Leading up to the Oxford Debrief

There were many things going on leading up to our Oxford Debrief. Normally, immediately following a deployment, we would debrief. This was kind of like a deployment after action review. The entire team that set up the response would meet somewhere in the world. During this time, representatives from the Headington Institute would be on hand for any psychological issues.

Before we headed to Oxford, England in August, there was still the issue of finding a new security advisor for the GRRT. I had no travel planned after Nairobi, so we began focusing on the recruiting process.

GRRT Recruiting Process

The recruiting process is never an easy one. For this position, we ran the competition twice as no suitable candidates were found in the first round. Never did I realize how much of an impact this process would become on my future career. The second round brought out some better candidates and eventually we had a good shortlist.

Initially, our shortlist was three candidates and we were ready to run the panel interviews. At the last minute, the training team recommended a fourth, Vincent Milioti Sr. So, with our four candidates, we ran through the panel process. On the panel were Doug, Killen and myself. We ran through the process in a day before debating on the right candidate.

After some diligent scoring and evaluations, Vincent was offered the position on August 8. Vincent, straight out of the US Airforce Special Operations team, was a good selection. The only issue I had was there had been no separation from military life to the humanitarian world. I knew this transition would be interesting, but we had my new partner in the GRRT. Over the years, it would grow into a good relationship.

Hard/Sahel Debrief – Oxford

Now that I had a new partner who would start in September of 2012, it was time to prepare for Oxford. This event would take place between August 13-16, 2012. After enjoying the break in Costa Rica riding my Harley, it was nice to have another trip.

Departing on August 11 from San Jose to London via Miami, I arrived in London on August 12. Arriving at noon, I took the bus from Heathrow to Oxford. When I arrived in Oxford, I walked to the venue at Saint Catherine’s College. This is where we would be holding the debrief for the next three days. This debrief would cover the HARD response of 2011 and the recent Sahel response.

The agenda for the debrief was:

  • Personal reflection and assessment of resilience. Every effort was made for all team members to meet with the Headington psychologist individually.
  • Focus on the team and how well it functioned to promote resilience.
  • How the team did with the other players in the deployment.
  • Wrap up and activity


This was my first time to Oxford, and anytime I could wander around was a good time. There was so much to see and do here. At the end of each day, which we would knock off early, we all did something. I am not sure if these debriefs accomplished much other than a paid vacation to unwind. Nevertheless, I was not complaining and enjoyed it all.

We would walk around Oxford from mid-afternoon until late evening. One day we all rented bicycle rickshaws for a wider tour. This was a lot of fun and the cyclists we had were a good bunch of people. The company we used for this was Oxen Carts, which I am not sure is still around.

Blenheim Palace

The final activity was to Blenheim Palace just north of Oxford. This UNESCO world heritage site is the home of the Churchill family since 1705.

We all enjoyed a day here getting to know more of English history. I had not known that the family still lives in the house and uses the money from the tours to pay its upkeep. Pretty crafty way of maintaining a home!

Marcela had done an amazing job setting up this event in Oxford for the team. All the while this was going on, I was preparing for my next two trips. Immediately following this event, I would have a short turn around for Panama.

I had also started a new relationship prior to this trip and was trying to maintain it. I had learned from previous travels how costly this line of work can be. But, I was determined balance things to make this one work. 6 years later, seems I have been successful! Even though I bought her the wrong size shoes while in Oxford, she has stuck with me!

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