Active Duty Officers and Veterans at HKS Answer the Call to Public Service through Military Service

March 4, 2008
by Matt Kohut

Originally published in the Summer 2007 issue of the Kennedy School Bulletin.

From active-duty or reserve officers enrolled in our Executive Education National Security programs, to veterans enrolled in our Mid-Career MPA program, many Harvard Kennedy School students have chosen to answer the call to public service through military service.

One such person is Kennedy School alumnus Colonel Peter “Duke” DeLuca, 29th Engineer Brigade commander for the U.S. Army. DeLuca, who was recently preparing his personnel for a 15-month deployment to Iraq, says he often reaches out to the Kennedy School for expertise.

“Academics have the time to do the research that, in many cases, military people would like to have in their back pocket when they step into a situation,” DeLuca says. “Because of the connections I was able to make while at the Kennedy School, we could employ these resources to help educate my staff.”

As a National Security Fellow in 2005-2006, Colonel DeLuca was one of 23 military officers and civilian officials who spent their senior-service school year studying at the Kennedy School, rather than at one of the nation’s military war colleges. He has since found numerous opportunities to bring his worlds together, returning to Cambridge to speak at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and inviting Kennedy School faculty members Monica Toft, Sarah Sewall KSGEE 1995, and Ivan Arreguin-Toft to speak at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

“These kinds of ties are enormously beneficial to us. The training and preparation cycle in the military is very busy, and it’s very easy to be ‘in the weeds’ the whole time,” he says. “We wanted to get the staff to look at the bigger picture and our role in that.”

Prior to his year at the Kennedy School, DeLuca served as the assistant chief of staff engineer under General David Petraeus, managing a multibillion-dollar construction program to support the emerging Iraqi Security Forces. He previously commanded the 326th Engineer Battalion and was the division engineer for the 101st Airborne Division, with all or some of his command deployed in combat operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

DeLuca, 46, values the relationships he established at the Kennedy School for more than their immediate utility. As both an undergraduate and a graduate student in the post-Vietnam era, he witnessed the frayed relations between the military and academia that characterized that time.

“The ties that had helped us forge a coherent strategy and the military actions to support it during the Cold War had largely been broken between the military and academia,” he says. “I think that’s really bad for our country, and I want to keep those ties alive. It doesn’t mean we’ll always agree about everything. But that understanding is immensely helpful. It’s beneficial to help the government and the society run better.”

In February of 2007, Harvard paid special tribute to some 100 Kennedy School and Harvard Business School military veterans from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. [Watch the video] [Read the story]

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Image of Colonel Peter “Duke” DeLuca.

Harvard Kennedy School alumnus Colonel Peter “Duke” DeLuca, 29th Engineer Brigade commander for the U.S. Army.

Image of a military color guard.

A military color guard was among the honors extended to 100 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan currently studying at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School on Feb. 20, 2007, in the John F. Kennedy, Jr. Forum.
Photo: Mark Morelli