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Southern Miss History Professor Helps Prepare Military Leaders in Classroom
Wiest Will Participate in National Security Forum at Air War College

Date 5-15-06

Contact David Tisdale 601.266.4499


Montgomery, Ala.—A University of Southern Mississippi history professor has spent the last academic year on exchange to the U.S Air Force’s Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, helping prepare future military leaders.

Dr. Andrew Wiest, whose areas of research include World War I and II and the Vietnam War, taught in the college’s Department of Warfighting Strategy, which focuses its efforts on exploring the foundations of military strategy and global security. Wiest also regularly leads a class through Southern Miss’ British Studies Program, as well as to Vietnam, through the university’s Office of International Programs.

The Air War College is one of four of its kind throughout the United States sponsored by the various branches of the military, along with the National War College, that serves as the senior service school.

“Essentially the rationale behind the program is to take the top10 percent of lieutenant colonels and colonels and send them to these schools to prepare for the strategic reality of becoming a general officer,” Wiest said.

Wiest said his job as a historian at the college was to help his students consider military strategy with a broader vision, as opposed to the narrow focus of a specific military assignment or mission.

“The focus is not on taking that hill or other aspects of specific assignments in the field of combat, but on the overall strategy and the grand issues involved in war,” Wiest said.

One of the topics Wiest covered was the concept of national building, looking specifically at the lessons learned from the Vietnam War and how they might apply today in Iraq.

Wiest learned about the opportunity at Maxwell from Nick Sarantakes, a fellow military historian who teaches at Texas A&M University at Commerce, who Wiest met while teaching a British Studies course in 1998.

“He had been involved with the program at Maxwell and spoke glowingly about it, and I had also heard great things about it from Ray Skates (retired Southern Miss history professor), so I contacted them,” Wiest said.

Wiest said that for the past year he gained as much knowledge from his students as he feels he imparted in the classroom. “I’ve learned a lot about the reality of the military world from these guys,” he said. “Most of my research and knowledge about the military has been up to and including the Vietnam era, so I’ve picked up a lot about military history from that point that I believe will help me develop new courses when I return to Southern Miss.”

He admitted that at first the assignment was daunting because he had never served in the military himself and was unsure of how he would be treated. “They accepted me right away and made me feel like part of the military family,” he said.

Lt. Col. Paul Murphy of Boston, one of Wiest’ students, said he was the perfect fit as an instructor for the program. “He’s an insightful guy and did a good job of setting up the baselines of the historical traditions in war fighting. That was invaluable to the course.”

Murphy said the fact that Wiest was not a veteran was good in that it brought an external viewpoint on the military. “Not everyone on the inside (of the military) has an understanding of the historical concepts. I thought he did a great job, especially for his first time here.”

This week, Wiest will take part in the 53rd Annual National Security Forum being held at the Air War College, presenting the topic “Searching for Answers in the Past: The Failure of Nation Building in South Vietnam,” a historical look at the successes and failures of America's efforts to build a functional nation and military in south Vietnam and its relevance to the United States’ present efforts in Iraq. The forums’ keynote presenter will be Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force chief of staff.

The forum is the culmination of the students’ educational experience at the Air War College, Wiest said.

“The Forum brings in a number of widely known and respected speakers, whether they be military officials or historians or political scientists,” he said. “It’s kind of the capstone experience for the students, drawing together everything they’ve learned through the academic year.”

For more information on the forum, contact Wiest at 334.953.2938. For more information on degree programs in the Southern Miss Department of History, call 601.266.4333.

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May 15, 2006 2:51 PM

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