Profile | Lieutenant Colonel Timothy M. Gibbons, Army War College Fellow
“I picked the Army … and never looked back.”
This week ISD research assistant Jonas Heering sat down with U.S. Army War College Fellow, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy M. Gibbons.
Jonas: Tell us about your path to the US Army. What led you to join the military?
Tim: My path to joining the military seems rather typical in retrospect. In high school I was interested in the military, and my maternal grandfather was a World War II veteran who served as an infantryman in the Pacific Theater. He never talked about it much but I think looking up to him while growing up influenced my desire to serve. I was a little unsure about what I wanted to pursue in college but joining the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) appealed to me from the start. I remember showing up as a freshman at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan and heading over to the ROTC welcome week activities. At the time, I wanted to be a pilot. So I show up, Michigan State has Air Force and Army ROTC, and the Air Force is dressed in their Class A uniforms (think a suit and tie), seated behind a desk handing out information brochures. The Army is in combat uniforms rappelling off the side of a dormitory. Needless to say I picked the Army that day and never looked back.
Jonas: Where has your military career taken you so far, and what have been the most rewarding and challenging postings?
Tim: My career has taken me to a number of interesting locations. My first official assignment after commissioning as a Second Lieutenant in the Armor Branch in the summer of 2000 (think tracked vehicles weighing 60+ tons with a large gun) was to South Korea. In many ways it is probably one of the most difficult and most rewarding assignments I have ever had. My Armor unit was stationed less than 20 miles from the demilitarized zone, the area that divides North and South Korea. Our mission was to be ready to stop any potential North Korean attack at a moment’s notice. This required being ready at all times of the day to load up our tanks, leave our base, and prepare to stop a North Korean attack against the South. I spent two years in that assignment before heading back to the United States.
I have also been fortunate to be deployed to Afghanistan two separate times. The first time I lived and worked near Kandahar and my second time I was sent to work in Ghazni Province. This was 2006, and the violence had not really picked up to the levels it would in later years and the thing I remember waking up every morning and seeing the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains off in the distance.
Jonas: What motivated you to join ISD as an Army War College Fellow? What do you hope to gain from your time at Georgetown?
Tim: Being selected to attend the War College is a wonderful opportunity and with that opportunity comes a number of opportunities to attend military or civilian schools. Georgetown ISD was my first choice and for me it was a pretty easy choice. I have been interested in statecraft, foreign, and defense policy my entire career. ISD also offered the opportunity to teach, which is something that I am considering pursuing in my post military career. Georgetown’s location was also a driving factor after having lived in DC and Northern Virginia for a number of years, my family and I looked forward to participating in all that the Georgetown campus and location in NW DC had to offer. Of course COVID-19 has gotten in the way of many of those plans.
Read about LTC Gibbons’ War College colleague, LTC Christy Orser:
Profile | Lieutenant Colonel Christy Orser, Army War College Fellow
From the field, to Capitol Hill, to the Hilltop
Jonas: You have been co-teaching ISD’s Diplomatic and Military Statecraft graduate course this semester. What has been most rewarding/interesting/surprising about this experience so far?
Tim: The most rewarding experience has been the interaction with the other Army, Air Force, and State Department fellows. Working together to build relevant and insightful lessons for the MSFS students has truly been a rewarding experience and has greatly expanded my knowledge of U.S. statecraft.
While the virtual learning environment has made it more difficult to have those daily casual interactions with other fellows and students, one of the positive aspects of teaching online is that it has been a lot easier to bring in outside experts to share their experiences with students. For example, I have been able to have colleagues at the Department of Defense support lessons with minimal impact to their schedule, something that would have been more difficult if they had to be there in person. And you can even bring in people from all over the world.
Jonas: Next semester, you are teaching your own course, Military Tool of US Statecraft. Can you give us a preview of what the course will be about and how your career and prior experiences have informed the way you designed the course?
Tim: The course is focused on the use of military power in the formulation and execution of national security policy and strategy. Students are going to learn about the basics of military power, strategy, the importance of technology, the problems of civil-military relations and how they relate to military operations in a complex international environment. My career has taken me from the smallest of organizations, a 16 Soldier Tank Platoon, to theater level organizations in charge of tens of thousands of personnel, to intelligence organizations with responsibility for the entire world. The Department of Defense and the military services make up the largest single government or business organization on the planet. Learning about it is always interesting and this class will be a lot of fun to teach.
Jonas: What do you want to get out of the next stage of your career after your time at ISD?
Tim: Upon leaving ISD I should be assigned to the Pentagon or a combatant command. We are actually in the middle of our assignment process at this time and figuring out exactly what the Army has planned for me is still a bit of an open ended question. That being said, I am sure it will be interesting.
The views expressed by LTC Gibbons are his own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Army, Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.
Learn more about all of our fellows in our recent Despatches newsletter: