I was particularly honored this past week. I was invited to speak to the students of the U.S. Navy’s Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security. Now if you are like me, you immediately assume that the CHDS, as it is known, is a course for the military. The NPS helps military officers from all service branches get their master’s degrees in numerous subjects each year, and it does it in beautiful Monterey, CA. So when a colleague contacted me to provide some lectures on Cyber Security Policy, I jumped at the opportunity.
They soon sent me the class roster. It was not a military audience at all (OK, there were a couple of military types, but they were actually the outliers). Of the 31 students, nine were in law enforcement, seven were firefighters, eleven were civilian officials in state or municipal-level emergency management, three had military affiliation, and one was a major city prosecutor. These were not rookies either – they were police and fire chiefs and captains and very senior civilian roles. Many came from some of the major metropolitan areas across America. I was blown away. What a great audience!
I found out the course is 18 months long, with the doing in-residence stints of two weeks at a time every semester (about 5-6 trips to California). DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier is a graduate, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul Stockton was the founding director.
Up front, the classes went exceptionally well. I tend to speak on local and state level applications of cyber security, and the message was well received. The groups asked a ton of great questions, and frankly, I had a ball. I also had the opportunity to have lunch with some of the group as they used the working lunch to prepare for a project where the scenario was a CBRNE attack on the area around the Pentagon City Mall and the Pentagon, involving the METRO line. My presence at the Pentagon on 9/11 gave me a chance to add some realistic facts to their prep.
As I flew back to DC the next day, I had a few hours to reflect about the experience. Obviously I enjoyed doing a pitch to such a talented, experienced, and important group on a subject for which I feel a lot of passion. I would love to do it again in the future, and maybe I will get that opportunity.
The other thing that hit me was that America has gained a lot since the tragedy of 9/11. I know that sounds a little odd. As a people, we have had to give up a lot. Our security is now not a forgone conclusion. We have to search each other and be checked in ways and places that grind against our sense of freedom. We have to acknowledge the loss of so many lives and the irreparable damage to so many others from war. Tough things, great costs; so what am I talking about?
We have also matured in some marvelous ways. We no longer spit on the spectacular young men and women who fight for us, even if we completely disagree with the policies that send them to combat. That is National maturity, and thank God for it. May it continue.
We also have developed a new Brotherhood. And it is a Brotherhood without regard for gender, because it has men and women in it. It stems from that terrible day ten years ago. It is Brotherhood that brings together ALL those who run toward the sound of the guns, be they at home or abroad. It is the Brotherhood that includes the military, the intel guys, the police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and all those who support them. There is lots of kidding between them, over who is better, who is more critical – this is normal among brothers-in-arms. When you have served by the side of someone, they are your brother, and it does not matter if the place of solidarity was not geographically close. Warriors know this, and one warrior can always sense another. There is a look exchanged, a faint nod, and a feeling that does not require further words.
Perhaps it was there before, but since 9/11, a new generation of brothers has been drawn together in a new and a deep way. They recognize that they need each other, they know how good each is at their respective role, and they know they cannot protect our wonderful nation without each other.
It was such an honor to see it again and to taste how deeply it is felt by all. America paid a high price on 9/11, but it also gained a great deal.