Homeland security courses could help soldiers, civilians

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Jody Wilson figures if he can't serve, he might as well help his country in whatever way he can.

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Mary Howard, the Geographic Information System manager for Columbia County, leads a lecture on the GIS system during an emergency management class.  Laura Youngs/Staff
Laura Youngs/Staff
Mary Howard, the Geographic Information System manager for Columbia County, leads a lecture on the GIS system during an emergency management class.

"I'm too old to go to Iraq, I'm too old to fight, but I'd like to do something," he said.

The publicity and marketing coordinator for Augusta State University is working on a master's degree in public administration that focuses on homeland security, something Mr. Wilson said he is "very, very excited about."

The homeland security track will involve three courses on emergency management (which is already being offered), terrorism and the nation's structure for homeland security (which will be launched in the fall).

The emergency management course covers everything from risk assessment to various ways to handle major disasters, whether natural or from terrorists.

"There's a little bit of art in it," said Saundra Reinke, the director of the public administration program, while leading her Thursday night class on emergency management. "It's not a strict science."

Augusta State isn't the first school to create a homeland security focus. But with Fort Gordon just miles down the road, it could bring in soldiers interested in learning more about terrorism and how to handle emergencies.

It could also help prepare civilians for hundreds of future jobs at Fort Gordon.

Ms. Reinke said the program evolved when the National Security Administration - which is building a new facility at Fort Gordon - inquired about establishing a Middle East studies program at the school.

The focus shifted to homeland security when funding for a Middle East program became a problem, she said.

The NSA has shown interest in the program, she said, and the school is trying to iron out bureaucratic kinks so soldiers, not just Augusta State students, can enlist in the public administration program.

Ms. Reinke, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, said the program might not be available to soldiers until the 2008-09 academic year.

Thom Tuckey, the director of the CSRA alliance for Fort Gordon, said the program can help the fort employ locals rather than recruiting outsiders.

"Our vision is, rather than import these civilians, why not train them here?" said Mr. Tuckey, who also serves on the community advisory board that advises the public administration program.

He said the agency expects to hire 100 to 125 a year for five years.

Ms. Reinke said the program also will prepare students for jobs in law enforcement and homeland security at the state and national level, she said.

Eric Schweser, a public administration student and a member of Augusta State's ROTC, said the new track will help him prepare for his career as an Army officer once he graduates.

"I hope the track teaches me not just reactive methodology, but proactive methodology," he said.

Mr. Wilson said that he would love to eventually be hired at Fort Gordon, "but I would move anywhere."

Reach Laura Youngs at (706) 823-3227 or laura.youngs@augustachronicle.com.


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