OLLU military veterans shine

Posted on Monday, July 14, 2014


Keith Frederick

Before he became known as the Father of Cyber Security, retired Air Force Captain Keith Frederick completed perhaps the most unusual final months of an MBA program in history.

In the early 1990s, Frederick would hunker down with his studies at Our Lady of the Lake University. Then he would fly to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to play a top secret role in the Persian Gulf War.

“Let’s just say I was doing the cyber security for our military networks,” says Frederick, 57. “It was pretty challenging because we had generals who had never heard of computer security at the time. When we said, ‘We are here to help with you cyber security, they looked at you like, ‘What’s that?’ and ‘Is it bigger than a bread box?’”

Frederick was not stationed close to combat. But as the war escalated, his genius and service became highly valued. “When things started happening, the generals were very thankful that we were there to help them and provide the integrity for their systems that they needed so we could fight our war.”

Frederick (MBA 1991) is one of many veterans who have graduated from OLLU. He served in the Air Force for 18 years – from 1976 through 1994 – and was among the first to recognize the threat of cyber terror. He wrote the book on protecting military computers, and invented software tools that became federal standards.

After graduating from OLLU, Frederick used his MBA to start a company that was sent to secure computer networks in the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones. Today, he runs Computer Network Assurance, a Houston-based company that specializes in cyber security for oil and gas.

He has enjoyed an adventurous and successful career, once starting a company in his bedroom that generated $49 million in revenue before selling it. One of his great challenges was working on his MBA while serving his country overseas.

“Fighting a war and going to school at the same time was a little tough,” he says. “But it was worth it. I was flying back and forth from the big sandy beach with no water – that’s what we called Kuwait and Saudi Arabia – to Our Lady of the Lake.”

He never told classmates or professors about his service overseas.

“I never let on,” he says. “I just kept doing what I had to do to graduate. That’s the way you are in the military, especially on the intel side. You hold things in. At the same time, I had an obligation to myself for finishing what I started.”

Other distinguished OLLU veterans include:

Col. John Blumentritt

In 1983, just after graduating from Angelo State, John Wayne Blumentritt joined the Air Force because he wanted to be a combat rescue helicopter pilot. Over the years, he fulfilled that desire.

“I saved a number of people worldwide,” Blumentritt says. “However, the most notable was a mission off the coast of Iceland. My team and I saved six men from the wheelhouse-roof of a wrecked ship in the midst of a raging storm. We received significant awards and the story was feature in Reader’s Digest.”

Before retiring in 2011, Col. Blumentritt served as a squadron commander at the U.S. Air Force Academy, earned a PhD in Leadership Studies from OLLU in 2009 and served as the Director of Safety for the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command.

“As the director of safety, I directed flight, ground and weapons safety programs involving about 77,000 people,” he says, “who were responsible for training over 258,000 students annually.”

Col. Gil Coronado

In 1952, the Air Force provided a literal wake-up call for 16-year-old Gil Coronado. “I remember distinctly that wake-up call at 4 o’clock in the morning and thought, ‘Oh man, I made a serious mistake,’” Coronado says. “There were a bunch of guys and a sergeant yelling at you. But it was a good lesson in life.”

Coronado joined the military to escape a life of delinquency on San Antonio’s West Side. What he discovered was a system of structure and discipline that made him mature. “I started changing my attitude toward life,” he says. “I developed a sense that my actions affected other people. It was a different experience from that of the barrio.”

He learned those early lessons well. Coronado (BA Sociology 1975) received a series of promotions and began mentoring military newcomers who were raw and rough-around-the-edges. Though he was named European Commander of the Year in 1982 and was inducted into the U.S. Army Officer Candidates School Hall of Fame, he treasures one achievement above all others.

“I think the highlight is that I was able to serve as an organizational commander for half my career,” says Coronado, who retired in 1989. “I could see that when I dealt with young people at Lackland – helping with their morale and welfare – I could sense that I was making a difference.”

Sgt. Eric Alva

While leading a supply unit of Marines in Iraq, Staff Sgt. Eric Alva stepped on a landmine. The explosion cost Alva his right leg. On March 21, 2003, he became the first U.S. service member to be seriously injured in the Iraq war. He received a medical discharge, and President George W. Bush awarded him a Purple Heart.

The war injury cut short a career Alva had dreamed about since his youth. His father and grandfather were both Marine veterans. Alva, in fact, inherited his middle name – “Fidelis” – from them. The Marine Corps motto, “Semper Fidelis,” means “always faithful.”

Alva joined the Marines in 1990, one year after graduating from Memorial High School. He stood only 5-foot-1. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant in 2000. On the first day of Operation Iraqi Freedom three years later, he stepped on the land mine.

He has become a spokesman for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and earned a Bachelor of Social Work from OLLU in 2008, and a Master of Social Work in 2009. Alva has earned much acclaim since his discharge. He received the Heroes and Heritage Award from La Raza, the Patriot Award from the city of San Antonio and the Public Citizen Award from the National Association of Social Workers. In addition, People magazine honored him with the “Heroes Among Us Award.”

Sgt. Eric Lucero

The highlight of Marine Staff Sgt. Lucero’s 8 ½-years of service came while he was stationed on the East Coast. In Fort Meade, Maryland, Lucero used his communications skills to serve as a Journalism and Public Affairs instructor at the Defense Information School.

“Being able to mentor young Marines as they began their careers allowed me to serve my last few years in the Marines and feel as if I were giving back to the military, which had done so much for me,” Lucero says.

Lucero enlisted in 2000 and ended his service in June 2009. He earned a degree in Communication Arts from OLLU in 2010. “My degree from OLLU was special because the staff and faculty were so receptive to military veterans,” he says. “Being able to reach out to other veterans while in school helped me to understand what was needed to be successful in the classroom.”

Today, Lucero works as a civilian for U.S. Army South, a unit responsible for all Army activities in the Caribbean, Central America and South America. “I work in the Public Affairs Office and am responsible for traveling within the Western Hemisphere documenting the Army’s activities.”

Maj. Wes Venters

Since enlisting in the Air Force in 1986, Maj. Venters has enjoyed a career that has taken him around the world – to Iceland and Germany, Denmark and Amsterdam, Qatar and Iraq – and delivered more adventure than he ever imagined.

He has provided air support to ground troops. He has installed communication systems. He has taught Iraqi Air Force officers English. Through the Air Force, Maj. Venters met his wife in Great Falls, Montana. Through the Air Force, he was selected to pursue his PhD in Leadership Studies at Our Lady of the Lake University.

Today, at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, Maj. Venters serves as Deputy Branch Chief for a Science and Technology research organization that focuses on intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance. He calls his experience at OLLU “extraordinary” and appreciates the military friendliness of the school.

“It makes me feel great to know that OLLU has gone above and beyond to help give service men and women an opportunity to attend such a prestigious institution,” he says. “I salute OLLU and its efforts to support our military. Thank you!”

Michael Thompson

Michael Thompson grew up in an Air Force family, moving from base to base, but did not consider serving in the military until his senior year of high school. On June 7, 1991, six days after graduating from John Jay High, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

He was stationed in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and in Baumholder, Germany, where he worked as a combat engineer. “I was what my squad leader would call a grunt (infantry) with a shovel,” says Thompson, who served as an E-3 Specialist. “We cleared the way of obstacles for armor and infantry units to advance. We built bridges and did a lot of demolition work.”

After leaving the military, Thompson worked in radio and television. He enrolled at OLLU, became the play-by-play announcer for the Saints men’s basketball team and earned a bachelor’s in history in 2011, Today, he serves as OLLU’s Television Studio Technician and continues play-calling duties for Saints sports.

“I feel like my military service helped me prepare to get my degree,” he says. “The organization skills and attention to detail was key to my success at OLLU. My experience at OLLU was fantastic.”