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CDR James B. Robertson, USCG:
UAS Alumni and Officer in Charge

James Robertson, USCGIn January 2010, James Robertson, Commander, U.S. Coast Guard, assumed command of the Port Advisory Coordinating Element, working with Iraqi port officials to develop and implement a port security program to comply with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. Iraq's only deep water port and most strategic port, Umm Qasr receives nearly 85% of the country’s imports including a majority of grains and foodstuffs. Establishing a bona fide port security program is the primary mission. The secondary purpose is improving the quality of life for the people of Iraq by fostering an environment that promotes the port’s commercial sustainability to create job opportunities and reduce the cost of goods. CDR Robertson’s UAS education well prepared him for his current military duties:

I graduated from UAS with my Master of Business Administration (MBA) as a member of the North Star cohort in May 2009. I never believed the body of knowledge and skills I mastered during my two years at UAS would be put to such a significant test.

The on-line MBA program prepared me in numerous ways for this challenging assignment as I was required to interact with my cohort peers and overcome many communication obstacles. This skill has been critical. The UAS online program also enabled me to multi-task, balancing work and family needs with school demands. While I am not balancing a family, I do have to shift my focus from project to project sometimes from hour to hour under arduous conditions.

Iraq lacks MBA/MPA graduates; this condition has created a deep void in regards to strategic planners. It has been a struggle for port officials to visualize and understand the concept of a port master plan (let alone a business plan) to include the port property and tenants with a forecast for port growth. Success here is measured in small increments but they build upon each other to bring order to the port.

I believe community service is a cornerstone of life and having the ability to give back is very important. UAS places a value on community outreach and its students and staff are strong supporters of many service initiatives in Southeast Alaskan communities. Here in Iraq, I jumped at the chance to deliver humanitarian aid to the local hospital.

Robertson with young boyYou never know how or when you will be called to employ your education; and the UAS experience prepped me for success. Any achievement generated at the port of Umm Qasr, Iraq is due in part to the education I received and the critical thinking skills finely honed during my time as a graduate student at UAS. I would be remiss if I did not highlight two exceptional professors: Yuliya Ivanova and Rick Wolk, who constantly challenged me to excel as well as supported me as I considered accepting this assignment. It is their mentoring, faith and belief in my abilities that gives me an added strength to persevere in my mission.