Overseas Deployment Adds To Ph.D. Candidate’s Security Studies Experience


During the summer, many students undertake internships to gain hands-on experience in their respective fields. For Tad Schnaufer, a Security Studies doctoral candidate in the School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs, his summer experience came from his service as a captain in the Florida Army National Guard.

He currently serves as an Advisor Team Leader in the 2/54 Security Forces Assistance Brigade (SFAB), and recently participated in the multi-week Tradewinds Exercise in Guyana on the northeast coast of South America. On the ground, Schnaufer worked with allied and partner forces to build their operational capacity, while fostering partnerships with military members from over a dozen nations.

While serving in Guyana, Schnaufer continued to work on his dissertation, carrying printed copies of draft sections with him when he operated in areas of limited connectivity.

Schnaufer noted, “It’s a lot of work to get out there and train with forces around Guyana, to then head back in at the end of the day to review draft dissertation chapters. It’s worth the struggle as I am proud to serve and, at the same time, continue my education.”

His dissertation focuses on the complexity of burden-sharing within the NATO alliance based on the perspectives of each ally, and what factors motivate their level of contribution (measured as a percentage of GDP spent on defense) as well as researching the current challenges facing the alliance. In his dissertation, he highlights the immense influence that the relationships between the US and each of its allies carry. This research provided Schnaufer with an understanding of how important it is to the US to work with partners and allies around the world.

Schnaufer stated, “Tradewinds proved to be an awesome experience. I had the opportunity to meet and work with amazing service members from nations across the Caribbean. I also was able to take what I have learned in the classroom here at UCF and from my research on allied and partner relationships and apply those concepts tactically and strategically through military service.”

For his efforts leading up to and during the exercise, Captain Schnaufer was awarded the Joint Service Achievement Medal (JSAM) by US Southern Command. Now back stateside, Schnaufer aims to continue working on his dissertation, and defend it this fall.

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