Finding my calling at JBU
MBA student utilizes leadership training from the battlefield to the classroom
Monday, March 30, 2015
I am a native of Siloam Springs, Arkansas, which as you probably know, is also home to John Brown University. I grew up in a traditional, rural setting in a Christian home, balancing my time between school sports activities and my responsibilities to our family farm. Throughout my young life, I was fortunate enough to have two parents who were very involved in church and who would instill a sense of service within me. Along with a few leaders from JBU, my father led several initiatives to Guatemala with the Life of Hope Ministries to help provide food and shelter to homeless children and families. I had the opportunity to travel with him a couple of times to assist in building orphanages for children and youth who had nowhere else to turn. This was a very powerful experience for me and really sparked my desire to serve others.
During the latter part of my teenage years, I really wanted to attend college and was extremely blessed to receive an academic scholarship from the National Science Foundation. However, the events of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks had recently taken place. I had a calling to continue my service and to pay my debt to this great country for all that it had blessed me with. Shortly after I graduated from high school, I enlisted in the United States Army as a healthcare specialist. My intentions were to serve in a military hospital (as my recruiter assured me I would) but I soon learned that a healthcare specialist was just an elegant term for “combat medic.” After my training I was assigned to an elite infantry brigade within the 10th Mountain Infantry Division out of Fort Polk, Louisiana. I spent my first two years training to deploy to Afghanistan with some of the Army’s best combat leaders.
By random chance, I was selected to report to a sister unit at Fort Polk, the 115th (CSH) Combat Support Hospital. The unit was readying to deploy to Iraq within the year and was heavily into its training cycle. Being comprised of mostly medical personnel, the CSH had very little experience with kinetic operations. My time in the 10th Mountain had afforded me the opportunity to train in roles that were not customary to the role of most medical personnel. This gave me a leg up and allowed me the opportunity to become a leader and training authority within my unit. A short time into my reassignment, my unit was gearing up to deploy. I was selected by my battalion commander to augment into an unconventional warfare role as a military transition team advisor and counter insurgency operative.
Upon my arrival to Iraq, I was detached from the CSH and picked up by my transition team. I spent the following year in several locations throughout Iraq planning and executing a multifaceted mission. I facilitated the establishment of the Iraqi Army Medical Command for the Northern and Western regions of the country. This responsibility included creating a comprehensive training program for Iraqi Army medical personnel, establishing chains of command within the medical corps, coordinating the logistics, resupply and budgets for medical supplies and trauma equipment, building and staffing specialized clinics and trauma centers, establishing medevac systems and influencing key leaders to invest in the success of the medical mission.
During that time and with the help of some very capable and motivated counterparts, I was able to accomplish my goal of readying them for a drawdown of US support – leaving them self-sustained and able to carry on their mission. Today, amidst the unrest that ISIS has brought to the region, the troops that are gaining ground are those that my team advised. I truly believe that God blessed me with the strength, the energy, and the resolve to serve the Iraqis in a way that would bring them a strength, confidence and resilience to defend themselves in this time of turmoil.
After sustaining injuries during combat operations, I was honorably discharged from the Army. For a while afterwards, I felt completely lost in my purpose. I had a real struggle with my acclamation back to life as a civilian. With time and the loving support of my family I was able to readjust and “come back home.” Through everything, I kept a very open line of communication with God. I asked him for help and he answered by bringing me an inner peace that would allow me to move forward with my life.
A few months before I enlisted in the Army I met and married the love of my life, Keslyn. Over the next 10 years we would bring two beautiful daughters into this world: Addie – 8 and Lillian – 4. In 2008 I started working nights for Wal-Mart in its Information Systems Division. In order to better support my family and to fulfill my desire to earn a degree, I enrolled at John Brown University in 2010. In 2012 I graduated from the Degree Completion Program, earning a BS with a focus on organizational management. It was no random thing that I had chosen JBU as my school. I knew from my youth and through experiences in the community that JBU had a great reputation for a very good reason. The fact that Christian principles are the centerpiece of the curriculum made it an easy decision for me.
After graduation I had the opportunity take my education one step further. Again, it was an easy decision for me to choose JBU. They offered the degree I wanted to pursue and my experiences in their undergraduate program were top notch. So far, I am midway through the Leadership and Ethics-focused MBA program. The program has been an incredible experience for me thus far and has had a very positive impact on my own business-related competencies and how I continue to develop as a servant leader. It is my hope, after I graduate, to pursue a more people-centered career with flexibility in terms of serving others through quality, Christ-centric leadership.