College Vet Shares Experience Transitioning Between Duty and Civilian Life

By Brittany Hurban

Danielle Adams, senior at Western Kentucky University, has served a little over seven years of active duty — but didn’t stop there.

She continued her service in the Army Reserve and knows all about the challenges of entering back into civilian life and making it as a college student. As current president of the Student Veterans of America, she helps fellow veterans improve their post-service experience.

Adams enlisted in the military when she was a senior in high school and started boot camp on August 28, 2003. She was first assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was then deployed to Iraq to work as an all-source intelligence analyst tracking Al Qaeda and other dangers. In 2007, she was assigned to the Joint Intelligence Operations Center in England, then deployed to Afghanistan in support of the International Security Assistance Force operations. Finally, in 2008, she was based in Africa as a liaison to CENTCOM.

After completing active duty, she continued to serve in the Army Reserve at Fort Knox while studying political science and sociology at Western Kentucky University.

“Going into the reserves was a good transition from active duty to civilian life, and getting involved in school,” says Adams.

Adams enrolled at school in the fall of 2010, and because of online classes and credits from the military, she started out as a sophomore. She will eventually graduate as a full-time student after having only completed three years of classes.

Being in the Reserve and studying as a college student has been challenging due to early morning drives to and from Fort Knox, keeping up with schoolwork, and working. Adams says that veterans face multiple challenges after serving.

“Student vets transitioning between active duty and civilian life find [that] looking for employment is especially hard. Skills, work-sets, all of the responsibilities and managerial positions can be difficult to translate into the workforce and sell to future employers. Everything in the military is very structured, with specific checklists, and when you get out there, it’s not that type of structure anymore. “

Adams says that many people have noticed this concern and created groups on campuses and within communities to help veterans. She says the best part of these groups is the fact that they help connect students with good places to live. They also get the word out on different vet organizations and assist in connecting vets with others to help create what Adams refers to as, “our own little camaraderie feeling,” which Adams says was often present within the military but not so much during her transition.

In order to show support for veterans, Adams suggests becoming aware and informed about the resources available for vets.

“If you know of someone who is coming back, reach out to them. Community support is important to help people transition. We have to stick to our promises and be aware. Lots of people are starting to help by donating to different awareness functions, and by asking if they need anything specifically because everyone’s needs are going to be a little different.”

Adams is the president of the Student Veterans of America National Leadership Council and works with college administration to improve the student veteran experience.

“Personally, as a veteran, it would be appreciated if people contacted me to just say hey and ask how they could help. That would be a phenomenal way to get involved and shows that they are still supportive of our soldiers, even as the hype dies down.”

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