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On Board for a Mission of Mercy

January 9, 2008 12:00 PM

Photo Caption: Devin Hagerty on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Tarawa.

He’s more accustomed to students in flip-flops instead of combat boots, but Associate Professor of Political Science Devin Hagerty was proud to sail with the U.S. Navy and Marines as he educated officers en route to South Asia.

For a week in November 2007, Hagerty was one of three “embedded Ph.D.s” through a U.S. Navy program that looks to include lessons from academic experts as part of military mission training.

Hagerty sailed from San Diego, California to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with an Expeditionary Strike Group led by the amphibious assault ship U.S.S. Tarawa, as it headed to the Indian Ocean. Originally slated to conduct joint exercises with regional militaries, the Group was chosen to lead humanitarian relief efforts in Bangladesh after Cyclone Sidr struck the region on Nov. 15, killing over 3,200 people.

Hagerty commuted from ship to ship by helicopter or inflatable speedboat to deliver briefings on Bangladesh, the Maldives, Asian-Pacific culture, and U.S. strategic interests in the region. His deployment was part of the Regional Security Education Program, run by the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California.

During his week aboard, he picked up naval lingo like “cranials” (ear plugs and goggles for braving flight deck and helicopter winds and noise), “floaties” (life preservers), and “mobys” (cellphone-size, salt-water-detecting beacons to alert the bridge in case of a person overboard). Hagerty bonded so well with his hosts that by week’s end the Marines offered to give him a regulation flattop haircut and take him to the Indian Ocean with them.

“It was a blast, but more importantly, I felt like my efforts had some immediate relevance as our sailors and Marines helped victims of the cyclone,” said Hagerty.