By Jeff Keeling
Jon Morgan is a captain in the Army Reserve, and a veteran of three overseas combat deployments pursuing a second bachelor’s degree at East Tennessee State University. Until about a month ago, Morgan didn’t feel his experience was benefiting others as much as he knew that it could.
Since March, Morgan and some other military veteran ETSU students – members of the school’s Student Veterans of America chapter – have worked with ETSU’s Department of Military Science, passing on some of their experience to Army ROTC cadets. Thursday, Morgan and three other vets posed as Afghan men during a field exercise in the ETSU woods behind campus.
“We have a lot of knowledge and expertise, we’ve got a lot of tactical time, and the biggest thing is, we felt our knowledge was going by the wayside,” said Morgan, who graduated from Science Hill High School in 2000. “It’s in danger of being left behind and forgotten.”
Lt. Col. Glen Howie, who heads ETSU’s ROTC program, agreed. Howie sits on ETSU’s Veterans Affairs Council with James Morris, another Army veteran and the man who re-started ETSU’s student veterans chapter. The two were talking and agreed that bringing together veterans – most of whom were enlisted and not officers – with future Army officers could benefit both.
“We thought, if we can work together and have a little fun doing it, let’s do it,” Morris said. “What really brought these guys (the student veterans) out was playing Op For (opposition forces) against ROTC.”
It’s been a huge benefit to Howie and his staff, the Lieutenant Colonel said.
“It frees up our staff to focus more on observing cadet leader development,” Howie said as several dozen cadets and four of the student veterans walked toward the woods from Brooks Gym. “They get to continue their service and are passing on what they’ve learned. They all have at least one combat deployment, some as many as three.”
Thursday, the department’s Gus Reiley and David Smith were able to join Howie in, “focusing on leader actions,” as Howie put it. One of their cadet leaders, senior Jacob Colvin, said Morris, Morgan and five fellow veterans were a great help when they accompanied the group to field training exercises at Fort Pickett, Va. late last month.
“They bring a lot to the table as far as prior experience, and being enlisted, they definitely bring a different aspect to our training,” Colvin said.
Morgan, who’s been both an enlisted soldier and an officer, is happy to be of service.
“This is bringing it to the next generation, so they don’t make the same mistakes we made,” Morgan said. “That is invaluable.”