Students Give Military Service Their Attention


Photo Courtesy of Colin Asbury

CHS ‘12 alumnus and senior Air Force Academy Cadet Colin Asbury loudly welcomes a new cadet to basic training this past summer.

By Sara Heimlich, Social Media and Public Relations Editor

The typical college senior might roll out of bed at 10 a.m., grab some breakfast and head across campus just in time for an 11 a.m. class. However, Air Force Academy Cadet First Class Colin Asbury is not a typical college senior. His day begins at 5:45 a.m., giving him enough time to wake up, get ready and eat before training freshmen at 6:30 a.m. From there, his day only strays further from that of any normal college student’s.
Having the “normal” college experience after high school is not what every student aspires to do. For some, enlisting in the military, attending a military academy or joining a military program is a dream they have had for years.
“Part of my job includes school, but my primary focus is to become a leader for the Air Force, an officer who will take men and women into combat,” Asbury said.
Asbury trains freshmen in general military skills, physical fitness and leadership, and he works under the supervision of active officers.
Among the perks of attending a military academy is free tuition along with a monthly stipend.
“We are reminded daily that our ‘free school’ is because we are expected to pay with our lives if the mission should go that way,” Asbury said. “I don’t see that as a drawback, but it certainly was a sobering fact to confront as an 18-year-old kid. Now it’s just a fact that is part of what I’ve decided to do.”
Asbury will graduate a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force and is required to serve for at least five years after graduation. He will be attending pilot training in Texas.
AP Literature teacher Haroot Hakopian enlisted in the army for a full-time job following his third semester of college at the University of Maryland in 1987 in order to pay for his tuition without having student loans. He recommends that students looking for careers in military service focus more on similar programs such as the Peace Corps, but not necessarily the military itself.
“At the time I joined, the U.S. hadn’t been involved in a conflict for about 20 years,” said Hakopian, who served four years of active duty and two years in the National Guard. “From the time I joined until now, it’s been consistent conflict all over the world, and I know everyone understands that’s a part of the military, but that’s a huge decision to make. It’s life or death. It’s really hard for someone in high school to think that way.”
Instead of joining right after high school, many students may join the military during college or later in life.
According to an April 23, 2014 article from RAND, a think tank that provides research and analysis to the United States Armed Forces, a majority of army recruits enlisted later in life as opposed to directly after high school.
An alternative to a military academy or enlisting is to join the Reserve Officers’ Training Course (ROTC), an elective training program taken alongside regular college classes. The curriculum includes leadership training, classes and the guarantee of graduating as a commissioned officer in the military. The program offers financial support in college and a monthly stipend.
CHS ‘15 alumnus and Penn State freshman Andrew Marders joined ROTC to fulfill his desire of becoming a great leader and serving his country.
“I am willing to sacrifice everything to protect the world we live in,” Marders said. “Everyone should be given the opportunity to enjoy the freedom and liberty we are born with. The Army is a place I can do all of the above.”
Graduates of army ROTC must serve for three years in the army. They have the option of serving full time or part time while pursuing another career.
According to Marders, a notable gain of the program is becoming a well-rounded individual who lives by the army standards of “loyalty, duty, respect, honor, integrity, personal courage and selfless service.”
CHS senior Jacob Storch hopes to join the program in college.
“As I grew up, I wanted to do something without bravado, something that would allow me to achieve something bigger than myself,” Storch said. “I guess it is based on national pride and patriotism, but I really want to preserve the American way of life. I loved my childhood, and I felt the military would allow me to protect that way of living for forthcoming generations.”
CHS sophomore Richard Baker is part of Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force that teaches students ages 12 and older to perform emergency services and give students an aerospace education. Baker has recently been promoted to Cadet Master Sergeant and hopes to join the Air Force.
“I’ve always been interested in the military and thought they looked cool and did great work,” Baker said. “I wanted to be a part of that.”
CHS sophomore Guy Kibler is also in the Civil Air Patrol alongside Baker, and hopes to join the Air Force as a special agent, which he was inspired to pursue from his natural interest in law enforcement.
Though Hakopian warns of the military’s potential dangers, the lessons that he took away from it have stuck with him throughout his life.
He left the military with consistent motivation, the knowledge of how to adopt a positive outlook on life, and most importantly, having self-discipline, all lessons he could not have learned in another career.
“There’s a quote that says, ‘self-imposed discipline is the greatest freedom,’” Hakopian said. “In our daily lives you can choose whatever you want to do. Choosing to be disciplinary makes your life a lot easier no matter what you’re doing.”
Although Hakopian came out of the military with hopes of becoming a pediatrician, after he realized the amount of schooling it would require to obtain this goal, he decided to become an English teacher when one of his counselors helped him realize teaching was a strength of his.
Technology teacher James Nugent joined the military in 1980 following his college years and after job hunting but finding nothing of interest. When he commisioned, he figured it would be a temporary, four-year job. However, he ended up staying for 21 years.
Nugent started off his time in the Navy “hating” his job, but came to enjoy the constant change of pace and day-to-day ongoings.
“When you put yourself into the real world with real world considerations, it’s on you to make the right decisions and to learn from experience, not a textbook, how to be better at your job and, if you’re lucky, a better person,” Nugent said. “I don’t consider recruiting for the military as part of my job, and joining the military is not something I would lightly or casually recommend. If someone were legitimately interested in it, I would certainly talk to them about it, but it’s a very personal consideration, a decision with wide ranging ramifications.”
Nugent became a chemistry teacher after his service, inspired by his high school chemistry teacher.
“[The Navy] reminded [me] of how small I am in the scope of an otherwise huge world, but one in which I get to play a part that I’m happy with,” Nugent said. “Actually, the latter comes
with this job, too, but it comes in very different ways.”
Hakopian is thankful for the lessons his service taught him and he continues to apply them to his life today.
“There’s nothing in life now that can compare to the stress, tension and danger I was in, so it makes my daily life really, really easy,” Hakopian said. “My wife gets mad at me after she asks how I can’t get stressed out and I respond, ‘Well nobody is shooting at me, so there’s that.’”