#046: Find your Yes with Liam Collins

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In this episode, Erick Rheam interviews foreign policy expert, Dr. Liam Collins.

Liam describes his journey from the team captain of the cross-country/track team at Army West Point to team leader of a special forces group dropping into Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 terrorist attack, to a significant influencer to US foreign policy.

Liam shares why he chose to go special forces and his journey through the selection process that led to multiple tours in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Finally, Liam describes in detail a high altitude combat jump at 16,000 feet behind enemy lines with a 13 manned special forces group to disrupt terrorist operations. He discusses what it’s like to lead a mission like that and how to lead others in chaos.

Dr. Liam Collins

Dr. Liam Collins is the executive director of the Viola Foundation, the executive director of the Madison Policy Forum, a senior fellow with New America, and a permanent member with the Council on Foreign Relations.

He is co-editor of the Routledge Handbook of U.S. Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations and co-author of Understanding Urban Warfare.

Liam served in the U.S. Army for 27 years. As a career Special Forces officer, he conducted multiple

operational and combat deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, South America, and the Horn of Africa.

Liam retired from the military in 2019 as the founding director of the Modern War Institute and as the director of the Department of Military Instruction at the United States Military Academy at West Point. 

From 2016-2018, Liam served as the executive officer to U.S. Senior Defense Advisor to Ukraine. In that position he met with hundreds of Ukrainian officials to include their president, minister of defense, and chief of defense to help them reform their defense establishment. Within the United States he met with numerous officials including the National Security Advisor, the Secretary of Defense, senior Department of State Officials, and the House Armed Services Committee to help shape U.S. policy.

Liam also served as the director of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and is the author of dozens of articles and reports related to terrorism and conflict. Liam’s work has been cited by the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security & Counterterrorism, the White House Press Secretary, The New York Times, Associated Press, CNN, ABC News, Fox News, NPR, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

An expert on the military, defense, and security, Liam routinely provides expert commentary for BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, NPR, Deutsche Welle News TV, India Today, RFE/RL, among others. 

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering (Aerospace) from the United States Military Academy, and a Master’s in Public Affairs and a PhD from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs. 

An accomplished athlete and coach, he has competed as an athlete and coached teams in different sports at multiple world championships. He won the Army’s Best Ranger Competition in 2007 and was selected as the Army’s Coach of the Year in 2011. He also has two multi-million dollar winning thoroughbred racehorses named after him.

His military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, three Bronze Star Medals with “V” devices for valor, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Sapper Tab, Master Parachutist Badge, and Military Free Fall Badge with Bronze Star (for combat jump).

Resources Mentioned

  1. Subscribe to the podcast
  2. Rise Above Chaos book
  3. Work with Erick
  4. Liam on LinkedIn

Action Step

  • Don't take no for an answer, but instead find your yes