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5 Questions for Kevin Jarrard

POSTED: July 1, 2012 11:41 p.m.

Today, Lt. Col. Kevin Jarrard is the commandant of cadets at Riverside Military Academy, a position he assumed in 2009 after eight years as a classroom teacher at the school. But he is perhaps better known as a United States Marine.

In 2008, he completed his second tour of duty in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, during which he helped two Iraqi children receive medical treatment in the United States. His humanitarian efforts earned him regional and national media coverage, making him recognizable to many.

As we near the Fourth of July, The Times felt it appropriate to ask Jarrard five questions about his role at Riverside and his thoughts on patriotism.

1. How do you instill the discipline and loyalty synonymous with the American military into this generation of young men at Riverside Military Academy?

Almost every aspect of life at Riverside Military Academy is countercultural. As youth culture in America grows increasingly narcissistic and technologically-addicted, the military paradigm of education fulfills a desperate need to remind all of us that the martial virtues are timeless.

American youth have replaced human relationships and interaction with virtual ones to their great detriment. At Riverside, we still value courtesy, respect, individual dignity and collective responsibility.

We expect cadets to make eye contact with adults and speak in a clear, strong voice, to carry themselves with poise and confidence.

These behaviors are the result of hundreds of hours of formative discipline, or training. It is these daily habits of discipline that shape the Riverside cadet.

2. What’s the biggest challenge to running a single-gender school these days?

Listening to the complaints from our cadets about no girls! As a product of single-gender education myself, I can attest to the efficacy of this model for boys. The research shows us that it is actually as much or more beneficial to girls.

Teenage boys in America are thoroughly distracted by many things — girls being one of the chief distractions.

Removing that factor from the equation allows us to focus more on teaching and learning and to compartmentalize some of the social drama to authorized leave periods and scheduled recreational events.

We believe that school is serious business and we demonstrate this seriousness by the way we dress, the methods we employ, and the good order and discipline that we maintain in the classrooms.

3. In 2008, while serving in Iraq, you helped a young Iraqi girl, Amina Ala Thabit, who needed open heart surgery. Have you kept up with her since then, and how is she doing today?

I hope that she and her family are doing well, but I have had no contact with them since the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq in December 2011.

Many of the Iraqi police officers that I served with in Haditha were murdered by al-Qaida in March of this year. It is possible that Amina and her family were targeted because of the help she received from us.

The abrupt departure left us with no capacity to defend our friends or to continue to prosecute al-Qaida targets within Iraq. Decisions have consequences and I think we were in too big of a hurry to end our involvement. The original design called for a gradual drawdown. I am not sure why that was taken off the table.

4. How do you feel about the troop drawdown in Afghanistan?

Defining victory in a counterinsurgency campaign is notoriously difficult; even measuring progress is hard.

Without clear objectives and sufficient combat power to secure the populace and maintain the various lines of operations, “winning” becomes an untenable objective.

I am certain that fewer troops will diminish our ability to influence events or to effect change in Afghanistan. I am convinced that the United States no longer has the economic capacity or the national will to maintain our efforts there any longer.

The reality is that our current economic situation is the greatest threat to our national security. We are bankrupt and that condition will force us to modify our strategy, operations and tactics in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

5. Americans are generally a very patriotic people, especially at times like the Fourth of July. But at other times, we seem to take our rights and freedoms for granted. As someone who has fought overseas to protect our freedoms, what would you say to Americans about the need for patriotism?

As frustrated as we sometimes are with our democracy (or more specifically, our republic), it is helpful to remember the words of Winston Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest!”
As imperfect as our system undoubtedly is, I am thankful that our basic rights and freedoms remain intact — however tenuously.

The antidote to complacency is remembrance. The Fourth of July is a wonderful opportunity for us to remember individually and collectively that our nation was born in war and the dearly won freedoms are maintained by our willingness to fight when necessary.

I am concerned that too many of our countrymen consider liberty as a license to do whatever they please, rather than a responsibility to do what they ought.

As we unite in celebrating our national birthday, I hope we will remember that it is our goodness that has made us a great people. We cast aside virtue at our peril.


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