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International Security Class Visits Pearl Harbor, US Pacific Command

SP17 International Security field class
The Spring 2017 International Security students on their field class in Hawaii at the USS Arizona Memorial.

At 0930 on Jan. 12, students in Professor Mara Karlin’s International Security class met on the port side of Lido Restaurant to prepare for the first field class of the Spring 2017 Voyage. After six days at sea with limited internet access, the students were initially excited about the chance to send and receive text messages from friends and family, but as the day continued they would discover Honolulu held much more than the chance to reconnect with the digital world.

After taking roll and reviewing last minute logistics, students disembarked the MV World Odyssey and boarded a shuttle that would take them to the US Pacific Command (PACOM), where Professor Karlin had arranged a security briefing. After a twenty-minute drive through the heart of Oahu, the class arrived at the gates of PACOM.

They were then treated to an exclusive briefing of U.S. Pacific security conducted by Senior Intelligence Analyst Loren Johnson and Colonel Kris Smith. The briefing outlined the top priorities of the US strategic command in regard to the conflicts arising throughout the Pacific theatre. Students were shown charts and maps depicting the numerous areas of the region where PACOM devotes not only diplomatic but military resources.

“As an International Student, to be able to get context for US military spending was very helpful,” Gap-year student Adrian Lask said. “I live in Mexico City, and we know that you all spend tons of money on your military. To see all the places on the chart where the money was being spent, it was like ‘Finally, it all makes sense!’”

To Olivia Sanchez, Administration and Policy Studies major from the University of Virginia, the briefing illuminated a side to national security that does not often enter the public mindset.

“When you see what level of high risk they’re working with and what they have to think about when they’re putting people out there and to have that pressure on their shoulders, it’s very humanizing,” Sanchez said.

The students’ journey continued to the U.S. Aviation Museum, where they ate a quick lunch while continuing to ask Col. Smith questions about his daily life at work and at home in Honolulu. Then, it was off to Pearl Harbor, where each student was given a ticket to see the USS Arizona Memorial. Amar Granulo, a Hood College Global Studies student originally from Bosnia-Herzegovina, the memorial resonated with his own country’s history.

“It’s like going to Srebrenica in Bosnia, where the genocide happened,” he said. “I’m glad we’re here instead of the beach—it’s historical.”

field class at USS Arizona Memorial
At USS Arizona Memorial, Bennett Royce from Chapman University stands in front of wall listing the names of all the men who perished on the USS Arizona during the attack at Pearl Harbor.

For others, like International Studies student Jacqueline Chavez from the University of Florida, the visit to the memorial generated questions of cultural identity.

“I’m a Mexican-American born in the United States,” she said. “Being here is like having an inner conflict over identity. Some people will tell you that because you’re from Mexico you can’t relate to what happened here, but then other people will say that because you were born in the US you have to relate.”

Whether the students wrestled with their own identities or reflected on their homeland’s history, they were soon reminded of the common bond they shared as Semester at Sea students- learning, touching, and seeing the military and diplomatic history of Honolulu for themselves. 

  • Life on Land

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