything goes in those areas, where vast amounts of territory escape government control. In a 2013 listing (1) by Business Insider on failed states, 90% of the countries listed were on the African continent.

This situation is not exclusive to Africa: a few Asian states find themselves in the same category, with Pakistan (2) and Afghanistan (3) in pole positions. Even if both of those states contain elements which are more or less hostile to the US, it doesn’t mean they are in favor of loose cannons roaming and plotting in uncontrolled areas, as they hamper and disrupt government policies. And there seems to be little local governments or US forces can do to change the situation.

The American choice has been traditional: technological domination through extreme-high tech and getting their soldiers ever further away from the battlefields with intense drone capacity development. The F-22 and F-35 are state-of-the-art weapons, which would conveniently suit confrontation with developed armies (Western Europe, Russia (4), China (5)…) but are grossly oversized for fighting insurgents. A short scene in the CIA movie Syriana perfectly illustrates how billions of dollar worth of military power can be outplayed in seconds by nimble and clever insurgents. As a US observation drone tracks a car containing a hostage driving in the desert; the car is joined by 3 other identical cars, which drive in circles for 30 seconds, forming a large cloud of dust with the sand. They then part in 4 different directions, leaving a disoriented drone behind them America can keep pouring dollars into its hegemonic military equipment, but simpler would probably be better to fight the fights it needs to fight. A long-range, low-sound-signature, heavily armed nuclear submarine is a simple waste of money (and therefore military power) facing mujahedeen or Janjaweed tribes.

Other countries don’t make the same technological choices. Traditionally, Africa has been France’s area of influence (6). For decades, therefore, France has opted for simple, rugged, combat-proven equipment. In Mali, the Nexter systems VBCI (7) appeared to be the perfect choice: it is fast enough to catch up with nimble and speedy insurgent forces, and once it has established contact, it provides the necessary protection against AK-47s and RPGs (insurgents’ traditional weapons of choice), as well as superior firepower. The VBCI was built with all-terrain wheels, high-power engine, to thrust it up to 100 km/h (plenty to catch up with insurgent 4×4), and a 25- and 7-mm cannon to suppress enemy forces. Because it is so modular and independent in its operation, it enables the French army to work at a small scale, which other armies seem to find difficult doing, despite necessity for doing so. Michael Shurkin, from the Rand Corporation, says (8) “The US Army can operate “small,” but it is not designed to do so and appears to do so against its will, with all sorts of assorted inefficiencies. The French Army operates small by design and has made an art out of what the US Army does only when it has to.” In the key findings (9) of Operation Serval’s survey, was “The French Army in Mali operated using small, scalable, and task-organized combined arms forces and built them up or folded them into larger, scalable formations.”

The Caesar artillery system (10) was built along the same lines. Very piece of French equipment is built on the assumption that things will go wrong, once they are fielded and deployed. French military engineers assume logistics will be disrupted, that ammo will run short, and so on. Therefore, the new French cannon can reach ranges of 42 kilometers with standard NATO ammo, be fitted on standard chassis, and be transported by land, air or sea. It resists dirty bombs and IEDs.

The association of both weapon systems made a deadly trap for insurgents in Mali. Artillery positions denied entire areas to rebels, and in the little space left for them to operate, the high-speed motorized infantry would relentlessly track them down. In the words of the French narrative “The enemy could never catch its breath”, despite “the fact that one is perpetually outnumbered and under-resourced”. When one continually has the initiative on the enemy, something speed and visibility will give you, being outnumbered doesn’t matter. In addition, the highly modular characteristics of French equipment reduces the necessary logistics to a strict minimum, making movements swifter. In the Rand Organization report on Operation Serval, it is quoted that “The French use relatively lightly armored wheeled vehicles, which have smaller sustainment requirements compared with heavier, tracked vehicles.”

Globally, French armament is designed in a way that reflects French strategy. French strategy is military, not political. In other words, their equipment doesn’t aim at impressing with costly and fragile technological options, it aims at working and defeating the enemy and collaborating with allies. It aims at preserving their interests and the stability within the regions in which they lie, and it does it well. It needs to be said that this is not the result of necessity, but of choice. French Engineers are fully able, as are British, Germans, Danish and others, to build high-tech equipment. The Rafale and the Tiger helicopter come as proof of scientific capacity.

It would be in America’s interest to consider the “fluidity of the insurgency market”. Terrorists and insurgents go where they can exercise their “craft” in the best conditions. The French witnessed this phenomenon first-hand: when fighters were no longer at home in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi, they went simply went elsewhere, (11) which enticed the French to deploy in Mali. Though the American deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq can hardly be deemed victories, it must be said that it is no longer a safe haven for terrorists and insurgents, due to increased government control, through American assistance or not. Now, given that leeway is low and shrinking in Asia (Pakistan and Afghanistan, mostly), it is very likely that the strategic heat will move towards Africa, where insurgents can operate in peace.

The fact is that the Vietnam War still weighs upon American policy: there is great fear within the Pentagon at the idea of getting “bogged down” in any theater of Operations. It happened in Vietnam, and in Iraq and then in Afghanistan again. With excessively elaborate military techniques, the US ran out, in a few years, of political will to continue despite the lack of traction, unable to achieve notable results quickly, the way it had against Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan in 1941. But whether the Pentagon likes or not, there are now high-level intensity conflicts on the horizon, and World War 2 is nowhere near returning. It needs to stop secretly wishing to return on a battlefield on which victory was granted and start from scratch again. The M-16 machine gun did the job perfectly well in the Vietnam Jungle, and so did Bell helicopters. The US needs to accept fighting simpler battles.

(1) http://www.businessinsider.com/the-25-most-failed-states-on-earth-2013-6?op=1&IR=T
(2) http://seeandsaynews.in/exclusive/7766-rohingyas-and-the-larger-question-of-population-control
(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durand_Line
(4)http://in.rbth.com/blogs/2014/10/12/why_the_f-35_is_a_sitting_duck_for_the_flankers_38959.html
(5)http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/f-35-in-new-dogfight-over-chinese-russian-stealth-fighter-advances/story-fnpjxnlk-1227181998650
(6) http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/opinion/global/the-return-of-francafrique.html?_r=0
(7) http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/vbci-frances-wheeled-apc-04100/
(8) http://mars-attaque.blogspot.fr/2014/10/about-operation-serval-in-mali.html
(9) http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR770.html
(10) http://www.army-technology.com/projects/caesar/
(11)https://www.google.fr/search?q=lybian+fighters+go+to+mali&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&channel=rcs&gws_rd=cr&ei=Eka2VZieKsXiUZ7cjYAP

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Students' Column

Is Writing An Easy Field To Break Into?

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For many of us, the idea of becoming a writer is something that we nurture from adolescence, our love of reading dovetailing with a desire to be heard. It is one of the most romanticized career ideas – just think about how many films and TV shows revolve around one or more writers – and it’s no surprise that student newspapers and magazines are often among the most popular extracurricular activities included on college applications.

What separates writing from many other careers is that there is not always an evident career path. Those of us who dream of one day writing for the newspaper we read scrupulously, or of signing a deal for our first novel, can end up quite disillusioned by the reality of trying to get paid as a writer. And while we’d love to think that it’s not about the money, there’s a great deal of truth in the motto that has become a mantra for so many writers: “I can’t pay my rent with exposure”.

Do you need to secure a regular writing job to make it a career?

If you dream of becoming a writer, you probably have an inspiration, someone who made you want to pick up a laptop and share your ideas for the first time. Chances are, these icons are individuals who can make a very comfortable living from a column per week thanks to a tenured slot at an established media institution, and they’ve “paid their dues”. That’s something that’s getting harder to do, as local newspapers are struggling to hold up in the digital age – making it harder to get a starting job in the industry.

Is freelancing a reasonable alternative?

The idea of being a freelancer can be attractive initially – if you’re not tied to any one media group, you won’t be committed to an editorial line – but it is tricky and guaranteed income is hard to find. It is a good idea to cultivate regular clients. You’ll learn their payment patterns, have the ability to invoice them in one touch through your accounting software, and can establish yourself as a reliable writer. It may not have been how you pictured freelancing, but a good client is worth cultivating – and they may well mention you to other potential clients.

Is starting your own outlet a realistic option?

Writing is a competitive world, and as a freelancer you will always be fighting with other freelancers for what can often be a small amount of work. You may prefer instead to take matters into your own hands by starting your own project. Often, this will begin with a blog; there are ways and means to monetize such a site, but you’ll need followers to make it happen. If you take this approach, social media is also going to be pivotal. Talented writers can still get read these days – and it can lead to higher-level recognition and a stable writing job – but there is still going to be a grind and you’ll need to have the discipline to produce content that is both interesting and regular.

The truth of the matter is that if you want to become rich and have a comfortable living doing something you love, writing is a sector that is filled with potential obstacles and it can be frequently disappointing. However, if writing is what you love, then there are ways and means of going about it – as long as you keep cultivating contacts, it can be a rewarding career.

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Students' Column

Experiencing Success After You Graduate

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The university and college experience can be so long and complex that you get completely caught up in it. It’s fully immersive. So, when you graduate, you can easily feel completely disoriented and lost. Very few people walk straight out of their graduation and immediately into their first job. Instead, you’re going to have to find your feet and put a whole lot of effort into your own success. The steps you’ll need to take will vary depending on where you want to go and what you want to do. But the following pieces of advice can help you to get started out on the right track, regardless of what you want to do. Hopefully, they’ll come in useful for you!

Student graduation

Research Success Stories in Your Chosen Field

Whatever field you’re interested in entering, chances are, there are some pretty big success stories. Take a look at people who inspire you within your area of specialism. Who are they? How did they get to where they are now? What did they do after they graduated? This can help to inspire you and to give you some key tips that could really help you to follow in their footsteps. Remember that you are standing on the shoulders of giants. You can learn from the greats that came before you to further excel in the role or industry you’re determined to experience success in. If you’re interested in starting a business, take a look at Phillip Kingstons journey at phillipkingston.com. If you’re interested in politics, read the biographies of great political leaders. If you’re interested in art, read the life stories and approaches of some of the greats. There’s all sorts of guidance and inspiration out there.

Use Your College’s Resources

Just because you’ve graduated doesn’t mean you’re immediately cut off from all of the resources that have been available to you at your college or university. Make sure to use the resources available to you for as long as they’re available to you. Many colleges offer training and classes on job hunting. This can include finding positions that suit your skills and experience, CV writing skills, interview skills and much more. These resources may seem basic and common sense, but you can actually learn a whole lot more than you’d imagine from them. You never know what tiny piece of advice could make all the difference to your entire career path.

Be Persistent

When you start applying for jobs, you need to develop a tough skin. Few people land the first job they apply for. Even fewer will be offered every position they apply for. You need to be prepared for some level of rejection and you need to make sure that you are persistent when faced with disappointment. Keep going and you’ll eventually land the kind of position you have your sights set on.

Of course, different areas of specialism will require different steps in the process. But the above advice should help regardless of what you plan to do. Keep it in mind and you should do well!

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Students' Column

Careers An MBA Can Open Up For Engineers

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If you are an engineer wondering what your next career step should be, it can seem as though the opportunities are almost endless!

On the one hand, you could continue to improve on your technical abilities and become a specialist in one particular area. This can be a highly lucrative strategy, and one that appeals to people who know which work they love to do and just want to learn more about it.

On the other hand, you could broaden your skill base and give yourself a wider range of career opportunities by undertaking an MBA. This is a great option for people who are looking to diversify their skills and introduce some new kinds of work into their day, and give themselves a great career outlook into the bargain.

Transferable skills

MBAs can provide you with a huge number of skills that are applicable in multiple industries.

An MBA will teach you about things like budgeting, strategising, accounting, financial management, system models, people management, marketing and business structures. These are all skills which can be highly beneficial in a number of industries or even for starting a business of your own!

Another great benefit of an MBA is that you will get to study alongside people who are also looking to accelerate their own careers. This means that you will make contacts who will not only become useful friends and a useful support network as you embark on the next stage of your career, but you will meet a huge array of people who you can learn from in unexpected ways.

The exact modules that you study will of course be dependent on which MBA course you choose to take up. If you are considering taking up an MBA in order to further your engineering career, then it’s worth researching MBA courses that are designed with engineers in mind. You can find out more here if this is something that appeals to you.

Read on to find out what careers an MBA could open up for you.

Engineering operations director

The three main skills that you’ll need to work as an engineering operations director are:

  • Analytical skills. The ability to gather and interpret data.
  • Math skills. The ability to perform addition and subtraction but also to visualise data.
  • Communication skills. The ability to clearly communicate your thoughts, opinions and ideas to those around you using a variety of methods, including presentations, via email and in person.

The average salary for an engineering operations director is $129,001 so it’s definitely a well paid position!

The main purpose of the role is to lead a cross-functional team to achieve the objectives that your department has been set. To succeed in this role it’s important that you have a good knowledge of engineering processes and engineering equipment, as you will be the one providing the overall strategy to your team on what needs to be done.

You will be responsible for the budget of your department and you will need to report regularly to your management on expenditure and progress. You will also devise and implement strategy for improving the performance of your department, as well as having an overall understanding of all the projects that are happening within it and ensuring that they are completed on time.

Vice president of engineering

A VP of engineering is part of the management team. As such you won’t get too involved with engineering, but you will get involved with solving logistical problems, dealing with personnel and working out budgets.

It’s an incredibly well paid job. The average salary is $170,000 per year, and at the higher end of the spectrum some VP’s of engineering are paid $270,000.

Your actual duties will vary significantly depending on the company you are working for. Engineering is a field that is hugely diverse, so the nature of the projects that you are overseeing will differ between companies. Whatever the company you are working for, you will be working in upper management. You will work alongside the president, product managers and other management staff in order to plan and oversee all aspects of engineering goals and operations within your company. You will ensure that the appropriate planning and testing procedures are in place to ensure that you deliver quality projects on time.

Generally you will spend a lot of your time in meetings, liaising with staff and ensuring that deliverables are met. You’ll also use your engineering knowledge to carry out site inspections, to ensure that everything is working as it should be and that everyone is working safely.

Engineering project manager

If you’ve worked in engineering you’ve no doubt come across your share of project managers! A project manager is used every time an engineering project is embarked on, it will be up to them to gather the requirements, see what is feasible and then plan out the project. They will then keep a continuous eye on the project to ensure that it is being delivered on time and within budget.

Having an engineering background is helpful if you want to work in engineering project management, because it means you will have a good instinct for what is possible within certain timeframes and budgets. However, collaboration with others will be a key part of your job. It’s essential that you have excellent communication and organization skills, so that you can keep the project team working together effectively.

The average salary for an engineering project manager is $140,760, although this varies hugely depending on the company you are working for.

Project managers have a varied and fulfilling career because they will spend their time working on a lot of different projects, meaning that they are always solving new problems and learning new things! In addition to this, project management is a field that can work really well as a freelance career. Many businesses prefer to bring in highly experienced contract project managers if they have a requirement for a fixed amount of time, as it means that they can more easily budget for the project in question. If you choose to work in this way the rewards can be even greater than the already generous salaries available to salaried engineering project managers.

The budgeting, forecasting, analytical and communications skills that are a key part of an MBA will give you the skills you need to complement your engineering background and create a fulfilling career as an engineering project manager.

CEO of your own company

As well as allowing you to work in a high level management or project position, obtaining your MBA could be your next step in becoming CEO of your own company!

Engineers are naturally analytical and great at making predictions and solving complex problems. These are all qualities that are highly valuable in a CEO. Combine the advanced business and strategic knowledge that can be gained from an MBA and you’ve got a pretty unstoppable combination.

A great example of an engineer who studied for his MBA and used this advanced knowledge to allow him to chase his dreams of being an entrepreneur is Rob Deering, founder of Australia’s Meet Billy.

Meet Billy is an app that allows older people to continue to live in their homes for longer. The basic idea is that the users daily activities are logged into an app. If they miss an expected activity then their family or carer can see this and be notified more quickly if something has happened.

The app works by using a series of internet of things (IoT) sensors to find patterns of behaviors. Smart analytics can then read the expected versus the actual behaviors and identify any changes before they become serious or result in a medical emergency. The app is already proving to be highly popular amongst users.

Rob started his career with a degree in mechanical engineering. He then worked as a consultant for five years, before embarking on his MBA. He credits his MBA for opening his eyes to new pathways, especially those that combined his skills in engineering and in business.

If you are thinking of using an MBA to open up opportunities of starting your own business, it’s a good idea to have in mind the type of business that you would like to start before you begin researching MBA programs.

By doing this you can approach your chosen institutions with your idea and they can let you know how best they can serve you. It’s a good idea to find a programme where the modules on offer will directly benefit your future plans, so that you can apply them to your business idea as you learn.

If possible it’s also a good idea to find an MBA course where there are links to the industry in which you would like to work. This will mean that you can meet people who will be helpful to you, either as business contacts or as people who you can learn from.

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