October

Hunting down the bad guys

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Most English majors graduate from college and find their way into academe. Or editorial positions. Maybe graduate school. Quiet. Safe. Comfortable. Predictable. Matthew Wertz never got that memo.

The '86 graduate left the serenity of Alvernia’s Reading campus and headed to the armed forces, spending the next two decades as an accomplished Naval intelligence officer. Wertz eventually landed a spot as a commanding officer for major strike units, hunting down bad guys and gathering intel to keep the world safe.

In 2000, he was awarded the Bronze Star while serving in Afghanistan for operating a joint command center that helped save an Afghan village after a dam burst. He retired in 2005 with the rank of lieutenant commander.

It’s a tough act to follow. But the talented alto saxophonist, who has been known to bring a crowd to its feet on occasion as part of the Mount Vernon Community Band, realized it was time to shift gears. He headed back to the familiar, the place he called home as an undergraduate, to earn his MBA, an achievement he completed in 2011.

“I had wanted to get out of the ‘analyst’ part of the intel community and to get into the program/project management side,” explains Wertz. He says it was an easy choice to return to Reading. “Coming back to ‘The Vern’ for an MBA was a logical thing to do based on known education standards, accessibility and cost,” he says.

These days, he works as a senior intelligence analyst for global defense contractor Lockheed Martin, engaged on a project supporting the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). Their focus — root out Taliban members who are planting roadside bombs. And the group’s work is as complex and important as it sounds.

Their efforts enable offensive operations against complex networks of financiers, IED makers (the signature enemy weapon in both Iraq and Afghanistan), trainers and supporting infrastructure by providing intelligence and counter-bomber targeting capabilities. Pretty heady stuff for the Hamburg, Pa., High grad who spent hours in the library pondering the likes of Emerson, Tolstoy and Hemingway.

Wertz says that when searching for terrorists and IEDs, he uses the skill sets developed through his MBA training, like statistics, strategic thinking — even accounting principles to “follow the money.”

“The law course was a good exercise in what we call Alternative Competitive Hypothesis,” says Wertz, “And the ethics classes reminded me that complacency can kill.”

Photo: Matt Wertz

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