01 Mar 2004

New Horizons for Iraq

HBS alumni and students have played important roles in the successful military campaign and ongoing rebuilding effort in Iraq. Here, in their own words, they describe their experiences and offer thoughts on what may lie ahead
by Garry Emmons; James E. Aisner; Julia Hanna


This month marks the first anniversary of the American-led invasion of Iraq. Within weeks of their initial military assault, U.S. and coalition troops triumphed over the Iraqi army and took on a new mission — rebuilding a country devastated by decades of warfare, internal repression, and international isolation.

Over the past year, many HBS alumni and students have served in both military and civilian roles in Iraq. On the following page, the Bulletin presents some of their stories.

Marine Major David (“Bull”) Gurfein (MBA ’00) was a platoon commander during the 1989 invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War. He left active duty as a reservist in 1998 and enrolled at HBS, where he was elected copresident of his class. He re-upped after 9/11 and spent seven months in Afghanistan before moving on to Iraq. For his “professional and heroic” actions of March 20, 2003, on the Iraq-Kuwait border (described below), Gurfein was awarded the Bronze Star.

We’re going now,” my boss said on the radio. “Everything has to be ready now.” We had been counting on two more days to finish our work along a 56-mile front — reducing physical obstacles, such as berms, ditches, and electrified fences, to clear lanes for American forces to roll into Iraq from Kuwait. But the word was that deep strikes had already begun in Baghdad. Nobody had told us, but the war was on.

The Iraqis certainly knew. As we worked frantically through the night, we came under mortar and heavy machine-gun fire. Forced to withdraw, we scrambled to gather reinforcements, re-attacked, and were able to complete our assignment. In the morning, the task force that I commanded, Bold Eagle Bravo, proudly followed the Seventh Marines into Safwan, Iraq.

The people there, while pleased to see us, were still frightened and hesitant. One woman, whose son was shot for avoiding military duty, showed me that her ear had been cut off as a warning to her other sons. Another mother said her child had been killed for throwing mud on a poster of Saddam. I went up to one of these larger-than-life images and ripped it down. The people’s tension was palpable, but as we tore down more and more of the posters, fear turned to jubilation. The Iraqis began kissing and hugging us. It was an incredible moment.

A 1992 graduate of Annapolis and the U.S. Navy’s Fighter Weapons (“Top Gun”) School for the top 1 percent of Navy and Marine Corps pilots, Lieutenant Commander Brett G. Odom (HBS ’05) logged more than two thousand hours in the F/A-18 Hornet. Flying from the USS Harry S. Truman during the Iraq campaign, he was in charge of fifteen to twenty other pilots and was awarded the Air Medal and two Navy Commendations for combat valor.

Lloyd’s of London ranks the flight deck of a carrier at night as the most dangerous place on the planet. It’s pitch-black, trucks are driving around, and there’s the danger of getting sucked into an intake, or blown over the side by a jet blast, or having your cranium squashed by a propeller. But that’s far from my thoughts as we head to the deck after our 3 a.m. briefing. In the cockpit of my jet, I’m so keyed up I consciously try to slow myself down as I go through all the pre-launch procedures. Waiting to be catapulted into the darkness over the Arabian Sea, I’m not thinking about my mortality. I just feel butterflies in my stomach — like an athlete before a big game.

To reach, and return from, Iraq requires several mid-air refuelings. We use classic strike tactics to blind the enemy. Loaded with six thousand pounds of bombs, we take out their radar, communications, command headquarters, and missile sites. Surface-to-air missiles are our greatest concern, but on one run, as we drop down from twenty thousand feet to release our bombs, the flak clouds bursting around us make me think of popcorn going off. That’s the closest I came to thinking I might get shot down.

Landing back on the carrier is one of the most difficult parts of the mission. There’s a huge sense of relief when it’s over but we have only a short time to relax before climbing into the cockpit again.

(JEA, ed.)

A graduate of West Point, Captain Michael N. Coppa (HBS ’05) was trained as an Apache attack helicopter pilot for the U.S. Army. He flew missions in Albania and Afghanistan before being called to Iraq in February 2003, where his assignment was more earthbound (but no less eventful) as headquarters company commander in charge of a 26-vehicle convoy and one hundred soldiers during the initial phases of the offensive. Coppa was awarded Bronze Stars for his service in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

We moved out of Kuwait on March 21. It was extremely hot and dirty. Everyone understood the position that they were in — you know you’ve got to get from point A to point B. Our battalion was part of a larger convoy of about two hundred vehicles, so you can imagine how much dust that kicked up. There was dirt embedded in my scalp. The conditions were terrible but it ended up being a very satisfying experience, especially for my soldiers. They had a sense of purpose. Whenever we had to stop for a flat tire or locked brakes, they would sprint to take care of the problem and make sure we were able to continue moving.

After four days we reached An Najaf. We were just getting ready to set up our logistical base and begin flying some missions when we were hit with a two-day sandstorm. It looked like Mars outside — you couldn’t see more than fifty feet in front of you. All we could do at that point was sit it out. My soldiers drove around and delivered my battalion’s food and water. It seemed like we were all spread out, but when the storm cleared up, we were actually pretty close together.

Our final stop was Mosul. We supported the infantry soldiers who were securing the smaller towns on the roads leading to Baghdad from Kuwait. I didn’t get to fly, but I was given a leadership role. There was a lot of gratification in knowing that I was able to motivate people and get the job done. I had a fantastic team of folks who had a common goal, and we did our best to meet that goal.

(JH, ed.)

As principal assistant for logistics, Lieutenant Commander Kristen B. Fabry (MBA ’02) ensured that the 5,500 crew members aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln had the food, supplies, and services required for the ship’s ten-month deployment, the longest for any Navy vessel since the Vietnam War. On May 1, 2003, when President Bush visited the ship and declared an end to major hostilities in Iraq, Fabry served as escort to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

We were returning to homeport in Everett, Washington, after a sixmonth deployment, and our stores were almost down to zero. Then, on New Year’s Day 2003, the ship’s admiral announced that the President had asked us to go back to the Persian Gulf. Our mission had changed, and we had to completely resupply.

The Lincoln anchored off the coast of Perth. Australia is not a major supply point, so we sourced all over the area, from Guam to Singapore. On some days the seas were so rough that we couldn’t receive supplies from shore. A C-5 cargo plane brought in the parts we needed for the F/A-18 Super Hornets. The flight deck had taken a beating from takeoffs and landings and needed to be resurfaced.

Being a supply officer is like managing a small city. At the Naval Academy I was intrigued by the glamour of being a pilot or a ship driver, but then I became more and more interested in the logistics of the supply chain and its parallels to the business world.

It was a long deployment; the fact that we didn’t experience a single loss of life is an awesome testament to the training and stamina of the crew. The ship is now in dry dock, and I’m helping out with a complete overhaul — pretty much taking the ship apart and putting it back together again. It should be getting under way again in the spring, probably without me. I think I’ll be transferring to a shore station next.

(JH, ed.)

A former ambassador to the Netherlands and a 23-year veteran of the State Department, counterterrorism and crisis management expert L. Paul (“Jerry”) Bremer III (MBA ’66) was named Administrator of Iraq’s Coalition Provisional Authority last May. His responsibilities include overseeing virtually every detail of life in Iraq except military operations, an assignment Fortune magazine calls “the world’s toughest job.” Says Bremer, “Repairing the damage inflicted by Saddam — the material, human, and psychological damage — is a huge task. We will only succeed at if we have a real partnership between the coalition, the international community, and the Iraqi people.”

David J. Horgan (MBA ’86) is the managing director of the oil companies Petrel Resources and Pan Andean, based in Dublin, Ireland.

Baghdad last June was a crazy scene of damage and destruction from warfare and looting. Armed gangs of unemployed Iraqi ex-police roamed the streets. I’d put on my Irish soccer jersey, tell some jokes, flash a letter from the oil ministry, and hope for the best. They’d let us pass.

Today, life is improving. Infrastructure is slowly being repaired. Travel and work are much safer. I’ve been invited back five times since June by oil ministry officials and have moved all around the country visiting oil fields, meeting tribal groups and local officials, staying in small hotels, eating with ordinary Iraqis. As a small Western neutral, Petrel has no enemies and no baggage. The major American companies, by contrast, are deterred by concerns about their employees’ security and worries about Iraq’s future oil policies. Where the majors see difficulty, we see opportunity.

Iraq can still be fixed, if policies are adjusted now. Few are nostalgic for the days of Saddam, but regime change hasn’t worked either. Most Iraqis are freer, but are less safe and worse off than before. Only a professional army and police force can deliver security. To calm things and establish a legitimate government, Iraq needs early free elections. This may not give Westerners the result they want, but it’s better than the alternatives.

Everything depends on oil: Without a boost in output, there will be insufficient electricity, little money, and few well-paying jobs. Production is still below 1990 levels. But sanctions and secrecy are gone. Iraq’s urgent need is to develop existing oil discoveries. The country will be key to the world’s energy future — it has too sensitive an address and too much oil to continue in chaos. horgan, at right, with driver, examines bullet hole in his car.

Currently serving as Iraq’s Interim Minister of Trade, MIT graduate Ali Abdul-Amir Allawi (MBA ’71) has spent much of his life living outside Iraq, most recently as a Middle East expert at Oxford University and as chairman of Falcon Intercapital in Geneva, Switzerland. “Most of the Iraqi Governing Council and Cabinet believe in free market principles and the principles of an open economy and free trade,” he observes. “It is a question of the time frame in which these radical changes and directions or redirections in economic policy are going to take place. The issue, if there is one, has to do with timing and phasing, rather than with ultimate objectives and purpose.”

Since 2000, Dileep Nair (AMP 114, 1994) has been the UN’s under-secretary-general for internal oversight services. He is responsible for all manner of oversight of UN programs, including audit and investigative functions, to ensure that UN efforts internally mirror its global efforts to promote good governance and transparency, and to fight against fraud and corruption.

I was in Iraq for three days last August. To be honest, things did not feel good, even then. Baghdad used to be a bustling, thriving metropolis, but when I was there, it truly looked like an occupied city — military vehicles everywhere, people looking downcast and sullen, and many buildings in disrepair. There was a strict 8 p.m. curfew, and you had to have security everywhere you went. It was not a place where you wanted to stay any longer than necessary.

The only Iraqis I met were drivers and local security guards. Outwardly, they expressed their happiness to have a job and were positive about the UN’s presence. But beneath the surface, you could sense that they wanted to be in charge of their destiny and resented the coalition’s occupation of their country. I did not have good vibes about the situation. One week later came the explosion at the UN’s Baghdad offices that killed 22 of our staff and injured over 100 more.

I don’t think the world can afford to stand back and say to the coalition forces, “You created the mess, so you fix it.” I think the international community has enough of a conscience to mobilize itself to do something. If nothing is done, the problems will fester. Worse, it can easily become a hotbed of terrorism.

The question is how are we to return to Iraq and help it back on its feet. The most important thing now is to improve the security situation.

HBS professor Benjamin C. Esty (MBA ’91), an expert in project finance, studies how firms structure, value, and finance very large capital investments such as oil fields, mines, and power plants. His research covers both developed and developing countries, including financing structures for Islamic countries.

It was 2 a.m. and I was half-asleep, strapped into a jump seat in a blacked-out C-130. Approaching Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), the plane suddenly started diving and twisting — I was sure we’d been hit. Later, I learned that it was just standard, evasive maneuvers for landings at BIAP. I wished somebody had told me that earlier.

Not long after sunrise, it was 115 degrees. July in Iraq was like having a hair dryer in your face, with grit and dust constantly blowing into your eyes, nose, and ears. But I was fortunate. During my week in Baghdad, I stayed on the grounds of one of Saddam’s palaces, in one of the many four-person trailers installed there. We had AC most of the time, showers, and good food. It gave me tremendous respect for our soldiers, men and women who have left their families and jobs behind and who enjoy very few comforts. Their dedication and courage in a hostile war zone, enduring such miserable conditions, are inspiring.

I was contracted through the Coalition Provisional Authority to help the oil ministry think about strategies for financing reconstruction. In the short term, the options are fairly limited; over time, there will be many more. As the physical infrastructure deteriorated under Saddam, so too did operational knowledge and skills, personified in the human capital destroyed in Iraq’s several wars or stifled by Saddam’s repression. But in some respects, Iraq is lucky. It has immense resources — oil, natural gas, water — and many talented, educated people. Rebuilding the country, however, will be a long and challenging process.

Flanked by U.S. Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez (at left) and Coalition Provisional Authority head Paul Bremer, Commander-in-Chief and U.S. President George W. Bush (MBA ’75) greets soldiers during his Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad. “The primary goal of our coalition in Iraq,” Bush told the UN in September, “is self-government for the people of Iraq, reached by an orderly and democratic process. This process must unfold according to the needs of Iraqis, neither hurried nor delayed by the wishes of other parties.”

Brigadier General Mark T. Kimmitt (MBA ’84), Deputy Director for Operations for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and Dan S. Senor (MBA ’01), a Senior Advisor to the CPA and spokesman for CPA chief Paul Bremer, at one of their frequent CPA media briefings in Baghdad. Kimmitt, a former NATO senior officer in Europe, handles all questions relating to military operations in Iraq. In January, he told reporters, “We see the capture of Saddam as not an end post or goal post, but as a milestone. We’ve still got a lot of work to do here, both in the security area and all CPA areas.”

Senor was previously with the Carlyle Group and was briefly a deputy press secretary for President Bush. He fields all nonmilitary queries, on topics ranging from gasoline shortages to the CPA’s planned hand-over of power to a sovereign Iraqi government. “The overwhelming majority of Iraqi people have embraced the liberation and are grateful for all we are doing to reconstruct their country,” Senor says. “This is critical not only for the freedom of the Iraqi people, but also for our overall success in the war on terror.”

Also serving on the CPA is Thomas C. Foley (MBA ’79), a former McKinsey consultant and turnaround specialist who is in charge of the privatization process for nearly two hundred Iraqi state-owned businesses, excluding the country’s oil industry and large utilities.

HBS Students with Military Service in support of the Iraq and Afghanistan Campaigns

James F. Adamouski (HBS ’05), Captain, U.S. Army
A 1995 West Point graduate and helicopter pilot, Adamouski had been admitted to HBS but had not yet matriculated when he died in the crash of a Black Hawk helicopter (which he was not piloting) on April 2, 2003, near Karbala, Iraq. He has been named an honorary alumnus by the School.

Peter E. Bailey (HBS ’05), Captain, U.S. Army
Served in Kuwait and Iraq from February to July 2003, providing intelligence and threat analysis in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Awarded Army Commendation Medal.

R. Cordell Bennigson (HBS ’05) Captain U.S. Marine Corps
Harrier pilot. Air Officer Forward for the First Marine Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Served in Middle East from November 2002 to May 2003.

Scott R. Blackburn (HBS ’05), Captain, U.S. Army
Signal Officer. Led a cross-functional team into Afghanistan to establish a tactical air picture for units conducting combat operations during Operation Anaconda (February–March 2002), for which he was awarded the Joint Service Achievement Medal.

Erik Gunnar Counselman (HBS ’05), Captain U.S. Marine Corps
Human Intelligence Officer. Served as human intelligence and analysis officer in Kuwait and Iraq from October 2002 to June 2003.

Gregory H. Fairbank (HBS ’04), Captain, U.S. Army
Defense Intelligence Agency counterterrorism analyst in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Served from November 2001 to November 2002.

Jake H. Heller (HBS ’05), Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
Special Warfare officer. Led all Special Boat assets in clandestine seizure of Iraq’s off-shore oil terminals and cleared Iraqi waterways for delivery of humanitarian aid. Service from September to December 2001 (off Iraq, Afghanistan) and September 2002 to April 2003 (off Iraq). Awarded Navy Achievement Medal.

John M. Nix (HBS ’04), Chief Warrant Officer 4, U.S. Army
Air Mission Commander/Standardization Instructor Pilot. Deployed to Afghanistan October–December 2001 to conduct multinational combat flight operations in Soviet MI-17 helicopter, support U.S. Special Operations Forces, and coordinate follow-on special missions unit deployment. Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross.

Kurt J. Scherer (HBS ’04), Captain, U.S. Marine Corps
AH-1W Cobra helicopter pilot, intelligence officer. Participation in initial actions in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Conducted air support and recon in Kandahar area from December 2001 to February 2002. Operated from USS Bataan off coast of Pakistan from February 2002 to June 2002.

Richard S. Whiteley (HBS ’05) Lieutenant Commander U.S. Navy
Deployed July 2002 through May 2003 aboard aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Flew combat missions in F/A-18E Super Hornet and F/A-18C Hornet in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Awarded the Individual Air Medal and the Strike-Flight Air Medal, among other commendations.

Additional Alumni with Iraq or Afghanistan Service

Gerald E. (“Jay”) Hedley (MBA ’01), Major Maryland Air National Guard
Fighter pilot, A-10 Thunderbolt II (“Warthog”). Flew 85 combat missions from Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, from January 2003 to June 2003. Earned Air Medal four times.

John A. Hollstein (MBA ’74), Colonel (retired) U.S. Air Force Reserve
Former chief of monitoring for UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency during two four-month tours in Baghdad between 1994 and 1997. Returned to Baghdad last June and July to assist with search for WMD.

Christopher B. Howard (MBA ’03), Major, U.S Air Force
Chief of Human Intelligence Operations Cell for Combined Joint Task Force 180 and also worked with Defense Intelligence Agency, Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, September 2003 to January 2004.

Ennis C. (“Jim”) Whitehead III (MBA ’82) Brigadier General, U.S. Army
Reserve Assigned in 2003 responsibility for ports in Kuwait and convoys carrying equipment and supplies to units in Iraq.

Above listings are incomplete and only a sampling of HBS student and alumni service. For those not included, the Bulletin welcomes further information about them to post on its Web site.

Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 2000, Section D
Class of MBA 2005, Section D
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Class of MBA 2005, Section F
Class of MBA 2002, Section E
Class of MBA 1966, Section A
Class of MBA 1986, Section C
Class of MBA 1971, Section I
Class of AMP 114
Class of MBA 1975, Section C
Class of MBA 1984, Section I

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