How Col. Middleton Built an Unrivaled Strategic Intelligence Program

Posted by Allie Shipe on 6/26/22 12:00 AM

We are not primarily called to do something or go somewhere; we are called to Someone. The key to answering the call is to be devoted to no one and to nothing above God himself. – Os Guinness

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Colonel Gordon Middleton (USAF, Ret.), the head of the Strategic Intelligence (SI) program, ends many of his classes reading excerpts from The Call by Os Guinness. SI students are familiar with the ritual. He gets misty-eyed. They know he’s crying when he pulls out his white handkerchief.

Senior Ethan Lockman remembers Middleton reading the book 20 minutes past class time during sophomore year. Some people left for wing chapel, but a few stuck around.

“What’s compelling him to sit here, read us this book about calling, and cry to a bunch of people that he met two weeks ago?” Lockman wondered. The clock hands ticked further and further past 9:30 a.m.

“This is not a show about him, and he’s not gaining anything from doing it,” Lockman realized. “He’s literally here just to pass on this passion to us.” Lockman ran late to wing chapel that day, touched by how much Middleton cared about his future.

Most students are attracted to PHC’s SI program for its impressively-qualified professors and ability to place graduates directly into intelligence positions. After four years of special projects and prestigious internships, an SI graduate from PHC can bypass entry-level work and immediately jump into the D.C. bubble.

In 2018, the Cyber and AI Track was added to the major. What is the Cyber Domain and Artificial Intelligence Track? This Track in the Strategic Intelligence Major prepares students for entry into junior technical roles and future leadership roles in the cyber domain which is rapidly applying emerging artificial intelligence techniques.

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It’s all due to Middleton’s networking abilities. “Middleton knows people probably in every agency under the sun,” said sophomore Isaiah Wang.

PHC’s Strategic Intelligence in National Security major is only one of two undergraduate programs to obtain a certification from the International Association for Intelligence Education. It is the only Christian college or university to meet these requirements of professional excellence. In addition, the program has placed PHC interns or alumni in 15 of the 17 agencies in the U.S. Intelligence Community.

“There wouldn’t be a program without Middleton,” Wang said.

Col. Middleton has had an eclectic career. He spent 28 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force, transitioned into intelligence through space operations, and became involved in satellite reconnaissance. He has worked for the NSA, CIA, ODNI, and FBI.

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“I was able to understand firsthand a very broad range of both missions and organizations that I think really helps contribute to some of the variety within the SI program,” Middleton said.

He retired from the Air Force and has been at PHC since 2004. His role at the college has been his longest-running single job. In 2015, PHC launched a full SI major. “We now have something over 80 students in the SI program,” Middleton said, “and [we] have been the [college’s] largest individual major for probably the last 10 to 15 years.”

“Col. Middleton was the reason I came to PHC,” sophomore Joey Ooi said. She attended a Middleton class when she visited PHC in Sept. 2019. Before the class, she was thinking of studying law. Talking to Middleton after class changed her mind. All she remembers about the conversation was that he cried. “The reason he was crying was that he was talking about helping me find God’s calling,” Ooi remembered.

Lockman came to PHC for the SI program, originally not knowing much about Middleton. By sophomore year, he realized that Middleton had brought the whole program together. Lockman didn’t fully appreciate what he learned from Middleton until two years into college. He described class with Middleton as a long game.

“When you’re in it, it’s kinda busywork, and you rage against it,” he said. “The assignments are long, and it’s a three-credit course, but it feels like it’s six credits of work. It’s frustrating, but it will pay off down the road.”

Ooi never knows what to expect when she goes to class. He recently spent three 90-minute class periods talking about an upcoming paper, going through the instructions step by step. He cares about the details.

“There are definitely moments where I’m not sure what’s going on,” Ooi said. “But whenever I talk to him, I feel recentered and refocused.”

After she messed up a brainstorm for a 20-page paper, Middleton walked her through the entire assignment again. “As your teacher, I have eternal hope for you,” Ooi remembers him saying.

“What he brings to the classroom is absolute passion for helping you find your passion,” Lockman said. “I don’t think I’ve engaged with any other professor who cares so much about finding your calling than he does. It’s not about how to add value to your resume. The underpinning and desire to be in the SI field must be one’s service to Christ.”

What impresses Lockman most is the fact that Middleton didn’t just retire. He spent 18 years building the SI program after 35 years of his own successful career.

“I learned from Col. Middleton that sometimes the best work is thankless work,” Lockman said. “He shows up every day even when students don’t appreciate him. He’s not oblivious to that. He keeps showing up and waits for us to mature. I think he sees in us people with the ability to learn things that’s taken him 35 years to learn. And if we can go into the workplace with that as the baseline, we’ll go even further.”

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