“Finding The Light Switch To Turn On In Cadets”: A Varied And Impactful Career In The Army And Academia

Timothy Rainey


Dr. Tim Rainey was born into an Army family in December 1957. His father was a career NCO and served as a medic. The family was stationed in Germany when Tim was born, but soon returned to the United States, eventually settling in Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland. Tim’s father enlisted in 1952 and earned his GED in the Army. His mother raised four children and later worked for a shoe company. Tim was active in sports growing up, but also enjoyed reading comics and naval history. He initially wanted to attend the Naval Academy, but was medically disqualified while attending NAPS (Naval Academy Prep School). Returning to Maryland, he attended Morgan State University because it was affordable and local, so he could live at home and commute to class. He worked hard and overloaded credit hours to graduate in three years, and he joined ROTC to help with the cost of college. He did well in ROTC, serving as the Cadet Battalion Commander during his senior year. He majored in history, tying it to his desire to serve in the Army, stating “the Army wanted excellence, and my excellence was in history.” He commissioned into the Artillery branch and was stationed at Ft. Bragg for his first assignment with the XVIII Corps Artillery. He learned a lot from the NCOs in his unit, validating many of the lessons he learned from NCOs he knew when he was growing up. This was the Army of the late 70s and early 80s, and there were many “Cat. IV” Soldiers still in the ranks who had been given the choice of serving in the military or going to jail. Even so, his unit had tremendous pride, and was selected as the first unit to field the new M198 Howitzer. His next assignment was Germany, but first he completed the German course at the Defense Language Institute, calling it torturous. In 1985, he reported to Germany, taking charge of an ammunition storage facility that contained nuclear ammunition (8-inch, 155mm, and nuclear demolition packs for engineers). He also served as the advisor to the 1st German Corps. This was the height of the Cold War, and concerns about the Soviet threat shaped the way Rainey’s mission was conducted, including multiple alerts and NATO inspections. While in Germany, MAJ Tom Walsh convinced him to apply to teach history at West Point. Returning from his assignment in Germany, he attended graduate school at Georgetown and then reported to West Point, where the department began implementing a curriculum change from teaching Western Civilization to World History. Initially, the transition was challenging, but it led to increased diversity among the faculty. He was selected to serve as an Academy Professor but needed to complete a KD (Key and Developmental) assignment, and in 1993 he deployed to Syria and Israel as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission. Returning to the Academy in 1994, he felt he was better prepared to teach, and in 1998 he became the Chief of the International Division, holding that position until 2002. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, he volunteered for active service, and deployed to Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division in February 2002, serving in the future operations cell. After returning from Afghanistan, he was assigned to the National Defense University, where he taught, led staff rides, and eventually served as the Dean from 2004 to 2006. He then was assigned as the Senior Military Advisor for the Bureau of African Affairs in the State Department. By this point in his career, many of his assignments were based on academic work he completed as an historian. In 2007, he became the Senior Military Advisor in the Permanent Mission of the United States to the African Union. In 2007, he retired and briefly returned to academia before becoming a program director in the State Department with the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) mission, where he worked from 2010 to 2018, spending much of his time traveling through Africa training peacekeepers. In 2019, he transitioned to the US Citizen and Immigration Services, finally retiring in 2023. Now, he travels for fun. At the end of the interview, Dr. Rainey reflects on his service and what teaching at West Point means to him.


name Timothy Rainey
institution Morgan State University; Georgetown; Johns Hopkins
graduation year 1979
service Field Artillery
unit XVIII Airborne Corps; West Point Department of History; State Department
specialty International History Division
service dates 1979 2007