By Sgt. Brad Miller, 158th Infantry Brigade Public Affairs March 12, 2014
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The Dale Center for the Study for War & Society at the University of Southern Mississippi hosted an open to the public roundtable event featuring Soldiers from the 158th Infantry Brigade from Camp Shelby, Miss.
Moderated by Dr. Andrew S. Weist, Professor of History and Founding Director, CSW&S, the panel consisted of seven Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who shared their experiences during times of war and fielded questions from the audience.
The attendees represented history students, veterans and students participating in the University of Southern Mississippi's Reserve Officers' Training Corps program who are preparing for a military career after graduation.
"I think this is very important for civilians to ask questions about this sort of thing from the people that were actually there, rather than what a book says or what the media is reporting," said Master Sgt. Jason Thomas, a counter improvised explosive device observer-controller/trainer for the 3rd Battalion 315th Engineer Regiment.
The diverse crowd posed questions about dealing with Post Traumatic Stress, loss of team members, and the importance of family. In addition, many of the veterans in attendance shared their experiences with the panel, comparing how things have changed in the military and the world.
"There was a good mix of questions from faculty members, veterans, and students," Thomas said. "It was really interesting to see what their take is on us and what they don't understand."
Some ROTC students sought insight from the panel members, asking for advice for their upcoming careers in the military. The unanimous advice from the panel was for the new officers to build sincere and trusting relationships with their enlisted counterparts because they will become extended family and the people they will most rely on in a combat situation.
"I think that is one of the coolest things, because you get to affect them at the base level, Thomas explained. "You get to tell them what you?'re anticipating for them and what your advice is for them."
Several of Weist's current and former students were in attendance.
Anna Barrett, a student of USM who earned her bachelor's degree in history and her master's degree in public relations by the age of 22, attended the panel. Although she didn't ask a question, she expressed her appreciation for all they have done and have gone through to ensure she had the opportunity and the freedom to achieve what she has.
"Coming from a military family, I know what those guys sacrifice for the rest of us," said Barrett. "I truly believe that the strength of America comes from our military."
Barrett said she is always honored to have the chance to get involved with anything involving the military. She feels it's important to get the perspectives of people in the military and compare what they say to her studies in the field.
"I think it's important to make things like this available on campus," said Barrett. "Students often get caught up in class work and extracurricular activities that they lose track when events are held off campus."
First Army Division East, in partnership with the Army Reserve and Army National Guard, advises, assists and trains Reserve Component Forces, in both pre and post mobilization through multi- component integrated collective training, in accordance with Army Total Force Policy, Department of the Army, Army Forces Command and First Army directives in order to achieve Army Force Generation directed readiness requirements.