Principal heeds call, becomes officer
January 29, 2009
More than half a million teachers quit the school system across the country every year, many of whom leave for a less stressful job. But for 2nd Lt. Jason Brewer, Company B, Training Support Battalion executive officer, teaching just wasn't challenging anymore.
The 34-year-old high school principal traded in his suit and tie for the Army combat uniform and a single gold bar, ending his 12-year career in public education for a start in the Army.
It was dream that started taking shape when he was a child.
"My father was in the Army, he did four tours in Vietnam," Brewer said. "So the warrior ethos was instilled in me and my family growing up."
But it was a dream he deferred. During his childhood Brewer always kept his first love, football, within reach while thoughts of the Army were sidelined.
Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C. awarded him a scholarship to play football.
After graduating, he tried out for the pros but was cut. He then decided to refocus his athletic career, from playing to coaching.
He coached and taught at a high school in Miami, where he met his wife. They moved to Texas, to what he calls the "hotbed for football."
After two years of teaching and coaching he wanted a change. The Army got its hands on the ball.
He started Officer Candidate School in 2000, but while he was away, his mother suffered a stroke and his father had a heart attack in the same week. He opted out of the Army and went back into education because it offered more stability.
Time elapsed and he needed to be closer to his parents in Elizabethton, Tenn., so he accepted a position at Hickory High School in Hickory, N.C. Shortly after starting there, he was named interim principal.
He grew bored of the job and a career in the Army began calling to him, he said.
He said he had a long discussion with his wife, who told him, "You got a career, you're getting older ... if this is what you want to do, go for it."
"She was behind me 100 percent."
He started Officer Candidate School in May. He said it proved challenging physically and mentally - physically because he competed against men much younger and mentally because he was used to giving orders instead of taking them.
"They've kept me working harder here than I did before."
Yet to Brewer, the Army and public education are not much different. They both rely heavily on leadership.
"The principal, to the assistant principals, to the teachers share the same tasks that noncommissioned officers or an officer has: maintaining the welfare of those students."
Brewer leaves for airborne training June 5 and reports to his permanent duty station in Anchorage, Alaska in mid July.