Maurice Coleman, an active NLU student veteran, just graduated with his bachelor’s degree, and has an approximately 15-year record of accomplishment with the military. He hopes to parlay that into an FBI or similar career. We had a chance to ask him a few questions.
What prompted you to enter the military?
When I left high school, I wanted to do something positive. My brother was already in the military, and it was a great thing for him. I knew it would help me with school, and let me be part of something bigger than myself. I was thinking I could become an FBI agent.
Where did you serve?
I’ve been in the National Guard and the Army Reserves. I did 10 years in the National Guard, then I switched over to the Army and have been there about four and a half years.
In 2002, when I was 19, I deployed to Iraq for seven months. I was part of the first wave after 9/11, and we had to do things from the ground up, like set up showers, for example. I remember It was 13 days before the U.S. finished our push to Baghdad. I was trying to take it all in. It was a good mission, I learned a lot. It forced you to grow up and mature at a young age.
We had one suicide, a soldier – he had a lot going on. A close friend had a rollover accident and he died, so there was a lot with that. Then I got injured in a real bad accident, and was taken by Medivac to Germany. I had injuries to my neck and back, but thanks to the grace of God, I survived.
We had camaraderie in my unit. Even though there was a lot going on, it was still life-changing. It helped to shape and change me as a young man.
Thank God you survived and recovered. What were you doing over there?
I was a Military Policeman, so our job was to protect convoys and checkpoints, do patrols and raids, and set up security.
Then after I recovered from the injury, I was selected to be a trainer here stateside, to prepare serviceman for deployment to Iraq, Afghanistan and secondary missions on key tasks before they went overseas.
I was a staff sergeant. We evaluated about 7,000 troops from around the United States. I ensured they understood the proper doctrine (the specific standard operating procedures, tasks, and implied tasks that are utilized to complete a mission) to do the job they’d need to do overseas.
If they weren’t ready to go overseas, we were going to retrain them.
This was in about 2008 to 2011. It was the biggest mobilization of Illinois soldiers since World War 2. We had to make sure we gave these soldiers what they needed to come home to their family members.
I was also a military police investigator, for crimes like theft, larceny, assault. The work was like that of a regular detective, but for the military.
I stayed there about three and a half years, and I changed units and came up to the Illinois reserves and became a battalion crime prevention investigator. Now I’m switching jobs to become an instructor for the intelligence community.
Were you thinking about pursuing higher education while you were in the military?
School has always been a big thing for me. I’m the first in my family to get a bachelor’s degree. I told myself education was the key to everything, so I kept that mindset through everything. In order to get the job I want, I needed my bachelor’s degree.
Congratulations on graduating in June 2015! What degree did you get?
A bachelor’s in behavioral science and minor in criminal justice. I was finishing up some course requirements over the summer, and got my diploma last month (September 2015).
As you thought about what you would like to do after the military, what led you to NLU?
A friend from the military is a paramedic/firefighter with the Chicago fire department. She said she went to National Louis and that they were supportive of veterans. That’s important because the military is a very different environment.
What challenges have you faced as you’ve pursued your degree?
I work nights as a Cook County jail correctional officer. So it’s a very hostile atmosphere. In addition, I have school, and I also have three daughters–ages 2,4 and 13. So on many days, I have been up all night at work, I go to school, then it’s time for me to pick up my daughters, and so I’d only be getting three hours of sleep a night, for months. My wife works, and is a full-time student too, so I have to give her time to be successful as well. So a lot of it is trying to stay focused, have my mental focus, because I wasn’t always getting proper rest. And I’m still military, so I had to go do a mission to Korea. It’s a lot. That’s why at graduation, it was emotional. I knew how hard it was.
Has NLU’s veterans program been helpful to you, as a military-connected student, as you pursue your degree? If so, how?
I’ve gotten support from Paul Knudtson and Anne Gunderson and Ramon Prieto here at school. I’m the vice president of Student Veterans of America, so I work with them on that. Anne is an expert in statistics, so she’s helped me in statistics. I also went to the Google mentorship program and redid my resume.
I also have a great support system from my wife; she’s a veteran as well. The great support system makes it easier to attain a degree and go for the next thing.
As you think about your future, where do you want to be professionally in five years?
I want to be an FBI agent or something similar, maybe DEA. I’m working on my resume and planning on grad school. It really feels good to have the bachelor’s degree. It’s an accomplishment for me and my family, and now it’s time to look at what’s next.