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A Major Coincidence

Fuqua Friends Follow Parallel Patriotic Paths

April 04, 2008
U.S. Army Major Michael McElrath and Major Chip Daniels.
A Major Coincidence

Fuqua Friends Follow Parallel Patriotic Paths

When U.S. Army Major Michael McElrath briefed the man relieving him in Iraqback in 2006, he knew he was leaving his post in good hands. He was already familiar with the fellow taking over his job: his friend Major Chip Daniels, a fellow Fuqua alumna. McElrath (Class of 2002) and Daniels (Class of 2003) have a third friend, Major Everett Spain, who is also a Fuqua graduate (Class of 2002) serving in Iraq on the staff of General David Petraeus. The three studied together at Fuqua and later served on the staff at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Now they are using their MBA experiences to help restore Iraq's security and infrastructure.

McElrath and Daniels have had frequent contact in Baghdad with Spain, who handles executive assistant responsibilities as aide-de-camp to General Petraeus. The three share a bond that stretches from the battlefields of Iraqthrough West Point and all the way back to halls of Fuqua.

Everett recently crossed paths with yet another pal from Fuqua, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Andrew Frankel (Class of 2002), who was in Baghdadin an intelligence capacity. "One of my favorite things about being a Fuqua grad is having true friends like Chip, Mike and Andrew wherever I go - even halfway around the world," Everett said.

"A lot of what we do in Iraqrequires building partnerships," said Daniels, who returned from Baghdad in January after a fifteen-month tour and is currently based in Texas. "All those projects we did at Fuqua - working together with international students, gaining an understanding of other cultures, identifying our common interests - all those things are critical to reaching our goals in Iraq."

Among the larger projects for McElrath - and subsequently, Daniels - have been overseeing the reconstruction of water lines, repairing the sewer system, and re-establishing municipal services in Baghdad. "As students at Fuqua, we had to think about how to build programs and identify the right people to put the pieces together," said Daniels. "The same problem-solving processes apply in Iraq. Who wants to help get clean water to a neighborhood? Who doesn't want to help? How can we overcome that resistance? We had to ask the same questions when we looked at the security situation. Who wants peace? Who wants the violence to continue? You are constantly evaluating shared interests and negotiating.

"Fuqua probably did a better job of preparing me for my responsibilities in Iraq than any other education I've had," added Daniels. "Being sensitive to other cultures and other viewpoints is essential to the Fuqua experience, and we're glad for the opportunity to apply that experience in service to our country."