By Associate Dean Paul LePore,
Arizona State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
When I was selected to participate in last week’s Mini Joint Civilian Orientation Conference 89 hosted on a number of the bases in and around Norfolk, Virginia, I wasn’t exactly certain what I had signed up for.
As an associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, it is not at all common that I receive a personal letter of congratulations from the secretary of defense, who congratulated each of the participants on our selection to this year’s program. Furthermore, I don’t have that many tasks as a faculty member that require me passing a physical as a requirement for participation (MJCOC requires that and a doctor’s sign-off, which I was very pleased to say I passed).
So suffice it to say, my expectations were piqued from the start.
In my current role as a university administrator at ASU, I do have the honor of helping to oversee the leadership training that happens in our three ROTC units, along with the privilege of welcoming back thousands of veterans to our various ASU campuses for continued study (at the both the undergraduate and graduate levels) after military service is over.
And while I am quite proud of the work I do in support of these efforts, in many ways these “duties” only represent the “bookends” of military careers – one, the preparation provided to our ROTC officers before they are commissioned and entrusted with the lives of others that come with the responsibilities of command; and two, the transition back to becoming full-time civilians as men and women ready themselves through university education for the next parts of their lives after their service commitments to our nation have been fulfilled.
What has always been missing (at least for me) has been an understanding of what happens to our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen during their time in service.
MJCOC 89 provided that window, and I’m pretty sure my fellow participants – various deans, provosts and university presidents – and I probably all returned to our campuses to talk about the experience, which included:
- Flying onboard an LCAC hovercraft and an Osprey helicopter
- Donning 40 pounds of tactical gear to experience how the military uses a variety of non-lethal means to control complicated and dangerous situations
- Watching the Air Force security forces train guard dogs that are used to protect our country’s nuclear arsenal
These were just a few of the awesome experiences we were able to do over our days together, but the real take-away for all of us was the opportunity to talk one-on-one with our nation’s enlisted men and women and the officers that lead them.
To sit alongside of our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in their classrooms, in their simulation labs, at their training sites and in their mess halls provided us the chance to see the depth of training the military provides and the passion by which our young service members prepare for the sacred duty of supporting and defending the freedoms that each of us hold dear.
So now I am back on my campus, unbelievably grateful for the opportunity to participate in MJCOC 89 and the chance to witness firsthand our military in action – but most of all, to get to know a few of the life stories of the men and women who make up our armed forces.
I have learned a lot from this experience – more than I could have ever have hoped for when this opportunity was made available to me just a few short months ago. I have also made a commitment moving forward to make sure I take the time to ask the veterans in my community (particularly the ones I am fortunate enough to work with here at ASU) to tell me about their time in the armed forces, their training, what they learned and what they have been able to do through their service to our country.
These are the stories of our military that we all should be fortunate enough to hear.
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