By Emily LaForme, Fort Campbell CourierSeptember 6, 2019
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Retired Sgt. 1st Class Teresa English has devoted her life to providing new opportunities and chances for success for Soldiers and their Families, in part because of a life-changing offer she was given at the age of 18.
"I graduated high school and I was attending community college on a scholarship," English said. "It was 1993, I was working loyally at KFC in the drive-thru, and an Army recruiter pulled up. He had his dress uniform on, and he asked me how $30,000 for college sounded, and I said 'sign me up.'"
English was born in Luray, Virginia, and raised in small-town Front Royal, Virginia, where she was working when she was recruited. English often reflects on just how drastically her life changed after enlisting.
"I was just a regular kid, I have grown so much since then," English said. "I'd never even been on an airplane until I joined the Army, it completely changed my life. I've learned so much, I've traveled, I've been exposed to people I never would have met otherwise."
"I chose food service as my MOS because it was close to home," English said. "I was a 94 Bravo before it transitioned over as a 92 Golf (culinary specialist). I'm definitely proud of the job that I did, it was very rewarding."
Her first duty station was in Panama, but eventually English found herself at Fort Campbell, and the rest is history.
"I spent 20 years and about three months in the Army, I spent eight of those years at Fort Campbell," English said. "I was in the 159th Aviation Brigade by then, I deployed twice, but I've always felt like Fort Campbell was home. A lot of Soldiers have come and gone, but I had that feeling, Fort Campbell was home for me."
English was stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia, during her final three years of service. She retired in 2013, and had to hit the ground running as a single mother.
"It truly was a stressful transition," English said. "I tried all kinds of things, I went to job fairs, I tried selling insurance for a while, it wasn't a good fit. I didn't want to sell people something I didn't feel passionate about."
English quickly returned to Fort Campbell and worked as a middle school and high school substitute teacher in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System for 45 days. While teaching, English was also applying for jobs on post.
In December 2013, English was hired as a higher education counselor at the education center. English was able to teach and advise Soldiers at the Soldier for Life Center, helping them on their path toward transitioning out of the Army. She found her passion again: taking care of Soldiers.
"I loved that job," English said. "In January of 2015, the Army decided to develop the Career Skills Program, my baby, and I was encouraged to apply for the position. I was blessed with the opportunity to do it. In March 2015, six brand-new regional coordinators and myself spent a week in San Antonio figuring out how to do the job. We developed the entire program, which is like building an airplane while it's in flight."
The Career Skills Program, aka the Department of Defense Skill Bridge, provides career training services and counseling for Soldier and their Families as they prepare to transition out of the Army. Through creating and managing the program, English and her other coordinators have become a Family and are proud of the program they have built and the success they have witnessed.
"There is never a boring day, someone always needs help or wants to learn how to connect with these amazing Soldiers," English said. "I'm very passionate about adult learning, that is what I have my master's degree in. We have so many success stories, this is just an amazing opportunity for our Soldiers."
English said she always wanted to feel like she had a plan, realizing it isn't always possible, and that she identifies with the fear that comes to a Soldier as he or she prepares to leave the Army.
"I definitely relate to the feeling of not knowing what to do when I retired," English said. "I know how stressful it is, but I'm excited that there are more opportunities available for Soldiers getting out of military service today."
It is now English's goal to make the transition from the Army to the civilian world as smooth as possible for Soldiers and their Families.
"If I can make someone's transition out of the service a little less stressful, then it is worth it to me," English said. "My personal goal is to make sure Soldiers are happy and successful when they leave Fort Campbell."
English takes a personal and oftentimes hands-on approach to her work.
"I've always had the instinct, whether it's the momma instinct or the noncommissioned officer's 'I need to take care of my Soldiers instinct'," English said. "I wear many different hats every day, whether they need a momma, a counselor, principal, or a senior NCO, I try to be it for them. We have to be aware of what our clients are coming in with every single day and we need to make sure we are able to serve them."
It's been a true blessing to do the work she does, English said. She often reiterates just how fortunate she feels being able to give back to Soldiers.
"The friendships that I have built in the Army, those are the people who have become Family," English said. "I've always tried to give back to my Soldiers because they work so hard for me, and it feels good giving back to Soldiers who have done so much for their country."
Not planning on slowing down any time soon, English said she still has a lot of goals she wants to accomplish through her work with CSP.
"This is the most rewarding job I've had in my entire career," she said. "It's a blessing, it's so rewarding. Just to look back and see where I've been, where I am, and where I want to go -- it's a blessing to do this."