Title: Combat To College
Author: John H Davis
Genre: Military Education, Reference
Combat to College is the book for veterans who want to win the college battle.
Veterans must utilize the unique skills and discipline gained in the military to succeed in higher education. Your experiences make you capable of not only graduating but creating the life you want after your military service. When veterans get out of the military, their plan of action often determines whether they live out their dreams or their nightmares. How well you do in college often dictates how well you do in life. Rise up to your potential and navigate college with these straightforward lessons. Maintain your military bearing, confidence and unwavering determination into your next chapter.
Make your college success non-negotiable, you earned your GI Bill and its time to grit your teeth and use it.
I went back to college at thirty. Prior to this, I had essentially flunked out of two community colleges before spending eight years in the military. My first week of classes, I told a fellow student to "shut the hell up, I was killing people in Afghanistan when you were eight years old." He certainly shut up, after being yelled at in a private college classroom by some bearded maniac covered in tattoos with a grunt-style shirt on. In the moment, I found a certain short-lived satisfaction in my proclamation and smugness in his submissive reaction. I thought I had put him in his place by asserting my military experience and dominance.
Looking back, I looked like a moron, embarrassing myself and, just as important, embarrassing my fellow veterans and the military. I don't even recall the inconsequential point I was making at the time.
My second week didn't get any better. I get significant ringing in my ears after being blown up a few times in Afghanistan. A few times a week, I lose my hearing for a short time. Of course, this happens when the professor wants to ask me questions and I'm just looking at him pointing at my ear. He responds by trying to talk louder and more animatedly. The first time it happened, I yelled at him, "I can't f**king hear you, man, stop talking to me!"
Within my first week, I recognized the painful truth that there was no way I could endure years of acting like this, especially at the private school I was attending. I clearly had issues. I wouldn't be able to survive it, no way would I make it to my goal of graduation unless I adjusted my approach. I was going to have to figure some shit out, get mature quick, and reinvent myself. I’d have to somehow go from the guy who formerly perceived himself as a badass soldier to a studious college student; that is, if I wanted to find some measure of success. I reflected on how to transfer the hard-won skills I had gained in the military to my new college environment. I am, and always will be, a soldier. I knew how to work hard, be on time, and hold myself to a high standard.
My time in the military had given me real-world experience. I knew how to be a member of a winning team, and I was willing to pay any price to be successful. I had these advantages over the other students, but I also had genuine disadvantages. I was used to the rigid, structured life of the military. Now, I was in an environment that I knew nothing about and was not qualified or trained for. I wasn’t prepared. I had PTSD from Afghanistan and anxiety about my upcoming college mission. As a combat veteran I felt out of place in libraries, Starbucks, and on a college campus. I was more at home deployed in the Middle East or on a firing range than at school. I was focused solely on my disadvantages rather than the edge that my military experiences could provide me in my crusade for a college degree.
College is a different kind of challenge, and I had serious doubts about myself and my academic abilities. I realized I was scared—more scared than I had been of getting shot at in Afghanistan. It was terrifying to think about sitting in a college class. I felt way out of my element and too dumb to succeed at this brand-new chapter of my life. I had serious doubts about whether I belonged in college. Not having been enrolled in formal education in years, I had the illusion that students at universities and colleges were just smarter people than me. I never viewed myself as book smart. When I’d last attempted the whole college experience ten years earlier, I’d failed miserably and ended up enlisting in the Army.
My third go-around in college came after eight years in the military and multiple combat deployments. If college didn’t work out this time, I would be f**ked. I had no skills outside of combat-related tasks and no plan for my life if I couldn’t cut it in school. I had the good fortune of attending a military-friendly school where I was able to participate in a work-study program through the Veteran’s Administration. My role was to assist other veterans by ensuring they received their earned college benefits and to mentor them along the path to graduation. The program exists because the VA recognizes that a system of veterans helping veterans is effective at increasing graduation rates. I took my duties seriously. These duties included utilizing the leadership skills I gained in the Army to support other student veterans’ academic and personal efforts, even during my struggles. In doing this, I learned common sense approaches to creating personal and academic growth in college for myself and others. Veterans need to utilize the skills that we all acquired during years of military service to thrive in modern classrooms. We all gained valuable life lessons, maturity, and grit in the military. I learned to not abandon my military mentality but to embrace, refine, and sharpen it for my new battlefield: the classroom.
College is a war for your future personal success and going into battle you need all the resources and tools that you can muster. Like in real battles, give yourself every edge you possibly can, because your survival might depend on it. We all start somewhere; this is your new beginning. It’s easy to be at the bottom of the mountain and want to reach the success that sits on top. The hard part is executing the grueling climb and navigating the obstacles in your path. Using the knowledge presented in this book, you can harness your military experiences and skills to create success in college. You’ll learn skills like knowing not to scream “SHUT THE F**K UP” at your teenage classmates—that is, unless they deserve it.
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Staff Sergeant John H. Davis is a decorated combat veteran with two tours in Afghanistan. He spends his time advocating for veteran causes and has received congressional and legislative recognition. John is a former VA employee, Student Veterans of America officer and is a youth coach for American Ninja Warrior classes. John also has experience teaching English in Thailand and Cambodia and History to incarcerated youth in New York. John enjoys whiskey, getting tattoos, riding motorcycles, volunteering and working out. John is America and you are too.
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