Episode-762- Tom Haile on Serving in the Peace Corps — 13 Comments

  1. Tom,

    It was really good to meet you and your brother at the Denver Self-Reliance Expo. I’m looking forward to hearing this episode!


    • Likewise @Archangle Mike, it was great Sharing aspects of my Peace Corps service on the show. Also, I enjoyed the Expo in Denver and meeting fellow listeners. It would be great to make a Survivalpodcast event next year and connect.

  2. I did a double take when I went to listen to the show today. I recognized Tom from his time at Lamar University when we played rugby together with a local team. I have not seen him in a few years. Great show. Thanks for getting Tom to tell his story about the Peace Corp and Madagascar.

  3. Good to hear from a fellow RPCV. Thank you Tom for your service. I was in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua 2005-2007, and continued to work there through 2010.

    I found myself with a different perspective than Tom on many points, but it is because the Peace Corps experience (like many others), is extremely unique for each individual.

    Just a few points:

    In my experience, Peace Corps’ effectiveness is largely dependent on the country program. In Nicaragua, the program was known as one of the worst in the region (worst in terms of organization and operation). On the other hand, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica were known for having extremely well-run programs. In well-run programs both volunteers and host-country nationals come away feeling better about achieving the Peace Corps mission. It is reflected in mission objectives as well as volunteer life (number of volunteers that terminate early, number of volunteers that extend their service, etc.).

    Also, Jack – The P.C. does not have the educational requirement in all cases. If you have a relatively specialized skill (i.e. housing construction), you can become a volunteer without having a degree. Work-experience CAN be enough to join the P.C. In my opinion, a mature, driven person regardless of their background is ideal for the Peace Corps. A “green” recent sociology graduate who has never held a “real” job is about the worst thing for the P.C. In my opinion and based on my experience, that type of individual can greatly harm out image.

    I think that if you are a stable, mature, driven individual and join the Peace Corps for the right reasons, you can make the most of the Peace Corps no matter where you go. If you join for the wrong reasons (i.e. 2 year “vacation” from the U.S.), you generally won’t finish your 2 years and will regret the time spent).

    I don’t intend for any of my comments to knock Tom. Great interview and it is great that he is helping with the third goal of the Peace Corps (bringing his experience home and sharing it here). Thanks Jack for providing the platform. My comments are largely based on my personal experiences as a volunteer.

  4. Thanks @D, a good point that I didn’t bring up in the interview was how diverse the country programs can be. After talking to Return PCVs, they had a totally different experience. PC says “you have the experience that you are suppose to have”. Even the PCV couple that we replaced in our own village had different friends and projects.
    In reference to those volunteers that leave early. In our Environmental group of 2007, out of 28, over half didn’t make it to the last three months of service. And in reality, no one finished their two years in Madagascar. Reason is the Madagascar government was over thrown. Peace Corps pulled the plug when they feared for volunteer’s safety, which was after protesters got shot and killed near the palace and a innocent bystander was killed by a stray bullet on campus in a separate protest.

  5. Wow, interesting. I didn’t know that about P.C. Madagascar. After hearing your interview on the show I am jealous…you did a lot of interesting projects I wasn’t able to 🙂

    In my group of 18 only one extended, and only for 3 months. A little of half early terminated. A group of 13 volunteers in Costa Rica had 12 extend, most for a year, and if I remember correctly no early terminations. I’ve heard of huge variations by country.

  6. “They… were largely on the same mission, to help people in need.”

    I’m sorry, I know this isn’t the point of the show, but I have to take issue with this. Isn’t the point of the military to win wars or in times of peace to make sure that we are capable of winning wars and that nobody wants to start a way with us? Doesn’t that usually involve killing people and destroying stuff? Sure counterinsurgency doctrine might require you to be nice to natives, but if helping people in need is really your *main* mission, then you should indeed send in the PC… the PC, not the army.

    • @Brianna,

      No that isn’t the point of the military, the point is supposed to be to protect the nation, nothing more, nothing less. There are two ways this gets done,

      1. What you said

      2. By working to help other nations and befriend them

      Two gets left out by people who should know better all the time. Nothing I did in Honduras was a show of force, in fact we were never armed except in convoy, our arms were always stored in the arms room. We were actually surrounded by a 100 man fully armed Honduran infantry who were the security force for the operation.

      One doesn’t intimidate a foe by being unarmed while he is armed.

      For 6 months we built a road, well honestly we built the road in 4.5 months and we were told we could go home early or we could stay, finish the tour and build schools. The commander put it to hands (a rare vote in a military environment) it wasn’t even close, we elected to stay and built a series of schools and community buildings.

      Nothing we did was designed to intimidate anyone, the overall operation which lasted a decade was called fuertes caminos.

      That literally means “strong roads”, how intimidating is that to anyone? The mission built hundreds of schools and over a thousand miles of road in a land with no value to anyone save the people who lived there. No oil, no natural gas, no opium poppies, no nothing. Just poor people that saw a road as a luxury item.

      Your assertion is understandable but wrong. I can see how a liberty loving person who probably reads libertarian writing would infer that the military is only for killing. The claim though is none the less extremely insulting to men and women who have done this work in such remote areas for no purpose other than to help those in need.

      Many of the anti military types need to get off their asses and go to the places our men and women serve that are not combat areas. The work is dangerous and hard and is something only we can do. While I don’t like wasted foreign aid soldiers get paid anyway and the experience gained is valuable from a skill stand point.

      Also generally the military provides vehicles, manpower and fuel and the host country provides all resources, so the actual incremental expense of this type of aid is minimal.

      Now you know the rest of the story.

  7. @Modern Survival

    Road and school building is much better use of resources compared other uses of foreign aid. Foreign Aid with no strings attached as mentioned above is commendable and should be lessons to those attaching strings to foreign aid.

    I recommend John Perkins work “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, I read it while in the Peace Corps and it helped open my eyes to how foreign aid can devastate a developing country. It’s an awesome read.

    • Perkins book is one everyone should read. Deffinitely agree and the second version of Zietgeist gives some more confessions of an economic hitman.

      Make no mistake the US has done some really evil crap in the world, we need to oppose that, the problem is the opposition is so blind they don’t see what we do right. WE WILL NEVER reach the general population if we claim a man building a school for minimum wage in a 3rd world shithole is evil or serving evil simply because he is wearing cammo and carries a gun. Such inferences is why most people won’t listen to the real abuses that our nation has committed.