Saturday, March 8, 2014
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Husson University President William Beardsley, seen in the Darling Atrium in the Beardsley Meeting House named after him, is retiring at the end of this month after overseeing more than two decades of changes and growth.
Capt. Paul Bosse will lead about 150 members of Bravo Company into what President Obama calls the epicenter of the violent extremism of al-Qaida.
But even as they work themselves into physical shape, sharpen their marksmanship and learn how to apply a battlefield tourniquet, Bosse finds himself prodding them to expand their minds as well. If his University of Maine bachelor's degree in history taught him one thing, it's that you don't succeed militarily in a faraway place without first taking the time to learn about it.
Above all, Bosse urges his soldiers to read about Afghanistan's rich and often traumatic history -- and not just from military tomes. He sees books like ''Three Cups of Tea'' by Greg Mortenson and David Relin and ''The Kite Runner'' by Khaled Hosseini as valuable windows into Bravo Company's immediate future.
''Quite frankly, in order to be a modern U.S. soldier, you have to have a bit of empathy for the people you're trying to help,'' Bosse said. ''That doesn't mean you let your guard down. That doesn't mean that you are naive to the fact that there are bad people in and around those decent people who are caught up in the middle of it.''
So what does it mean?
''A 25-year-old male in Afghanistan hasn't seen peace in his whole life,'' Bosse continued. ''So you have to understand that before you can go there and work with him. If you don't understand that, then you're coming at it from a skewed perspective. If you were born in 1975 and you were a few years old when the Russians invaded, all you've known is war or chaos.''
Monday evening, as they gather at the University of Maine's Collins Center for their official send-off, Bravo Company will inch one step closer toward that chaos. They'll hear speeches by Gen. Libby and Gov. John Baldacci, both of whom surely will bid them Godspeed and tell them how proud Maine is of them and their mission.
But a month or two from now, as they head out onto the cold tarmac with their duffel bags to the waiting charter jet, it will be Bosse's turn to speak. What will the new company commander, who laughingly admits that he sometimes communicates with bear hugs, tell his men at that now-or-never moment?
Bosse, again, paused to think for a few moments.
''I think my message will be similar to what I've been trying to say all along,'' he finally said. ''I know they're going to be good soldiers.''
''I want my guys to be good men.''
Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: