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GMC News

Deployments hit military college hard

Deployments hit military college hard

By Gray Beverley
Telegraph Staff Writer

MILLEDGEVILLE – There\’s an empty bunk in Mitchelle Paulk\’s room at Georgia Military College.

Paulk\’s roommate, Spc. Thomas Streeter, is a member of the 48th Brigade Combat Team that reported to Fort Stewart last week. On campus, Paulk is the cadet regimental commander and Streeter was his \”right-hand man.\”

When Streeter said goodbye to hundreds of cadets under their command, \”a lot of them were sad,\” Paulk said.

\”He\’s a great guy. He\’s like an idol to them.\”

Streeter was one of about 40 cadets at Georgia Military College who were activated for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Maj. Gen. Peter Boylan, the college\’s president, said he\’s proud his cadets have been given the opportunity to serve their country. On the other hand, he said, his school is being asked to bear a cost like no other public institution in the state.

Georgia Military College could lose about $500,000 this fiscal year – and as much as $750,000 next year – because of the deployments, officials said.

\”I certainly appreciate and stand by the need for everyone to do their duty,\” said Boylan, who spent 31 years in the military. \”In this case, it\’s costing the school more than we can afford. … There\’s no way that I can make up $500,000 in lost revenue.\”

All of the cadets being deployed take advantage of a state program that offers 39 new scholarships each year at about $17,000 per student. The students also receive supplementary financial assistance while enrolled. In return, they agree to serve in the Georgia National Guard for each year that they attended school on the scholarship.

Georgia Military College does not get the money if the students aren\’t there, even if the deployments occur after the academic term begins and the school has balanced its budget.

Boylan said his admissions staff has increased the enrollment of commuter students, who make up about 95 percent of the roughly 4,500-member student body at GMC campuses across the state. The other 5 percent is the cadet corps, about 250 students who reside on the Milledgeville campus.

The school\’s increased enrollment and strong \”cash position\” will help it survive the financial impact of the deployments, Boylan said. The school has a $27 million annual budget and will not have to cut programs or staff at this time, he said.

Nonetheless, he said, he hopes legislators remember the school\’s shortfall when reviewing the state budget at midyear.

Interruption

Boylan is not just concerned about money.

The general had special GMC flags made for his cadets to take to Iraq as a symbol of support back home. The cadets in the 48th also were honored at a parade last term, he said.

But Boylan, who has been in combat, said there wasn\’t much advice he could give to them other than \”be alert.\”

\”There\’s not much you can say really,\” he said. \”Combat is not an experience that you can describe in words. You can\’t describe the fear … the terror that you feel. You can\’t describe what it feels like when you kill another person. All those things live with you the rest of your life. And they leave scars. I don\’t know how you tell people about that.\”

Spc. Juan Lopez, 20, was due to graduate from GMC this spring. Instead, he\’ll be going to war.

\”I\’m not upset,\” he said. \”I\’m going to see my friends there. I get to serve with them and make more friends.\”

Lopez, who wants to continue his studies at Georgia Tech, said a free trip to Iraq is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He signed up for the National Guard for the state scholarship, which he said both his sister and brother received.

Spc. Shandale Funderburg, a sophomore who holds the rank of captain at Georgia Military College, said he missed a year of school to help secure Fort Gordon in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

The 21-year-old said he was excited at first. Those feelings turned into being scared about the possibility of going to war, Funderburg said, followed by being upset that his life had been interrupted.

\”Even as patriotic as they might be,\” Boylan said, \”they simply don\’t want to have their education interrupted. … My feeling is the cadets think it\’s pretty exciting, and they\’ll think it\’s exciting until they get over there.\”

The Iraq war will \”vastly diminish\” his cadets\’ desire to continue in the Guard and will create a \”severe recruiting and retention problem\” for the school, Boylan said.

Loyalty

The college is working to counter the effects of deployment.

Larry Peevy, a GMC vice president who spent 23 years in the Army Reserve, said the school is working on an online correspondence program for students to finish their studies while away.

There are typically 78 of the cadet scholarships offered at Georgia Military College at any given time. Peevy said the two-year college has received permission to award more than the regular allotment next year, to help offset current losses. When the deployed cadets return, fewer new scholarships will be offered if necessary to accommodate those who already have been promised one.

Sgt. Dave Bill, GMC assistant director of admissions and a member of the 48th, said he probably could have avoided going to Iraq. But he felt obligated to serve with the cadets he helped recruit.

\”I felt loyalty to them and a responsibility to be there with them,\” said Bill, 43.

Bill said while in Iraq he will be taking photographs of the GMC soldiers and corresponding with their families.

Boylan said cadets have been to missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans. But those deployments came with more notice and were staggered, he and Peevy said.

This is the largest single deployment of cadets in Boylan\’s 13 years at the school, he said.

Cadets are aware of the possibility of deployment, said head cadet Paulk.

\”As soon as you sign on the dotted line, it\’s always there,\” said Paulk, 20. \”You never know what\’s going to happen.\”

Paulk said he and his roommate \”meshed really well\” in their duties on campus, and \”I\’m sure he can do it overseas, too.\”

\”As much as possible I want to keep in touch with him. Hopefully, one day we\’ll wind up working together again,\” Paulk said. \”I\’m going to miss him. I love him like a brother.\”

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To contact Gray Beverley, call 744-4494 or e-mail gbeverley@macontel.com.