Tech military students concerned about call for 30,000 US troops

December 10, 2009

by Quentin Anderson

Tech students like Grayson Close, a junior electrical engineering major and the brother of a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army, were unnerved by President Obama’s Dec. 1 call for 30,000 additional U.S. troops to be sent into the Afghanistan war theater to combat an insurgent Taliban and train the Afghan military.

While the president insisted that the troop increase would be temporary, Close said his brother and military students like him found it frustrating. He said his brother recently attended Tech only to have to leave for Iraq after being enrolled for only one quarter.

“I know he signed up to serve his country, but this has been almost 10 years of war,” Close said. “I almost wonder whether or not he should wait to come back to Tech until he knows the possibility of shipping out is gone.”

Close said his brother had already served two tours of duty in Iraq and the possibility that he could be headed for a new stint in Afghanistan has altered his priorities.

“School, right now, just seems irrelevant to him,” Close said. “He’s thinking more along the lines of how to get his affairs in order, how tenuous a spring enrollment could be if he does have to leave.”

Tech has had a traditionally strong relationship with military students, serving many on its main campus in addition to the school’s Barksdale Air Force Base location where military personnel are also taking Tech courses.

Linda Griffin, dean of student development and a licensed counselor, said Tech’s campus has always been attractive to military students because of its quiet nature and size.

Griffin said for those who are leaving or coming back from war, the school tries to be of assistance when the university is aware of the situation.

“[Services] would entail, however, the individual seeking out those services,” Griffin said. “One of the things you may find is that some individuals are reticent to re-enter the world.”

Griffin’s comment echoes other Tech officials like Bob Vento, university registrar, who said the school does not keep definitive records on students’ military service, but said deployments like the president’s plan have forced Tech to continue to figure out how to provide educational services for military students returning to school from war zones.

“The need to keep track of this demographic has been under quite a bit of discussion at many levels since 9/11 as the need to provide educational opportunities for our military worldwide fluctuates with the various unit deployments and intervening natural disasters,” Vento said. “But it keeps coming back to an issue of privacy and why do we need to ask that information of our uniformed servicemen and women.”

Pamela Ford, dean of marketing and public relations in the Enrollment Management Office, shares a similar concern that students are missing out on services because the school is unaware of their status and said the school has tried to encourage students to indicate their record of service on newer forms so the university can better serve their needs.

“If anyone identifies [him or herself] as military I think all of us would bend over backwards for them,” Ford said.
“Unfortunately, without them telling us, we don’t know.”