Cornell University Johnson at Cornell University

Alumni Profiles

Luis del Valle, MBA '99

Luis del Valle (right) with the mayor of Husaybah, Farhan HamdanProject Reconstruction in Iraq
Before he was deployed to Iraq in March, Luis Del Valle, a longtime Marine reservist, was the vice president of capital gains at a real estate company. As Major Luis Del Valle, he used his management skills to help rebuild Iraq this year. In addition to being a team leader to a group of ten soldiers in a Civil Affairs Group (CAG), Del Valle served as the director of the Civil Military Operating Center (CMOC) in the Al Qaim region. In this role, he was responsible for the planning and construction of 79 reconstruction projects, including roads, health clinics, hospitals, electricity grids, and water treatment and redistribution facilities. "Essentially," Del Valle says, "the basic building blocks of a community."

Critical to the success of the projects was the involvement and employment of the local population. With this goal in mind, Del Valle not only met regularly with local mayors, sheiks, and contractors, but also traveled with his team to the villages scattered throughout the region to talk and listen to the people his projects were designed to help. One day might find him sitting cross-legged in his fatigues and socks in a mayor's dining room before a bountiful Arab feast, while on another he might be wandering the rooms of a makeshift hospital, face-to-face with "filth . . . flies, crying children, and adults sobbing all crammed together in squalor."

Del Valle says that the negotiation skills and entrepreneurial mindset he picked up at the Johnson School proved "invaluable" to his ability to meet his mission's many diverse management challenges. He reports that while the mission went well, many projects moved along more slowly than hoped for, due to the logistics and cost of keeping work sites safe from terrorist attacks. "Security is the 900 lb. gorilla," he wrote. "Without it, not only can you not accomplish your mission, but also, you become the low hanging fruit, i.e., a target."

In October Del Valle completed his mission and returned home to Coral Gables. He won't miss anything about Iraq, he says, except the night skies, which, out in the desert, are unusually bright with stars.

– Mark Rader