Led by Master’s cohort presidents Marie Balak and Alvin Luedtke, 30 homeland security professionals earned NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security Master’s of Arts Degrees in Security Studies as most of them participated in a graduation ceremony in the King Auditorium at the Naval Postgraduate School on Friday, Dec. 16.
National Capitol Region Master’s cohort 2103/2104, which started its studies in the summer of 2021, included a range of federal, regional, state, and local agency representatives from law enforcement, fire, emergency management, and other disciplines.
Balak, a Gainesville, FL, Fire Rescue Lieutenant/Paramedic, and Luedtke, a City of Yuma Fire Department Captain, both said the diversity and caliber of the homeland security professionals who participated in the Master’s cohort, along with the quality of the CHDS instructors, offered an invaluable range of perspectives.
“Nothing more embodies CHDS than the multi-disciplinary nature of the cohort,” Luedtke said.
In fact, Balak and Luedtke decided to reach out to the entire cohort via Zoom last year even before instruction began because they said they realized the “value of coming together and leaning on each other” through the 18-month term.
Both also said their favorite part of the program was learning concepts “out of [their] wheelhouse” and having their assumptions challenged. And they said the CHDS instructors were expert at incorporating national and global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine into their instruction and used them to “contextualize and apply the principles” of homeland security.
Luedtke said the Master’s program was “very difficult,” but added that CHDS “does such a great job of offering resources and support” that the cohort was able to succeed.
Cohort standouts included:
- State of Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission Technical Advisor II Matt Davison, who was chosen as the Outstanding Thesis Award winner for his thesis entitled “Reconstruction Terror: Origins, Applications, and Implications.” Finalists for the award included Balak, Luedtke, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Supervisor Officer Jeni Best, FDNY HazMat Operations Battalion Chief Timothy Rice, and U.S. Coast Guard Combat Systems Manager Joshua Henson.
- Davison was also chosen as the Curtis “Butch” Straub Achievement Award winner for classroom leadership.
- FEMA Region 6 Deputy Division Director of Response Denise Bordelon and Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management Deputy Director of Operations Michael Giardina were chosen for the Mark Carr Esprit De Corps Award, which recognizes students whose actions instilled, sustained, and created a spirit of unity and pride within the cohort.
CHDS Master’s Program Cohort 2103/2104
- Marie Balak, Lieutenant/Paramedic, Gainesville, FL, Fire Rescue
- Nicole Banks, Budget Advisor, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- Jeni Best, Supervisory CBP Officer, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- Sean Betts, Fire Captain/Lead Search Team Manager, Virginia Beach, VA, Fire Department/FEMA, USAR VATF-2
- Denise Bordelon, Deputy Division Director of Response, FEMA Region 6
- Jeremy Chedester, Detective/Task Force Officer JTTF, Washington County, OR, Sheriff’s Office
- Matthew Davison, Technical Advisor II, State of Illinois, Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission
- Amanda Dickerson, Strategic Criminal Intelligence Analyst, Jeffersonville, IN, PD
- David Follett, Captain, Phoenix, AZ, Fire Department
- Pawel Frankowski, Special Agent, DHS / Homeland Security Investigations
- Elias Frick, Health & Safety Officer, City of Santa Fe, NM, Fire Department
- Jose Garcia, Deputy Chief, City of Santa Cruz, CA
- Michael Giardina, Deputy Director of Operations, Philadelphia, PA, Office of Emergency Management
- Christopher Gojcz, Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service
- David Greenstein, Captain, City of Tamarac, FL, Fire Rescue
- Joshua Henson, Combat Systems Manager, US Coast Guard
- Michael Jenkins, Captain, Virginia State Police
- Michael Jones Sr., Captain, Metropolitan Police Department D.C.
- Sabrina Lehrke, Logistics/Mutual Aid Coordinator, Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs
- Alvin Luedtke, Fire Captain, City of Yuma, AZ, Fire Department
- Ronald Miller, Lieutenant Commander, USCG
- Gabriela Pardo, Lieutenant, NYPD
- Veronica Perez, Emergency Management Coordinator, Miami-Dade, FL, Office of Emergency Management
- Timothy Rice, Battalion Chief, FDNY HazMat Operations
- Earl Rose IV, Intelligence Officer, DHS/Office of Intelligence & Analysis
- Shawn Royall, Special Operations, Charlotte, NC, Fire Department
- Christopher Schramm, Transportation Security Specialist, TSA
- Kyle Thomas, Senate Liaison, FEMA
- Russell Wheatley, Major, Idaho State Police
- Michael Williams, Police Lieutenant, Chico, CA, Police Department