Of the 20 students in this year’s Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.) program at the Woodrow Wilson School, only one spent the past year studying at a Cameroonian war college. Maj. Kevin Toth was the only American among 42 officers from 23 countries to study military strategy, policy, and international cooperation from an African point of view.
“As an African specialist, my primary concern is getting their perspectives on how they fight wars, solve conflicts, and enforce peace-keeping operations,” Maj. Toth said.
After graduating from the United States Military Academy in 2002, Maj. Toth was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army where he spent five years in the infantry, and another three years as a commander of a Special Forces detachment. Following his four deployments to Iraq, he was accepted into the Foreign Area Officer (F.A.O.) program, a specialty career field where officers focus on a particular region.
“The program looked like a great opportunity for me,” Maj. Toth said. “Certain aspects of the F.A.O. program, including continued interaction in international affairs, the ability to use some lessons learned on my deployment experiences in a different kind of context, and the ability to do more travel, particularly with my family, really appealed to me.”
Part of the F.A.O. track includes language training, a year of familiarization in the area of self-study, and a 12-month graduate study program. At the Wilson School, Maj. Toth said he wants to learn more about African politics and policy, U.S. foreign policy and relations, and the theories that go into both.
“By having that year of experience [at the Cameroonian war college], I have unique perspectives and contacts that will shape how I approach my studies. I was lucky to have relationships with African experts in their various fields. I’m excited to bring my perspectives to the program at the Wilson School, and to share some of them with the other students who might not have had the same experiences.”
After he completes the M.P.P. program at the Wilson School, Maj. Toth said he aspires to be a defense attaché in Africa. “I’d really like to work at a combatant command post such as USAFRICOM [United States Africa Command] to help shape military policy. Right now, though, I’m very excited about being here at the Wilson School.”