UDC: “We Are Black History” Major General Errol R. Schwartz
UDC: “We Are Black History”
Major General Errol R. Schwartz
UDC Alum – An American Hero
It’s easy to get lost in the details of the formidable resume of Major General Errol R. Schwartz. But to truly know him, you have to start with his unmistakable ambition, determination and intellect, that has been transformed into a lifetime of scholarship and achievement.
Schwartz has always found himself in the right place at the right time. In 1972, at the age of 20, he emigrated from Guyana, South America, joining his brother and sister who were attending Howard University. He was motivated by the prospect of a better education and a thirst for learning about technology. “I always knew I wanted to pursue engineering,” he recalls. “That was my dream, my passion.”
After a brief “college tour” through the Yellow Pages, he landed at TESST, a technical college with a campus in Hyattsville, Md. His days were spent in class and his nights, working the switchboard at the Crestwood on 16th Street NW. An apartment resident, Dr. Gene Emmanuel, took an interest in the studious young man and suggested he apply to Federal City College (FCC) where he was an instructor in engineering.
It was the first of many charmed encounters. In 1974, as a newly minted electrical technologist, Schwartz enrolled in FCC and at the same time began his first “real” job as a television repairman. Once again, he engineered his own work-study program —combining sales calls with classes, determined to succeed at both. “Failure was never an option,” he says. “My parents were very strict. They had set high standards and instilled that drive in me.”
Along with that drive came a commitment to military service. To fast track his pathway to citizenship, Schwartz took a brief leave of absence from his classwork—“between Calculus I and Calculus II” — and enlisted in the District of Columbia Army National Guard in 1976, enduring the rigors of basic training as a man in his mid-20s. “Everyone else was just a kid!” he remembers with a smile.
By then Federal City College was part of the newly created University of the District of Columbia, and it was to this institution that he returned at the start of the 1977 fall semester. Two years later, Schwartz was promoted to Second Lieutenant and in 1980, six years after he began his march to secure a degree from a U.S. university, he graduated with a B.S. in electrical engineering.
He would later earn an M.A. in Business Management from Central Michigan University and an M.S. in National Security Strategy from the National Defense University. Schwartz also attended the Department of Defense Senior Executive Leadership Program, the National War College, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and National Defense University’s CAPSTONE General and Flag Officer leadership program.
In his last semester at UDC, Schwartz had the good fortune to study under two instructors who also worked at the National Security Agency. Their classes were tough—quizzes every morning at 8:00 a.m. — but through perseverance, he more than met the challenge. Impressed by his ambition and stellar academic performance, they encouraged him to apply to the agency.
He started as a GS-7 and within 18 months had moved from a technician to the project leader on a VIP aviation communications system. It was yet another smart move in his career. “The NSA was a unique opportunity for me,” Schwartz explains. “I was able to succeed thanks to my education and the Army. The University of the District of Columbia prepared me in a technical way for engineering. The Army prepared me to be a leader in society. My education, the clearances and my work ethic leveraged each other and gave me the insight to ask the right questions and the confidence to make the right job selection.”
Since those early days, General Schwartz has held several leadership positions as a staff officer and commander in the military and intelligence communities. He has served as Defense Intelligence Senior Executive, a civilian position at the Department of Defense, and Director of the National Security Incident Response Center (Fort Meade, Md.) where he was responsible for providing real-time indications and warnings of all cyber incidents affecting the United States National Security Information Systems.
In 2008, President Bush appointed General Schwartz to Commanding General of the District of Columbia National Guard — the only Guard unit directly activated by the president of the United States. He was re-appointed by President Obama the following year. Yet despite what many would call the culmination of a distinguished 39-year career, he still seeks new challenges. His current passion is the Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy (www.cgyca.org/), a National Guard initiative dedicated to addressing the needs of at-risk youth, 16-18 years old. “There’s so much lost potential among the young people in our city and they deserve so much more. As mentors and advisors, we can give them a second chance at education, structure and caring so they can become leaders in their communities and role models within their families.”
The General’s bonds with his alma mater remain equally strong. A member of the university board of trustees since 2011, he is committed to honoring the traditions of the legacy institutions that paved his way and the university that helped him achieve his dreams. “There are so many good things about the university and the entire UDC community must do better in promoting our strengths. CAUSES (College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences) and SEAS (School of Engineering and Applied Sciences) are the equal of any institution in Washington, but we need to work harder and more proactively to celebrate our successes, change perceptions and build up our reserves.”
To learn more about General Schwartz, read: http://www.nationalguard.mil/portals/31/Features/ngbgomo/bio/1/1513.html