From Music Teacher
to Air Force Major

Written by Vera Springett

“I always wanted to serve the U.S.,” says Major Raj Agrawal, Director of Operations at the National Reconnaissance Office’s Communications Operations stationed at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado—and a Ph.D. candidate in NCU’s Business Administration program.

Raj Agrawal (Ph.D., Business Administration – Management)

One of Major Agrawal’s most powerful memories as a child was attending his first-generation Indian parents’ U.S. naturalization ceremony in 1979. He recalls the gratitude he felt for being raised in the land of freedom and opportunity.

“I wanted to pay back what America gave me and my family,” says this former Texas high school music teacher.

So, after spending eight years in the U.S. educational system, Major Agrawal followed his dreams and joined the United States Air Force in 2001—just months before the attacks of September 11.

“I was in training when 9/11 happened,” he says.

“I wanted to pay back what America gave me and my family.”

Deeply entrenched in Officer Training School after enlisting, the horrific incident left him with an even greater sense of duty, determination and moral obligation to serve his country.

“I have worked in space operations for the past 13 years,” says Major Agrawal, who’s received extensive tactical experience, including space operation leadership, and achieved many honorable awards, decorations and achievements since.

Today, he is second in command of a squadron based out of Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado.

“My role is to coordinate the activities of leadership mission partners,” he says humbly.

But his responsibilities are far from modest. He supports command of a combined team of 380,and maintains 24x7 mission and enterprise networks across 72 organizations, 127 operating locations, and over 300 mission systems. His mission is to maximize intelligence availability and responsiveness for the U.S. and its allies.

Over the years Major Agrawal has been stationed at a variety of bases from North Dakota, California, Hawaii, Korea, Alabama, and now Colorado, , as well as serving temporary duty in Qatar and Germany.

“I miss Hawaii and Korea the most,” says Major Agrawal who brings his family along when duty allows. “We have three young kids—and they love every adventure.”

From Second and First Lieutenant to Captain and soon to be Lieutenant Colonel, Major Agrawal, he’s quickly grown within the ranks of the U.S. Air Force. But he's an airman with the soul of a lifetime student, having steadily pursued his academic journey alongside his military career.

“About the time I turned 40, I realized I didn’t know very much at all.”

“I finished my MBA from Touro College in 2003, and was looking for a quality Ph.D. program,” says Major Agrawal. He also taught at Indiana Wesleyan University as a doctoral student for several years before back-to-back assignments as an Air Force graduate student.

Since then he’s graduated from Squadron Officer School, the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, and Air Defense Artillery School. He’s also completed his Master of Military Operational Art and Science, and a Master of Philosophy in Military Strategy.

No stranger to attending school while serving, Major Agrawal finally transferred to Northcentral University to finish his Ph.D. from NCU’s the School of Business and Technology Management.

“My dissertation is focused on how we develop morality,” he says.

His research emphasizes the role of community and service leaders as moral agents; and how they impact other leaders so they can develop a higher sense of morality. More importantly, the negative impact of moral failures can have a detrimental effect on national prestige and international relations.

“Can you predict morality and moral development?” asks Major Agrawal. “Is religiosity a contributing factor?”

“My dissertation is focused on how we develop morality.”

These are just some of the many questions he’s investigating while conducting his military duties and coordinating with mission partners. He highlighted Colonel Bob Gibson as a role model throughout his career.

“His leadership style is friendly while holding himself and his team to a high standard,” says Major Agrawal. “He’s interested in his team and values people.”

Colonel Bob Gibson also has "a great sense of humor," says Major Agrawal, all behaviors he strives to emulate.

As for his own advice for someone seeking a future in the military, Major Agrawal suggests not taking yourself too seriously when you’re young.

“About the time I turned 40, I realized I didn’t know very much at all,” he laughs.