- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2003

HONOLULU (AP) — With his crisp blue West Point uniform and shoes so shiny they reflect their laces, Samarith Srey seems out of place next to the aloha shirt and khakis his boss wears.

But the clothing difference is only symbolic for Cadet Srey. He is in Hawaii with eight classmates from the U.S. Military Academy for an internship program in civilian government, the first in West Point’s 200-year history.

Organizers say the program, aimed at familiarizing military-minded cadets with the structure of civil government, is all too relevant as the U.S. military attempts to set up a functioning administration in Iraq.

“It gives me an appreciation of the challenges Army leaders face,” Lynn Jackson, a 21-year-old cadet from Cullman, Ala., said of the military’s work in postwar Iraq. “I want to see how to build a team and lead and inspire people.”

The program is modeled after the White House Fellows program, which has produced leaders such as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

Because of its isolation and multicultural population, Hawaii is an ideal setting for a program designed to teach future military leaders how to operate within an unfamiliar civilian government, organizers said.

Where else, asked Cadet Jackson, interning with the Department of Land and Natural Resources, would a state department’s responsibilities include such relatively exotic issues as being concerned about proper native burials for ancient Hawaiian remains?

All West Point cadets are required to serve as interns in the summer before their senior year. They typically work on military installations in areas related to their study interests, and sometimes they go into the civilian sector, following field doctors or civil engineers for a month.

But cadets have never before worked in state government. The three-week internship, which started July 2, places them in the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor and six government departments.

One of the program’s coordinators, Raymond Jefferson, deputy director of the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said the cadets hope to learn “how leadership is practiced in the civilian world.”

Mr. Jefferson, a West Point graduate, said that even though Cadet Srey wears his academy uniform, he is learning what it means to work in a place where there are no symbols of rank on sleeves or collars.

In the civilian workplace “there’s no road map on you that legitimizes you,” which means respect must be earned, Mr. Jefferson said.

Cadet Srey, from Harrington Park, N.J., said the internship has “allowed me to see an unexpected side of civilian leadership. It takes a little bit of time to develop that trust.”

He also is getting a hands-on education — writing agendas, helping to write Mr. Jefferson’s speeches, preparing and presenting leadership seminars and following Mr. Jefferson through days filled with appointments.

The cadets, who will graduate as Army second lieutenants with a standard five-year service commitment, say the program has given them an inside look at the differences between military and civilian power structures.

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