WTU Soldiers, families hit the books: Partnership offers wounded warriors college credits
October 28, 2010
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The day after Cpl. Wiley White Jr. completed Advanced Individual Training in 2009, the infantryman realized something was wrong. When he woke up, one arm was numb. For the next few days he felt tingling sensations and pain in his arm.
Doctors discovered White had a protruding disc that was interfering with his nerves. In addition, he was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. Ever since, White said he has been living with chronic pain. Because of his injuries, he will likely be medically discharged from the Army soon, he said.
Though he admits he can't do half the physical things he used to be capable of doing, White said there's still a lot of life left in him. Just a handful of credits shy of earning his bachelor's degree, White said he hopes to pursue a career in the civilian sector counseling at-risk youth.
Through a collaborate venture among Fort Jackson's Warrior Transition Unit, the Soldier and Family Assistance Center, the Education Center and the University of South Carolina, White is getting the tools he needs to transition successfully to the next phase of his life.
The new program offers condensed college courses to Fort Jackson's wounded warriors and their family members.
White is one of 10 WTU Soldiers who applied through the standard college application process to be admitted to the University of South Carolina, which offers the college-credit classes.
The first five-week course, Western Civilization, began last week. The three-credit-hour course takes place at the SFAC for two hours, four days out of the week.
"It's condensed, but it's every day and it's during work hours, which is a relief for Soldiers because if they need any tutoring, any assistance, it's readily available," said Deborah Hauck, SFAC information referral and follow-up coordinator, who helped facilitate the program.
Hauck said that she intends to coordinate more on-post general education classes for the Soldiers and their family members. She said she hopes the classes will eventually lead to a degree program.
The course schedule is tailored around the Soldiers' schedules, allowing time for appointments, training and time off, to include federal and training holidays.
Staff Sgt. Retha Anderson, who sustained an injury to her tailbone during Airborne training, said the schedule and location of the classes make it easier for her to manage her schooling, her career and her healing.
"Being a student full time, having a full-time job and being injured can be difficult to juggle," Anderson said. "This program makes it easier to manage. It's great to be able to get my injuries taken care of and in between appointments I can go to school."
Anderson plans to apply to nursing school.
White, who said he had taken classes on college campuses in the past and knows how hectic it can be dealing with the demands of the military and traveling to and from campus, said he appreciates the new SFAC/USC program because it offers a balance.
"It's also unique because we're allowed the time to make our education a priority," he said. "It can be depressing coming into the WTU with an injury because you don't know whether you're going to (remain) in or out (of the Army)," White said. "Taking the class helps take my mind off the injury and the circumstances; it energizes my hope for the future."
Hauck said the program was designed to do just that, give wounded warriors hope and boost their self-esteem.
"We're empowering them, helping them to understand life's not over, this is just another phase," Hauck said. "We want to help them realize if they can succeed at this, they can succeed at other things."
White said attending college classes again gives him a new sense of empowerment.
"Any time I can feel empowered I feel a lot better about life," White said.