Artillery Officer, Proud Pirate

For Maj. Daniel Self ’20, completing an online master’s degree in security studies at East Carolina University helped him to bridge the gulf between his experiences as a fires officer — Army speak for artillery — and the American public that is a main reason for his service in uniform.

Maj. Daniel Self

The Virginia native moved just west of Moore County after high school and was commissioned in the Army after graduating from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. A year of 120-degree days in Afghanistan and another six months in the Middle East fighting ISIS showed Self how America fights its battles. The rigor of academic debate and civilian viewpoints from his ECU experience, however, changed the way he viewed his role as a military leader.

“It wasn’t anything like what I expected. I could engage in debate with the instructors,” Self said. One of those mentors, political science faculty member Armin Krishnan, is an expert in the ways modern warfare is morphing: intelligence, surveillance and the ethics of war. Krishnan remembers Self as a strong student.

Self remembered the discussion and debates about the ethics of use of drones as challenging and intellectually liberating.

“(Krishnan) didn’t have a military background, but when I was a young lieutenant, walking patrols in southern Afghanistan, unmanned aerial vehicles were like my lifeblood,” Self said. “I would always go back and forth with him. He had his opinions, and I had mine. Looking back at my education at ECU and those instructors, I wish I could go back and talk to them again about what’s going on in Ukraine.”

Self follows the progress of the war in Ukraine closely. He is the executive officer, second-in-command, of a high mobility artillery rocket system battalion at Fort Liberty in Fayetteville. HIMARS systems have played a pivotal role in supporting Ukraine’s defense of its homeland, an accountability that resonates with Self.

“The Army is a microcosm of the United States. We come from all over the place — Northeast, Southwest, the country, the city — walks of life. But at the end of the day, we’re accountable to the people,” Self said. One way he tries to stay accountable is by mentoring cadets he met through ECU’s Corps of Cadets. They ask him questions and for career advice, which he relishes as a responsibility that comes from being a leader.

Self is now a proud Pirate, but on the road to graduation as an online student he endured the taunts of his purple-and-gold Pirate nurse wife.

“She has a leg up on me. She picks on me all the time with, ‘What’s your favorite experience about being around ECU?’” Self joked.

He values the bonds that he has with other ECU grads in the Army and works to grow the Pirate brand. A young soldier in his unit wants to be a nurse and participate in ROTC. There are a select few schools in North Carolina that offer both, and Self told her ECU was the right choice.

“If you want to do ROTC and get your Bachelor of Science in nursing,” he said, “there’s only one school on that list.”