Marshall Center’s premier counterterrorism course highlights alumni network

Marshall Center’s premier counterterrorism course highlights alumni network

Marshall Center’s premier counterterrorism course highlights alumni network

By Christine June
Public Affairs Office
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (March 22, 2016) – From the start, Kazakhstani Prosecutor Bauyrzhan Yermegiyayev was astonished when he started the Program on Terrorism and Security Studies   Feb. 24 at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.

“I have learned so much here from the professors, subject matter experts and my fellow participants who work in the military, civilian agencies, law enforcement and like myself, in legal offices from 45 countries. I am now a part of this network of security practitioners from all over the world,” said Yermegiyayev, the deputy prosecutor for the General Prosecutor’s Office in Kazakhstan.

He was talking about the Marshall Center’s 11,000 plus network of alumni from 151 countries. It’s a network with members who are experts in transnational counterterrorism, cyber-attacks, illicit trafficking and security capacity academia and practitioners.

“I love this network, and I am excited to tell my superiors what I have learned here and how this network can help us in the future, said Yermeguiyayev, who admitted that he was surprised when his supervisor told him to enroll in the current course (PTSS 16-06).

“Kazakhstan doesn’t have a terrorism problem – yet,” said Yermegiyayev, knocking on the desk.

“I deal with criminals every day, not terrorists, but I now know that many terrorist organizations are partnered with transnational organized crime syndicates,” he said. “I am also aware of terrorism trends and counterterrorism guidelines and policies should it ever come to Kazakhstan…plus, I know who to call if I need help in the future – my network.”

Yermeguiyayev knows the help will be there from the Marshall Center’s alumni network because he and his 74 fellow participants have already seen it in action. All five of the PTSS 16-06 adjunct professors are PTSS alumni.

 “One of the greatest strengths of the Marshall Center is the network of professionals that we built here,” said U.S. Marine Col. (Ret.) James Howcroft, who is the PTSS course director. “It’s extremely important, I believe, to demonstrate to people as they are going through the courses the value and utility of this network.” 

That’s why Howcroft chose PTSS graduates as adjunct professors for PTSS 16-06, which will end March 23. He said that this was a first for the Marshall Center’s premier counterterrorism course, and a direction he plans to continue for future PTSS courses and community of interest workshops.

“My plan is to bring back graduates as adjuncts to show the people sitting in the seats that ‘look, this network that we talk about is a very real thing, it’s a very useful thing, and it’s something you can and should be a part of,” Howcroft said.

The five alumni adjunct professors served as co-seminar-leaders and some were asked to give presentations.

 “I have included topics in PTSS this time that do indeed utilize the skill and experience of these adjuncts as a means to keep up with the growing trends and to use their particular expertise in case studies and issues that are relevant to terrorism today,” Howcroft said.

Ireland Defense Force Capt. Tom John Egan gave a presentation on Hezbollah March 17, and Dina Al Raffie, an Egyptian native and now German citizen who is a research fellow at the George Washington Center for Homeland and Cyber Security’s Program on Extremism, presented Al-Qaeda: Irrelevant or on the Rebound March 7.

As a Ph.D. candidate with the University of Zurich, Al Raffie is currently researching identity politics and radicalization processes into violent Islamic extremism. As a published author, Al Raffie’s fields of interest include political Islam, Middle East and North Africa security politics and extremism, with a focus on identifying factors that create an environment conducive to violence and extremism.

 “If the course defines itself on its graduates as its ‘crown jewel’ than surely, the validity of the course is proved by bringing back graduates in order to facilitate the conduct of the next course,” said Al Raffie, who was Yermegiyayev’s co-seminar leader. “It makes it far more real for the participants knowing that some of the professors in front of them have previously sat in their position.”

Al Raffie added that not only do the participants benefit from seeing her as an alumna who is actively involved with the alumni network, but she also benefits in her academic career.

“I stay current with what’s happening in the world of terrorism and counterterrorism by talking and getting to know the participants and what they do in their day-to-day jobs,” said Al Raffie, who added that this is her sixth time as a Marshall Center adjunct professor. “That’s how this network stays a living, breathing counterterrorism tool that is relevant and current, both as a practitioner and as an academic.”

She showed the participants how useful the Marshall Center network is in her presentation when she acknowledged that she called subject matter experts within the Marshall Center network for current information on Al-Qaeda.

“I noticed right away the benefits of having alumni as adjunct professors,” said Dr. Nicholas Janszen, professor of National Security Studies at the Marshall Center’s College of International Security Studies, who was the faculty seminar leader with Al Raffie. “She got them to open up and talk to each other on the very first day of seminar. As an alumna, she not only knew how to get them relaxed enough to immediately start sharing experiences and knowledge with each other, but she also knew how important it was for establishing trust, which is a foundation of our alumni network.”

Al Raffie’s fellow alumni adjunct professor, Ugandan People's Defense Forces Col. Tingira Omero Irumba agrees, “The greatest beauty of being a PTSS graduate and then coming back as an adjunct is that we bring back current trends, policies and best practices that have been formulated from the conceptual framework of the PTSS school of thought.”

And like his future alumnus Yermegiyayev, Irumba believes strongly in the Marshall Center alumni network.

“The Marshall Center turned me into a global resource and a global player,” said Irumba, who graduated from PTSS in 2008 and said that is what he tried to instill in the PTSS16-06 participants as an adjunct professor. “It changed my way of looking at and seeking solutions to security problems.”

The other alumni adjunct professors are Dr. Anita Peresin, from the Office of the National Security Council in Croatia, and Hungarian National Police Lt. Col. Tibor Kozma.

Held twice a year, PTSS addresses numerous aspects of terrorism threats that confront nations around the globe.

Howcroft added that this particular class will mark more than 1,500 graduates from PTSS, which began at the Marshall Center in 2004.