At the Academy, 1/c cadets are required to complete final senior projects called capstones. Each major has different requirements for capstones; however, all of them address operational Coast Guard issues. For example, one mechanical engineering capstone a few years ago designed a new rescue basket for Coast Guard Dolphin helicopters. After the presentation, headquarters adopted the design and it became the standard for the Coast Guard. On the humanities side, an advanced research project into Arctic policy last year provided the Coast Guard with tangible policy and operational consultation. As you can see, these projects carry some weight, so we take them very seriously.
My capstone is an advanced research project studying Mexico. Specifically, I am going to write a paper that discusses Chinese merchant vessels smuggling meth precursor chemicals into Mexico. So far, that’s all we have been given to scope the project. I have spent the last five weeks reading about the foundations of Latin America’s culture, politics, social arrangements, economics, and more. Once I understand the history of Mexico better, I will be able to discuss contemporary issues on a much more comprehensive level. My two partners and I are not writing a simple intelligence paper about the how and when the Chinese supply meth precursor chemicals; rather, we will discuss the why questions. Why can China infiltrate Mexican institutions so easily? Why are the cartels so violent? Why hasn’t the war on drugs worked? Ultimately, our paper will analyze the works we read and any data we collect. Then we will make conclusions and recommendations to headquarters. It is our hope that our research project will help to develop a feasible and effective policy for managing the meth trade in Mexico.
Last week, we were very fortunate to have ADM James Stavridis on board the Academy. He was the Commander of the U.S. Southern Command and he retired as NATO’s supreme allied commander. Now, he is Dean of the Fletcher School. ADM Stavridis visited to discuss modern security strategies in Latin and South America. He has written a book Called Partnership for the Americas, which focuses on Western Hemisphere security, so he’s an expert on that subject.
I had the honor of getting to meet ADM Stavridis with my partners, and we had a great discussion. ADM Stavridis was very pleased to hear that we were studying Mexico and security in the Western Hemisphere. He gave us a lot of advice and contacts for our project, and he told us a little bit about his studies of Mexico and Latin America. After that, I sat in on his corps-wide speech and I heard his full policy. It is basically a mix of force and soft power (cooperation and international actions) to assure that we protect people and eliminate poverty. Poverty is a driving force in the reason people resort to drugs and support the cartels, so his speech was very applicable to my project. It was perfect timing for him to have visited.
This blog highlights that cadets are doing major projects that have real-world affects. We don’t just strive to be nationally relevant; we are nationally relevant because cadets are taking on projects that play an integral part of the operational Coast Guard’s mission success. We are fortunate to be doing such meaningful work. If you have any questions about any of my blogs, feel free to ask me anything at Hunter.D.Stowes@uscga.edu.
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