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Bulldog strong: Students serve their country while pursuing their degrees

October 16, 2014
Rusty Harnar, a member of the Army National Guard, has been a member for six years and is pursuing a degree in computer science–Photo by Brennen Lege

Rusty Harnar, a member of the Army National Guard, has been a member for six years and is pursuing a degree in computer science –Photo by Brennen Lege

 

BRENNEN LEGE
Staff Reporter

 

Like many of the students who ascend the ranks at Louisiana Tech, Rusty Harnar has high hopes for his career after college. The junior computer science major said he would like to start his own software company one day.

 

Unlike many Tech students, Harnar is an army specialist in Louisiana’s National Guard. Over the past six years, he has had to whittle away his coursework in small doses in order to balance the two responsibilities he chose to take on.

 

“I started college for two years here at Tech from 2005 to 2008,” Harnar said. “I joined the military in 2008 because of the financial burden. I wanted it to help pay for school.”

 

Since enlisting six years ago, Harnar said he has only completed two years worth of studies. The need to take quarters on and off of school in order to deploy for military assignments has slowed down his progress, but not his enthusiasm.

 

Brown enjoys sifting through long lost records at Tech's KLPI radio station– Photo by Brennen Lege

Brown enjoys sifting through long lost records at Tech’s KLPI radio station – Photo by Brennen Lege

“The traveling was fun,” Harnar said. “I got to go to quite a few places. One year, I spent it in Kuwait and I’ve stayed in Germany for three weeks before,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite places, Germany is.”

 

As a heavy equipment operator, carpenter and mason in the military, Harnar has even been to Haiti to build churches and schools after the earthquake that devastated the country in 2010.

 

With loads of valuable experience gained through the military, Harnar is finally set to retire in November.

 

Even though his leaders would like to see him reenlist and deploy again, this time as a photojournalist overseas, Harnar said he had to decline.

 

“I’m excited to be out of it soon so I can focus only on school,” Harnar said. “I’d like to start my own software company, but it’s been really, really difficult; it’s been like juggling two completely different lives.”

 

Fellow Tech student Brennan Brown is familiar with the aspects of being a student in the military. The senior cyber engineering major is also in the National Guard but has never deployed.

 

Brown said he joined after high school for financial benefits in college.

 

Harnar displays an Army salute– Photo by Brennen Lege

Harnar displays an Army salute – Photo by Brennen Lege

“I spent the first half of what should have been my first year of college in basic training,” Brown said. “It’s definitely mostly lived up to my expectations.”

 

After finishing basic training, Brown said he was in the best shape of his life.

 

Over the course of college life, he has had to maintain his fitness for physical training tests each year, otherwise he would lose out on college funding.

 

Once a freshman, becoming a staff member of Tech’s radio station became Brown’s biggest hobby.

 

“I started during my freshman orientation,” Brown said. “I saw KLPI and thought, ‘Oh, cool, a radio station, I’m going to do that.’ As soon as I got here, I did my very first training session that fall.”

 

After holding half of the station’s executive staff positions, Brown said the fact that he got to help decide what has been on the radio waves throughout campus has been a highlight of his career at Tech.

 

Brown said he has been fully capable of the National Guard’s workflow in college so far.

 

“I do one weekend a month and beside that you do two weeks during the summer,” Brown said. “I’m getting paid for going to the drill; that’s like my hourly wages.”

 

Harnar shares the pride in his university and his country.

Harnar shares the pride in his university and his country.

“I also get paid for being in college,” he said. “They pay you for being a student on top of what they take off of your tuition.”

 

Aside from his paychecks, Brown said he benefited from meeting people from all over the world in his workplace.

 

“It’s eye opening,” Brown said. “It gave me background on all sorts of cultures all over; we had guys from Ghana, Africa and the Philippines.”

 

One of Brown’s fellow drill members, Josh Mattison, is a senior music major at Tech.

 

Mattison entered the National Guard a week after graduating high school in 2009. Since then he has learned to balance working in the National Guard while also performing in Tech’s band.

 

Every once in a while, Mattison must deal with a conflicting schedule.

 

“Being in music, I’m also in the band,” Mattison said. “Sometimes a football game, like our next one for instance, falls on a drill weekend. Sometimes I have to miss it for the guard so it gets tough to juggle.”

 

Other than those occasional burdens, Mattison said life in the National Guard is not bad at all.

 

Brown takes his army blues to the dry cleaners on his way to class– Brennen Lege

Brown takes his army blues to the dry cleaners on his way to class – Brennen Lege

Once graduated from Tech, he said his plans are to further his education by earning his master’s degree at another school.

 

If he is able to transfer units in the National Guard to his next destination, Mattison said he would have no problems with reenlisting in the future.

 

Email comments to bsl008@latech.edu.

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