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Alex Frank, a second-year law student at Yale, cannot help but draw on lessons he learned in the Army.
In officer training, Frank learned about discipline, grit, and how to face adverse situations -- like the first year of law school. When he arrived in Afghanistan in 2010 to lead a platoon, he had to hit the ground running.
"The military has a very formulaic operations order process which is really important for communicating all the key information that you need," Frank said in the Yale News. "There are all these different components of moving pieces -- one second calling for fires on the radio, the next talking to your gunner and driver telling them to be somewhere else, etc. -- that you need to understand with great depth to be able to direct and switch between them with great clarity."
It was that experience -- applying discipline and taking command -- that has distinguished Frank and other veterans in law school. It is something that doesn't come naturally, but only after dedicated training.
Not His Father's Army
Growing up in an affluent neighborhood in Washington, D.C., Frank came from a completely different community than he saw during two years in Afghanistan. His father, who was drafted, hated military service.
Unlike his father, Frank was interested in military history and decided to join the reserves during his undergraduate studies at Duke University. He earned a degree in physics, then spent a year in officer training and learning skills such as how to jump out of an airplane.
"Maybe I'll list that on my resume," Frank joked in his interview for the campus publication.
Like all law students, Frank is already figuring out what to do with his degree when he graduates. As a reservist, of course, he is still in the Army but he isn't waiting around to be called into action.
In the Army Now
Frank said he was interested the public policy issues that he saw in Afghanistan, and he chose Yale because of its public policy program and its emphasis on grappling with "real-world issues." He has been disappointed, however, by an "anti-military" sentiment among students.
He said he often finds himself "combating" stereotypes about U.S. activities abroad. "I think people can be quite naïve coming out of their very specific bubble," he says.
During his tour in Afghanistan, he led counterinsurgency efforts to stabilize the country by building an Afghan security force. America's efforts there have been largely unsuccessful , according to reports, but veterans like Frank learned from their experiences and he is already applying them.
Frank is working with a local police department on a research project about community policing. He applies lessons he learned about community-building in Afghanistan to combat problems like gangs and domestic violence.