Greetings, I am Chris Sullivan, and I am the first of EPIC’s new fall interns. I am in the process of completing a graduate certificate in international non-profit organization management. I graduated this past May from James Madison University with a bachelors in history and a minor in political science. After taking a course on the history of development in my final semester, I chose to pursue a graduate certificate in international non-profit management. I served four years in the US Army with two tours in Iraq.
My service in the Army brought me to the city of Ar Ramadi in Iraq’s al Anbar province in 2004-2006 and again in 2007. During my first tour, my unit was able to provide security and safety for the people of the city. Upon the completion of my first tour, the city of Ramadi was a bustling city with people in the streets and schools opening. I remember one mission during my first tour, we were on patrol investigating the schools in the area. After, the initial curiosity of our visit to a school, an Iraqi kid approached one of my squad’s sergeants and asked for a book. We were taken aback, this was the first and the only time we ever heard such a request.
When it came time to deploy back to Iraq, my unit returned to Ramadi where we witnessed a very different city than when we left a year prior. Buildings were destroyed and the formerly bustling public markets were empty. A few months into my tour, we were contacted by a local sheik, who feared for the safety of his tribe in Sofia, the northern part of the city. From there we worked more closely with the local Iraqis. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work on a military transition team. The military transition team granted me the opportunity to work beside the Iraqi people. Towards the end of my second tour, the Iraqi military held a soccer match against a local club. It was a site to see, Americans and Iraqis playing a soccer match together in a city that just a year prior would have been unthinkable. My military service taught me the value of teamwork and cooperation to bring about a lasting peace.
After returning from Iraq, I wanted to find an organization that operated in the Middle East. I am excited to find an organization like EPIC that allows me to put my degree into practice while working in an area that interests me. Helping EPIC is a chance to help build something permanent and to aid the future of Iraq, its youth. I am passionate about my new found mission in life, and though the mission has come to an end for many of my friends. Mine is just beginning.