May 5, 2010
Geosciences professor begins active duty, bring overseas experience back to Northwest classrooms
MARYVILLE, Mo. - As American forces pull out of Iraq this year, one longtime member of Northwest's faculty is helping to coordinate the effort, which is one of the largest draw downs in United States military history.
Dr. Mark Corson, associate professor of geosciences and coordinator for Northwest's Comprehensive Crisis Response minor, is also a brigadier general in the Army Reserve. His latest active duty deployment began April 24, during which he will be commanding general of the 103rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command in Des Moines, Iowa. The command is charged with coordinating all sustainment operations in Iraq, including transportation, maintenance, supplies and services.
Dubbed "Operation Responsible Drawdown," the effort is in accordance with the Security of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government to reduce the number of American troops in Iraq to 50,000 by Sept. 1.
Corson, who is on full-time military leave from Northwest, has been training since Jan. 4. He's made three trips to the Middle East since then that have included training and a major command-post exercise.
Upon its deployment, the command headed to Fort Hood for a final mission rehearsal exercise, before traveling to Kuwait and Iraq. The command will be based at Joint Base Balad in Iraq, a major logistics hub about 40 kilometers north of Baghdad. The deployment is expected to last 11 months.
"I've seen exactly where we're going, what we're doing," Corson said. "We're connected via a secure Internet capability with the people that are already over there, so we have good situational understanding of what we're going to face when we get there."
"Operation Responsible Drawdown" marks Corson's third deployment. In 2001 in Kosovo, he commanded the Air Movement Control Battalion during the invasion of Iraq. He also was in the Middle East in 2003.
"A lot of the places that I'm responsible for, I actually set up during the initial liberation," Corson said. "The Iraqis just had their second national election. It was successful. It was relatively peaceful. You don't see that a whole lot in the Middle East. They have security forces that are not perfect, but functional. They have a judiciary that is not perfect, but functional. They have the rule of law. They are not a threat to their neighbors. Their economy continues to develop … and having had something to do with that on whatever small scale, that's pretty exciting and fulfilling to see that come to fruition."
Corson, who served in the active Army from 1983 to 1994, has a wealth of experience that he brought to Northwest when he arrived in 1998. Then a captain, Corson's last assignment as an active duty member was teaching geography at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. During the drawdown at the end of the Cold War, Corson joined the Army Reserve and earned his doctoral degree at the University of South Carolina.
Corson's military experience has helped enhance the classroom experience for Northwest geography students.
"I teach things like political geography, military geography, geography of Europe, geography of the Middle East," Corson said. "I just taught principals of humanitarian aid, and when you think about what I do in the military - three years in Germany, I was in Kosovo during the Preševo Valley and Macedonian insurgencies - I bring back for geography and political geography a combination of real world experience."
Corson has been to Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Israel, Kuwait and Iraq, among other places. He's also helped negotiate an international agreement between the United States and Kuwait.
"I bring those kinds of skill sets back, and now as a general officer, interfacing at very high levels with U.S. forces in Iraq, as well as the Iraqi government, when I come back I would say I have some credentials to bring to the classroom," Corson said.
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