2014 Tillman Scholar

Christopher Ustler

Columbia University

“With a passion for bringing cultures together, I hope to use my experience to work with our international partners.”

As long as he can remember, Christopher has been motivated to serve. Christopher’s interest became commitment as he sat in a locked down classroom in Staten Island on September 11th, home to many New Yorkers whose lives changed forever. Christopher was soon accepted to West Point where he began his Army career. Less than a year after graduation Christopher was leading soldiers overseas and interfacing daily with Iraqi leaders and the community. Christopher was struck by the responsibility entrusted to him not only for the lives and safety of his platoon, but also for the welfare of those relying on them for security, advice, and support.

Christopher had expected a long career in the military but his growing dissatisfaction with defense and foreign policy changed that. Christopher perceived a misuse of military power due to a lack of understanding of capabilities and limitations. In a society growing isolated from the military, many staffers and senior officials simply do not have the insights shared by those who have served. Christopher intends to bring his experience to the policy world and use that to inform decision makers on how the military can best be utilized as a component of US policy.

Service also left a mark on Christopher’s personal life. Having been a part of a unit for years, community is very important to him and as a result when he first returned to civilian life, he immediately sought ways to engage with his community. Notable was involvement in Columbia University’s veteran community, which not only helped veterans settle in NYC, but hosted events intended to deepen understanding between veterans and students.