Academic aptitude needed as military emphasizes cultural assimilation

 

By Robin Respaut '07
 

Matt Schofield '82
Col. Matt Schofield '82, right, with the 520th Theater Army Medical Laboratory detachment, in Kuwait in 2003. Schofield commanded the unit as it searched for weapons of mass destruction.

As a member of the Vermont National Guard, Matt Schofield ’82 loved the activities offered. “We were doing a lot of neat stuff, like ice climbing, skiing, jumping out of helicopters. To be honest, [the military] sounded like it would be fun.” He entered the Army as an Army Medical Service Corps officer nine years after graduating from Colby.

But he did not spend time “in the sandbox” until 2003, when the unit he commanded established a laboratory in Kuwait to provide identification of weapons-of-mass-destruction materials. Another portion of the unit accompanied troops in Iraq.

Today Schofield is an Army colonel and president of the U.S. Army Medical Department Board, an independent agency that oversees medical care for the Army, from the battlefield to U.S. hospitals and other health-care providers.

Schofield said he’s seen changes in the needs and expectations of the military over the course of his career. He remembered a saying from his early years in the Army. “One of the best identifiers that a West Point cadet is not going to make it,” the old saw said, “is a verbal SAT score of 750 or better,” suggesting that academically oriented cadets were more likely to chafe under a strict military regimen.

That mindset has changed, Schofield said. “About three or four years ago, the Army leadership came out with a model, not just to combat with arms, but to assimilate with other cultures and to recognize the limitations of technology.”

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