Student Veterans Discuss Returning to Civilian Life with Top Military Adviser

HOUSTON, Aug. 30, 2013 – The principal military adviser to the United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense spoke to student veterans, new ROTC students and Veteran Services personnel during a visit to the University of Houston.  

Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia is the Senior Enlisted Adviser to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the senior non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Armed Forces.  

“I’m interested in hearing from the student vets about their transition into the school environment,” Battaglia said. “I want to collect information from them. For some it’s been years since they’ve been in a structured academic environment like this. They need help adjusting, so they can have success.”

The University of Houston is home to more than 1,500 student veterans and recently was recognized by Online College Database as a top college in Texas for students interested in military service.  In addition to tuition costs, the ranking considered the presence of Army and Air Force ROTC and the opportunity for students to explore military programs while working toward a degree.   

Student veterans on campus shared their transition experiences with Battaglia and suggested ways to make the process more efficient for those returning to civilian life. Among their thoughts:

  • Begin transition to college before service members separate from the military
  • Allow veterans without SAT/ACT scores to enter a university without having to transfer in
  • Allow more college hours taken while in the military to transfer to university degree plans

“They have challenges and don’t automatically come out of the service and find their niche,” he said.  “This all speaks to the new transition programs we are implementing now in the services, so that prior to them leaving uniform and coming to college we prepare them to transition.”

Battaglia discussed the “Transition G.P.S. Program” (Goals, Priorities and Skills) launched by the Department of Defense to help service members get an early start on their transition to civilian life.  The program offers training and counseling for those transitioning to college, to the workforce or to start a business.  

University of Houston President Renu Khator welcomed Battaglia, saying the student veterans and ROTC cadets are a big part of the campus community.

“Their presence makes a big difference here, and we are vested in their academic success,” she said. “We have a huge history at this University of serving veterans.  We are proud of them and their service.”
Battaglia also was in town at the invitation of the American Legion to award five young service members with the American Spirit Award, which recognizes volunteer service. He also visited the National Guard at Ellington Field and the Michael DeBakey Veterans Hospital.  

Battaglia has served in various leadership roles around the world, including the Persian Gulf and with the multi-national force West-Iraq. He has been awarded the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with Combat Valor and one gold star, Purple Heart, Navy Commendation Medal with one gold star, Navy Achievement Medal with two gold stars, and the Combat Action Ribbon.

By Marisa Ramirez