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Army to collaborate with system schools

Lt. Gen. John Mulholland Jr. will sign an agreement on campus today.
Lt. Gen. John Mulholland Jr. will sign an agreement on campus today.

The UNC system and the U.S. Army will launch a new chapter in their already-extensive collaboration today.

The two institutions will centralize the interaction between the military and the academic communities when UNC-system President Erskine Bowles and Lt. Gen. John Mulholland Jr., commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, sign an agreement before today’s Board of Governors meeting.

The top three priorities for collaboration are language instruction, particularly for in-demand Asian languages, research and programs that foster negotiation, communication and leadership skills.

The command has collaborated with individual campuses for years, but it will now come first to the system’s central administration so administrators can point them to the campuses and programs that best meet their needs, said Kimrey Rhinehardt, UNC-system vice president for federal relations and the system’s point person on the partnership.

“It’s my job to go out and say, ‘We’re really good at this discipline at this campus,’” Rhinehardt said. “It’s enabling them to have a better understanding of where our strength and expertise lie.”

The command is likely to turn to UNC-Chapel Hill for research and language instruction, she said.

One collaborative project already exists between the UNC School of Medicine in Chapel Hill and the command’s combat medic training program.

“We bring to bear all the best that the army and special forces has to offer to teach combat medics,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Hendrix of the command’s public affairs.

Meanwhile, combat medics benefit from the School of Medicine’s ability to provide civilian training and experience, Rhinehardt said.

Plans are underway for the medical school to take on instructors from the command’s medic program to work alongside UNC doctors and to count battlefield experience for course credit to fast-track combat medics’ transition to civilian medicine, she said.

General administration will back out after subpartnerships between schools and the command are cemented, Rhinehardt said.

No new positions have been created. Rhinehardt will serve as the point person for the system, and Mulholland will be her counterpart. Schools and the command will be responsible for covering any costs that arise from collaborative projects.

Retired Gen. James Lindsay first thought of the idea many years ago, but the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan pushed it to the backburner, Hendrix said.

Mulholland, who assumed command in November 2008, put it back on the agenda and arranged meetings with Bowles and the Board of Governors.

“Gen. Mulholland saw it as something that was of top importance. He didn’t want to wait anymore,” Hendrix said.

“We have a home school now — a school that we can call USASOC’s home.”

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