Maj. Lyndsey L. Horn is a Foreign Area Officer Fellow, Office of Defense Coordination - U.S. Embassy in Mexico. She recently graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School with a Master of Arts in Security Studies (Western Hemisphere) in March 2021 and has a projected assignment as the Air Attaché to the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador in 2022. As an air attaché, Horn will act as the representative for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and be responsible for working directly with the host nation’s air force. Horn received her commission from the United States Air Force Academy in 2011 and served for eight and a half years as a public affairs officer, both overseas and in the United States. In her off time, she enjoys traveling, reading, being outdoors with friends, and drinking wine. She also hopes to have a dog (or two!) one day.
After NPS, where I received a Master's degree in National Security Studies - Western Hemisphere, I am projected to become the Air Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador. Basically, everything I studied through my program - the culture, history, economics, politics, and security challenges in Latin America - should assist me as I work to strengthen partnerships in the region in support of our nation's defense. Additionally, many of the students in the NSA department are projected to become foreign area officers like me, and though certainly hampered by COVID-19 restrictions, NPS allowed us to create a network of peers that we will lean on as we work in Embassies and Combatant Commands across the globe.
From my perspective as a Foreign Area Officer, our most pressing issue is building trust with partners and allies. Trust is critical to the success of global military operations - but how do you maintain trust? How do you amplify it? During my time at NPS, I spoke with many Department of Defense foreign area officers that have worked in overseas operations. These officers described a world where multi-cultural partners struggled to operate together. They provided insight into the challenges of working across federal agencies. They lambasted the misinformation that juxtaposed U.S. goals in the region (and sometimes, even, the United States would contradict its own policies). And these officers expressed heartache that it seemed that the U.S. Congress and the American people, those they work for and have sworn to protect, did not care about building allies abroad. Over the course of these conversations, one word kept jumping out at me: trust. They knew that if there is mutual trust amongst all involved entities, then a mission can succeed. And yet, in our ever polarizing and increasingly digital world, trust in the U.S. and what we stand for is diminishing, thus hindering our ability to achieve our objectives abroad.
If I had to leave the Air Force tomorrow, I would be most proud of being part of the teams that prioritized creativity, diversity of thought, and a willingness to fail. One of those teams exists at Travis Air Force Base, California, via their grassroots-level innovation cell called Phoenix Spark. This team did not care about your unit or your rank. They cared about your enthusiasm to learn about and to solve our service's problems. Through Phoenix Spark, they led the Air Force in additive manufacturing, augmented reality, and collaborative research with industry. We were not perfect. And we certainly made mistakes. But each week, we worked together to keep moving forward. It was innovation by the warfighter... for the warfighter.
For current students, even if you are still in the distance learning environment, I would advise you to get out there and meet your peers! Of course, follow CDC guidelines, but there are still so many opportunities to meet up (even virtually) and make connections. One of my best friends at NPS I only met once in person; otherwise, we made a point to call each other on MS Teams and check in - both from an academic and personal perspective. Rarely in our lives will we ever just get to dedicate ourselves to an academic degree and we must not forget that a key aspect in that advanced degree journey is learning from our fellow students.