Pat Tillman Foundation can’t fulfill its mission to empower military veterans and their spouses without the generosity of our supporters across the country. Nationwide, over 400 Tillman Scholars are striving to impact our country and communities through their studies in medicine, law, business, policy, science, education and the arts. Every “Tillman Tuesday,” we are committed to highlighting the individual impact of a Tillman Scholar, focusing on their success in school, career and community—all thanks to your support. This week we caught up with Tillman Scholar Rob Anders who was part of the inaugural class of Tillman Scholars from 2009. Anders earned his masters degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University. He spent time working for the U.S. Department of Energy before transitioning into a new job as a Solar Farm Developer.
TILLMAN TUESDAY TIDBITS:
HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE TILLMAN SCHOLARSHIP IN 2009?
“I was very excited when I was accepted to Georgetown but soon realized what a proposition it was to pay for it! I researched scholarship opportunities and came across the brand-new Tillman Foundation in its inaugural year for scholarships. Pat Tillman’s name struck a chord with me because I was an infantry officer serving in Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005 so when Pat decided to serve we were both in Afghanistan at the same time. His story and service impacted me personally in a powerful way.”
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU RECEIVED THE CALL THAT YOU HAD BEEN SELECTED TO BE PART OF THE INAUGURAL CLASS OF TILLMAN SCHOLARS?
“When I received the congratulatory call, I didn’t say anything because I thought it was a prank, or at least I didn’t really believe it. I just said “Ok, thank you,” and that was about it. I soon realized I had missed a great moment for me to show some enthusiasm and appreciation and I hardly said a word! Over the course of years being involved with the Foundation, I eventually got the opportunity to connect with some of the individuals who were on that phone call and we laughed about how lame I was in receiving such momentous news.”
WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT BEING A TILLMAN SCHOLAR THAT YOU DIDN’T EXPECT?
“Being a Tillman Scholar has inspired me to stay connected as much as I can both internally and externally as far as the community goes. Members of the Tillman community are catalysts in their own communities, doing things that have positive impacts in so many dimensions of life. The Tillman Scholars represent the best values of community which is something that I’ve been passionate about throughout my life. The community aspect of being a Tillman Scholar is so much deeper than any financial benefit.”
BEING A 2009 TILLMAN SCHOLAR AND LEARNING THE STORIES OF SOME OF THE SCHOLARS THAT HAVE BEEN SELECTED AFTER YOU, HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE TILLMAN SCHOLAR COMMUNITY EVOLVE?
“The diversity of the members of the community is astounding, especially when you consider that spouses of service men and women are also part of the community of Tillman Scholars. Everybody has a unique story. The wars are, of course, different for everyone. One of the things that’s striking to me is to see the depth and level of commitment to service from so many different kinds of people across America. It is incredible to see how the Tillman community is growing and evolving, furthering its capacity to strengthen our country’s communities.”
PLEASE EXPLAIN YOUR MILITARY CAREER PATH.
“I was beginning my senior year at West Point on September 11, 2001. My classmates and I felt like we were very fortunate to be in a position, poised to do something about what had just happened. Being at West Point at that moment really solidified for me what I wanted to do; I wanted to move to the front lines. Naturally, this was a common sentiment. In fact, my class set a record for the number of cadets who chose to branch infantry. Right after graduation in 2002—at which President Bush announced his ‘Going to War’ speech to the country—I churned through Airborne and RANGER training, eager to get to my unit. Before long, I landed in the 25th Infantry Division and took charge of my platoon, ramping up for Operation Enduring Freedom. I served on active duty for six years, including one year in Afghanistan and 15 months in Iraq.
As a lieutenant, I was privileged to serve under a brilliant battalion commander—who is now a Major General and commander of the 10th Mountain Division. Just three days before we deployed to Afghanistan, he told us at a Battalion Deployment Ceremony, ‘We can win this war without killing a single person.’ For all of us there who were eager to avenge September 11th, this was a shocking concept. The Colonel’s point, of course, was that we would focus on building rather than destroying, and that’s what he led us to do. It was an incredible journey for me to follow this type of leadership from the Commander. I was 23 years old, in what was ostensibly my first job. He charged me up with clear mission objectives, as much resources as he could muster for me, and he loaded my ruck with his trust and confidence. With that, my soldiers and I went far and wide out on the frontier and fought hard to affect positive change in the community and build relationships and infrastructure. We were not looking to destroy, we were looking to build, and in doing so we were ruining the enemy. By the end of our deployment there, we were reaping the rewards of our struggle in a complex and confusing environment and indeed we were “winning without killing.” It was an exhilarating experience, which I eventually captured and published in my book, Winning Paktika: Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan.”
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO SEPARATE FROM THE ACTIVE DUTY?
“The simple answer is family. My wife served in the military as well—she and I were classmates at West Point. After much research and deliberation, we decided that to build the kind of family situation that we envisioned, it was necessary for one or both of us to come off of active duty. This was a tough decision in many ways; for example, I rescinded my application for Special Forces. We ultimately decided to both come off active duty and it was absolutely the right decision for our family. I stayed in uniform part-time and I currently serve as a Major in the District of Columbia National Guard. I do legislative liaison work for the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, where I am, as I like to say, ‘on the front lines with Congress.’”
WHAT WAS YOUR GOAL IN EARNING YOUR DEGREE IN PUBLIC POLICY?
“Having essentially grown up in the military, I was used to taking orders and expecting my next professional assignment to come from someone or somewhere else. Coming off active duty was a challenge in that I now had the excruciating ‘burden of choice.’ I looked at going to grad school as a way to buy some time to come down from such an intense period of deployment and training cycles year after year on Active Duty. I really wanted to make a solid assessment of what to do next.
The Public Policy program at Georgetown struck a chord with me because of the day-to-day curriculum. In just looking at the things we would be talking about as they pertain to Public Policy and how policy decisions affect the “front lines” of so many aspects of our country. The infantry officer in me wanted again to move to the front lines of some important dimension of our national interest. It wasn’t long before I gravitated to the energy industry, which undergirds every aspect of the way of life I swore an oath to defend. Thus I began focusing on the energy industry and the “front lines” there, which I considered to be clean energy. My goal with a Masters of Public Policy was to see how policy choices and design affect the future of energy in America.
In my last year of grad school, I was very fortunate to be selected as a Presidential Management Fellow, which was a ‘choose-your-own adventure’ opportunity in the Federal Government. I was eager to start out at the U.S. Department of Energy, and I was blessed to work my way into some exciting roles, including as the founding staff for the Grid Integration Initiative, primary staff for The President’s Rapid Response Team for Transmission, and seven months as the Energy Advisor to the U.S. Antarctic Program. After my years in the fellowship, I stayed on at DOE as the Chief of Staff for Renewable Power. It was a tremendously exciting experience in which I was able to gain a very high-level perspective of government and the energy industry.”
AFTER FIVE YEARS OF SERVICE WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, YOU MOVED ON. WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW TO CONTINUE TO MOVE THE DIAL ON ENERGY RESOURCES AND MANAGEMENT?
“I recently started a new job as a Solar Farm Developer, serving as a Project Development Manager for the Eastern United States. We essentially go from drawing circles on a map to getting steel in the ground. The more megawatts of clean energy that we can put on the grid, the better. It’s an exciting job, one that has me meeting with very different people in very different communities across the eastern part of the country. I had an excellent experience at DOE, but I was becoming increasingly hungry to get back out to the ‘front lines’ of the booming renewable energy industry and make stuff happen. It’s been a thrill already.”
HOW HAS BEING A TILLMAN SCHOLAR HELPED YOU ACHIEVE SOMETHING THAT YOU MAY NOT HAVE OTHERWISE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO?
“Certainly the financial support for my education was tremendous at first. But in the long run, the incredible value of the program has been the community of truly outstanding people. After years of intense cycles of training operations and deployments, it was tough transitioning off of active duty. The boost I got from the Tillman community, and the motivation I still get, is that so many others are overcoming so much to make incredible impacts to improve their communities and the country. It’s a self-reinforcing network of inspiration that continues to fire me up! It’s truly a humbling thing to be a part of.”