Asha C. Castleberry

Lecturer, Professor | Political Science Department at Fordham University

CV in brief:  Education: Columbia University - School of International and Public Affairs | New York University | University of Oxford | Syracuse University Career so far: Defense Council Associate at Truman National Security Project | Captain at United States Army Reserve | Kuwait Desk Officer at U.S. Army Central | Co-founder & Former Chairperson of the Executive Board at International Youth Council | Veterans Outreach Coordinator at Gillibrand for Senate | Election Monitor/Election Observer: 2009 Salvadoran Presidential Election Fellowships: Adjunct Fellow at The American Security Project | Foreign Policy Interrupted | U.S. Mission to the United Nations at U.S. Department of State | New Leaders Council Find Asha online: LinkedIn | Twitter Exclusive interview by Lucie Goulet, January 2017

CV in brief: 

Education: Columbia University - School of International and Public AffairsNew York UniversityUniversity of OxfordSyracuse University

Career so far: Defense Council Associate at Truman National Security Project | Captain at United States Army Reserve | Kuwait Desk Officer at U.S. Army Central | Co-founder & Former Chairperson of the Executive Board at International Youth Council | Veterans Outreach Coordinator at Gillibrand for Senate | Election Monitor/Election Observer: 2009 Salvadoran Presidential Election

Fellowships: Adjunct Fellow at The American Security Project | Foreign Policy InterruptedU.S. Mission to the United Nations at U.S. Department of State | New Leaders Council

Find Asha online: LinkedIn | Twitter

Exclusive interview by Lucie Goulet, January 2017

Tell me about what you do at the moment. You're working for Fordham University?

I teach American Foreign Policy and United Nations Peace Keeping Operations at the Political Science Department. Next year I'll be teaching International Political Economy and International Politics and US Security Policy.

You used to work in the US Army and now you're a professor. How did you make the transition?

My US Military experience was helpful with my portfolio that the school was looking for. They were looking for someone who had practical experiences in security policy.

I came off of my deployment of two and a half years in the Middle East, working on portfolios such as Security Cooperation and the anti-ISIS campaign at a very high operational level. Those experiences alone were helpful for me to teach because Fordham needed someone who had security background, who knew how security policy works.

What did you do when you were in the US Army?

You get different assignments but the best experience I ever had was doing foreign affairs work, working closely with our allies in the Middle East, especially in the Gulf region and in Iraq and Jordan. I've also had more operational and administrative experiences.

Why did you decide to join the Army?

During my freshman year, I joined the Reserve Officer Training Course (ROTC). I joined to earn a scholarship so I could pay my way to school. Once you join and you sign a contract, you owe the US Military a certain amount of years, so as soon as I got out of college I was commissioned in the US Military or US Army Reserves.

Has being a woman of colour influenced your experience of being in the Army?

It definitely stands out because in the Officer Corps, women have a very low representation. We're probably under 20%. When you break it down to women of colour, it's even smaller, less than 15 or 10%. The majority of peers are Caucasian men. In addition, the majority of my peers were from the Mid-West and the South.

What was helpful, especially in operational and strategic work, is the fact that we get the opportunity to incorporate gender perspectives. There are things that men are not thinking of in terms of integrating a female-sensitive policy in post-conflict areas. I was there to help them figure that out, because they don't have those instances to think of those type of policies and procedures. I could influence my male peers who don't really think of those kinds of topics.

What would your advice be to a young woman of colour who wants to join the Army?

First and foremost, if they're coming out of high school, they should consider joining the ROTC programme or the Reserves. It's an excellent way to acquire leadership experiences at a young age. You get the opportunity to travel to places you would never think you will end up going to. On top of that, you have a great job. When I came out of college, the global recession was at its peak and to be part of the Reserves was helpful in terms of income.

The US Military is opening up more opportunities for women like joining Ranger School, being part of combat roles. It's a lot more progressive. It is a great way of learning about foreign policy at a young age and of coming ahead of your peers.

You're also a Defence Council Associate on the Truman National Security Project. What do you do there? 

I’ve been part of the Truman National Security Project Defence Council since 2011. I joined because I believe in progressive policy in US Foreign Policy and National Security. It's been helpful in terms of meeting peers who feel the same way, especially veterans because a lot of vets are not really engaged in progressive policy.

What are your expectations for the next four years?

I feel a little uncertain because I still don't know exactly what the policies of the new administration stand for. You learn day-by-day. During the election season, some views were presented to the American people but it wasn't comprehensive. I feel uncertain about how the new administration is going to respond to, adapt or deal with global issues in our international community.

But so far, General James Mattis discussed policies that I support for the next administration. According to General Mattis's Senate Confirmation hearing, he supports our relationship with NATO and mentioned that  NATO is “the most successful military alliance, probably in modern world history."  He also believes Russian aggression poses a threat to our national security. Lastly, General Mattis supports the continuation of the Iran deal and praises the F-35 fighter jet program.  

You mentioned you do a lot of work with veterans and in the past, you've done veterans outreach for a Senate campaign. Why is it important for you to be involved with the veterans?

The veteran community has a range of issues that are still outstanding, for instance reforming the VA. You have issues with regards to the GI Bill. You have mental health issues, from the Vietnam vets to the Iraq and Afghanistan vets.

Unfortunately, we're not represented too much when it comes to policy. You don't hear us in the business of crafting policy for vets. We are boisterous on what we believe in but when it comes to the power of getting it done, sometimes we lack that representation. It was very important to me to be part of a Senate campaign that helped influence policy on what veterans needed. That's why I continue my role in the Democratic National Committee Veterans Council.

As a closing question, how can we get more women involved in security and defence policy?

A lot of women tend to go into development, a little more diplomacy. When it comes to defence issues we are lacking. It tends to be lonely.

I think it's because it comes off a little bit masculine to be a part of defence policy. When it comes to sponsoring or mentoring people to get involved in defence policy, men are recruiting men. When it comes to considering women, they don't think of a woman right away. That's why a lot of women that are coming up deal with softer issues, which is development, aid and diplomacy. That's a real big problem and we need more women involved in defence and we have a long way to go.

One last point is the leadership Chiefs too. There aren't that many females who are in leadership positions when it comes to defence. When a younger woman's looking up she doesn't see a female talking about military operations all the time.