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Cyberspace watchdog

SJU graduate heads up important military command

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December 11, 2015

By Mike Killeen

Army Maj. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone '86 visited campus in November and took part in the unveiling of SJU's new Military Honor Roll.

Life would be a heck of a lot easier if it was made up of multiple choice questions and answers.

Army Maj. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone knows that all too well. As commander of the Cyber National Mission Force, the 1986 graduate of Saint John's University has to sometimes dig deeply to find an answer.

Never fear, he learned critical thinking skills while attending SJU and the College of Saint Benedict.

"SJU and CSB provided me with an with idea or framework for thinking," said Nakasone, who visited SJU Nov. 13-15. "Life isn't made up of multiple choice questions and answers. It's really made up of being able to look at a lot of data, examine it and make creative solutions from it.

"Secondly (attending CSB and SJU) gave me a rich feeling of my faith, in terms of who I was and a sense of compassion. Thirdly, it gave me a tremendous amount of friends. My closest friends are from the Class of 1986 and 1985 of Saint John's University."

Nakasone is based at Fort Meade, which is located in Maryland between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

"The Cyber National Mission Force is responsible for protecting the nation from disruptive and destructive attacks in cyberspace," Nakasone said. "We have 2,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines stationed in four different parts of the country, and we're headquartered at Fort Meade.

"We have a millennial force. It's a young force, it's a well-trained force and it's a very capable force," he added.

An economics major at SJU, Nakasone received his commission in the Army through the ROTC program.

"We've had 51 years of ROTC on campus, with 2,500 young lieutenants that have been commissioned out of our program," Nakasone said. "We have a former U.S. Senator (Dave Durenberger, '55), a U.S. astronaut (Mark Vande Hei, '89), eight general officers and, more importantly, 2,500 people who have served our nation."

Nakasone was asked how the ROTC program was treated on campus when he attended SJU from 1982-86 in the wake of the Vietnam War, with the lingering Cold War threats of conflict with the Soviet Union.

"There was always a conversation going on whether or not ROTC belonged within a Benedictine university," Nakasone said. "It was a good discussion, in terms of people that thought it needed to be here, and people that had strong feelings that maybe it shouldn't be.

"But at the end of the day, what was most important there was a conversation about it. That is what America is about."

Nakasone has held command and staff positions across all levels of the Army with assignments in the U.S., the Republic of Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. Prior to taking command of the Cyber National Mission Force, he was the deputy commanding general of U.S. Cyber Command. He also served on two occasions as a staff officer on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He has received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star, among other awards and decorations.

Nakasone returned to SJU to help dedicate the electronic Military Honor Roll, located in the hallway between the Quadrangle Building and Benet Hall. The Military Honor Roll lists all Johnnies who have served in the military.

"One of the most important things when you serve is the idea that you're remembered," Nakasone said. "The fact that everyone's name that served across any branch of military service is captured within this honor roll is wonderful. You can look by name or by class. As the son of a calligrapher, I must also note that the lettering looks stunning. Well done."