Troy University’s new program called Troy for Troops serves as a bridge for veterans crossing between the military and academic worlds.
Troy has a history of working with the military for more than five decades. In December 2012, the Board of Trustees passed the resolution that created Troy for Troops.
“The academic-speak that people get used to around here is a completely new language, just like their military-speak is a completely different language, and I’m trying to facilitate them to come together,” said retired Navy Capt. Dave Barron, associate vice chancellor for military affairs.
The challenges that veterans face are far different from a traditional freshman’s, and part of this is the change from a structured environment to one that seems less orderly and requires a wide spectrum of decisions.
The typical military student is six years older than a typical entering freshman if the military student did only one enlistment.
Traditional students are accustomed to the continuous flow from high school to college, where taking classes is a regular part of their day.
“There’s been a break,” said Ivan Merritt, associate dean of first-year studies. “There’s been an ‘I’ve got to get myself reacquainted to what’s it like to be enrolled in courses, having to go to classes and go through that learning environment.’”
Military veterans are used to being in a group setting, but when they come to college, they are alone.
The physical Troy for Troops center that is to be built in the Trojan Center in the future will provide a place of camaraderie for students who are military veterans, according to Dave Barron.
“It sounds like it would be beneficial for those who have been overseas and in a more stressful environment to the point that all they know is warfare,” said Army ROTC cadet Lauren Ferry, a junior English major from Dothan. “It sounds like it would be a good way to slowly ease them back into the rut of being civilian.”
Troy for Troops also has created a virtual community via Blackboard because a majority of the military students do not walk across Troy’s physical campus but are connected globally online.
Troy University has also joined the national program “Got Your 6,” pledging to support student veterans by enhancing policies, programs and resources for the military population. The phrase “Got
Your 6” in the military means “I’ve got your back,” and Troy for Troops implements this concept by bridging the gap between civilian and military life.
Another program that Troy University has recently added is the SALUTE National Honor Society, which is an academic organization that recognizes student veterans, as well as active-duty, National Guard and Reserve members who have displayed outstanding performance in the classroom. Each chapter is allowed to define additional criteria that students must meet.
Education is promoted extensively during military recruitment, and the Post 9/11 GI Bill offers certain benefits that differ from the Montgomery GI Bill, which came before it.
One major difference of the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the ability for service members to transfer the benefits to their family members. The military member must have served at least six years and commit to another four to pass this entitlement on to a spouse or dependents.
“It’s not 100 percent, but 90 percent of the focus is on education when we try to promote enlistment,” said Sgt. 1st Class Sean Cox, center commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in Montgomery.
According to Cox, other reasons recruits mention why they join are the general stability military life provides, leadership qualities and serving their country.
“As a recruiter, I don’t just have somebody come in and say they want to be a Marine and I sign them right up,” said Staff Sgt. Chase Morrison, a Marine Corps recruiter. “I want to find a hard core reason for why it is they want to do this and make sure it’s a good fit for them.
“Typical reasons, most people come in asking about the benefits, but the ones that join the Marine Corps, they’re in it to improve themselves as well because this is the hard route. All the branches give the exact same benefits; they pay the same and everything.”
For active-duty members, Tuition Assistance, or TA, is used instead of the GI Bill. The requirements vary from branch to branch on who is eligible and what is covered. TA allows service members to receive their education while still enlisted and covers tuition and lab fees generally. “They have to maintain a certain GPA for the classes to be paid for,” said Chief Petty Officer Todd Leibham, a Coast Guard recruiter. “If not, then they must pay it back.”
Another route that some students choose is ROTC, which helps pay for school and sets them on a career path in the military.
“Pretty much when you go through this program and you graduate from the university, you are commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army,” said Capt. Joseph Johnson, APMS/NG liaison officer for Army ROTC.
“Well, whether that be active duty, Reserves or the National Guard, that is a career path. If you’re active-duty, you’re coming right out of college, you’re going into a very demanding field, a lot of responsibility. It’s a big challenge, but also your pay is starting off at $40,000 plus housing allowance.”No matter how a student chooses to receive his or her education through the military, Troy for Troops is for support.
“You have to realize that sometimes those transitions require some assistance,” Merritt said.
“Require some ‘Let me show you the way and help you kind of get acquainted.’ Sometimes there’s not a perfect one-stop solution, but I think Troy University is really making the effort to realize there are needs like that.
“We’ve got to be ready to understand where they have been, where they are now and how we are going help them get where they’re going.”