Alumnus and U.S. Army Colonel Davidson addresses students on Iraqi Operations

Col. Davidson at SUNY New Paltz's Veterans Day Dining In ceremony, Nov. 2015
Col. Joseph D. Davidson at SUNY New Paltz’s Veterans Day Dining In ceremony, Nov. 2015

The Department of Political Science and International Relations welcomed Colonel Joseph D. Davidson ’90 (Political Science) back to SUNY New Paltz to speak before an audience of students, faculty and staff about his time as a commanding officer in Iraq following the U.S. invasion of 2003.

“Personal Observations and Lessons Learned from Phase IV Operations in Iraq,” served as a rare opportunity for students of history, international relations and political science to learn about modern, active combat and U.S. military occupation from someone with first-hand experience and a command perspective. Col. Davidson served three deployments, totaling 40 months, from 2003 – 2010, and was primarily stationed in areas near Baghdad, Mosul and the Diyala Province in Iraq.

His talk focused on his personal experiences with Phase IV Operations, defined as post-combat military operations taking place after the decisive defeat of an adversary. The Phase IV designation is often used to refer to peacekeeping and rebuilding actions, but it is sometimes the case, as it was in Iraq, that there is also a significant combat component against insurgent forces.

Col. Davidson described how, given the multi-faceted demands of these operations, he needed to draw not only on his military training and experience, but on his political science and international relations education in order to succeed.

“I’ve gotten to a point of feeling pretty comfortable with the tactical side of things,” Col. Davidson said. “The harder part is the post-conflict operations. That’s the ‘advanced degree’ side of things – how well do you understand how government works, how well do you understand cultural norms, and how do you use this information to improve a situation while resisting the tendency to Americanize. A good leader needs a wide array of life experiences to succeed under those conditions.”

Col. Joseph D. Davidson has served in a number of international locations over the course of approximately 30 years in the U.S. Army. He is a Cavalry officer who currently presides as commanding officer at Fort Hamilton Garrison in Brooklyn, N.Y.

This special event was not the first time Col. Davidson has returned to his alma mater to contribute his time and expertise to the student experience at New Paltz; last year, he was the featured speaker at a Veterans Day Dining In ceremony, hosted by the Office of Veteran and Military Services and the Office of Student Accounts for students, faculty, staff and alumni who are members of the College’s veteran, military service and dependent community.

More information about the Department of Political Science and International Relations and about Veterans and Military Services at SUNY New Paltz is available online.