So says U.S. Army Col. Christopher Wynder, and he should know. Wynder, UofL’s first Army War College Fellow, has led thousands of military police officers in different U.S. locations, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba during his 22 years in the service.
He is one of only 92 Army colonels and lieutenant colonels serving as post-graduate research fellows this year on college campuses outside the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Before coming to UofL, Wynder was assigned to Fort Knox’s Human Resources Command, where he oversaw career management and professional development for more than 3,000 MPs. Before that, he commanded an MP battalion responsible for the safe and humane treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, a job that placed soldiers as young as 18 in daily contact with some of the world’s most dangerous criminals.
“Mentoring soldiers has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” he said. “I’ve been a father figure to them, someone they could always talk to.”
Wynder, 44, will spend the next 10 months at UofL auditing courses at the College of Education and Human Development, conducting research and interacting with university leaders, faculty, students and community organizations. The activities will allow him to reflect on his field experience and sharpen his strategic and critical thinking skills, he said.
“This fellowship will challenge me intellectually,” he said. “It will take me out of the comfort zone of being in a strictly military environment for most of my career.”
Wynder plans to focus his main research project on resiliency.
“As a leader, I’ve experienced firsthand how much stress our soldiers have to deal with, especially when they’re far away from their families. As a fellow, I’ll be able to study psychological fitness and review the programs the Army has in place to help our soldiers.”
Wynder will maintain an office in UofL’s McConnell Center, where he also will interact with McConnell Scholars.
“Having someone with Col. Wynder’s experience as a fellow learner and mentor is going to be a tremendous broadening experience for all of us,” said Gary Gregg, McConnell Center director.
Renee Finnegan, who directs UofL’s Office of Military Initiatives and Partnerships, agreed. “This fellowship is a natural fit for us,” she said. “It’s an honor to host an officer with Col. Wynder’s credentials.”
Among Wynder’s many Army decorations are the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medal. He earned a master’s degree in public administration from Troy State University and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Florida A&M University. He and his wife, Rhonda, an Army lieutenant colonel serving at Fort Knox, have five daughters.
“I’m excited about my ambassadorial role as an Army Fellow and being a part of the UofL family,” he said.