Liberty University: Training Champions for Christ and Drone Pilots for the Military
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This article first appeared on BuzzFlash at TruthOut.
Since its founding in 1971, the Reverend Jerry Falwell's, Liberty University has weathered several serious financial challenges: It was bailed out of near-financial collapse by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, who funneled lifeline funds to a non-profit Forest, Va.-based organization called Christian Heritage Foundation; and, Falwell's death in 2007, provided an insurance windfall that allowed the university to wiggle its way out of yet another financial headlock.
Now a new line of business is helping to grow and stabilize Liberty University. David Swanson's investigative reporting, posted on the Huntington News website and in Sojourners magazine, has revealed that this Christian university has become one of the foremost national training grounds of "pilots who go up in planes and drone pilots who sit behind desks wearing pilot suits."
Rev. Falwell's vision
Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, the Rev. Falwell had a vision. Sparked by his gritty determination, unbridled ambition, and with the help of well-appointed funders, Falwell would build an evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia.
There would be a magnificent campus, prestigious evangelical scholars, and an athletic program that would recruit athletes that could compete with big-time national athletic programs. Liberty University would become a training ground for conservative activists and future political office holders.
While the Rev. Falwell did not live long enough to see his vision reach full fruition, there was no doubt that when he died 6 years ago, Liberty had likely exceeded his earlier expectations. He built it and they came: there are now some 12,000 students on campus and tens of thousands more taking Liberty University classes online. Liberty now ranks in the top five among the nation's largest online educators, and is the nation's largest private, nonprofit online educator.
According to David Swanson, "More than 23,000 online students are in the military — twice as many as students who live on campus. Liberty offers extra financial support to veterans and those on active duty, allowing them to be credited for knowledge learned in the military and to study online from a war zone."
Liberty's drone project
Liberty's School of Aeronautics (SOA), which is located in a building near the Lynchburg, Virginia Regional Airport, has more than 600 students enrolled. Two years ago, Liberty "added a concentration in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS, aka drones), making it one of the first handful of schools to do this."
David Swanson, the host of Talk Nation Radio, and author of "War is a Lie" and "When the World Outlawed War," pointed out that, "If one chooses to concentrate studies on piloting drones, the load will include a half dozen courses on "intelligence". Liberty students can also pick up a minor in strategic intelligence and take courses in terrorism and counterterrorism. (Liberty's school of government brags that Newt Gingrich helped develop its course on 'American exceptionalism')."
Last summer, Dave Young, who spent 29 years in the Air Force and retired as a brigadier general, and is now dean of the SOA, told the Liberty Journal that "[Drones] are going to be a viable part of the aviation industry. It offers a grand opportunity for employment during a time when college graduates are entering a highly competitive job market."
Young added: "Our mission is to produce graduates who are not only skilled, but who are going to go out in the world as strong Christians."
John Marselus, SOA associate dean, concurred. "We want to have graduates serving the Lord in this area of aviation", he said.