For many veterans returning from service overseas, adjusting to life back at home is a challenge. No longer facing imminent danger at every turn or the rigors of life in the military, civilian life can feel un-challenging or as if it lacks purpose.
Veterans who return to college after their tours of duty often face even more challenges. According to the Washington Post, many veterans who enter college post-service face academic, psychological, social and medical challenges that their classmates and professors simply can’t understand. Some veterans report feeling disconnected from the college experience, having seen and experienced the horrors of war.
After all, when you’ve witnessed death and destruction on a daily basis, it can be difficult to get excited about a football game or social gathering. It’s not just the social changes that challenge veterans, either. After spending years with every minute of every day accounted for, it’s difficult to transition to an environment when you’re responsible for your own time.
While many colleges and universities have programs in place to help veterans transition from military service to academic life smoothly, there are many things that vets can do to help themselves. Often, the first step is choosing the right program of study. The military prepares individuals to excel in almost anything they choose to pursue, but there are some compelling reasons that fire science is an ideal subject for veterans to transition into after service.
The military relies on schedules: Soldiers rise early, follow a strict routine and rarely deviate from their assigned duties. Everything has a checklist, and failing to follow protocol can lead to disciplinary action at best and injury or death at worst. It’s similar within the world of fire science: A single error can have lasting and costly repercussions. While life on a college campus might still be jarring to veterans who have grown used to military structure, the training and preparation to fight fires provides some comfort and familiarity.
Many counseling professionals and transitional advisers note that students making the transition from the military to college feel disconnected from their classmates who haven’t seen the things the soldiers have — and from their studies, which feel trivial and unimportant. It’s difficult to feel that certain areas of study are valuable when you have seen firsthand the things happening in other parts of the world.
Fire science is often appealing, then, because it is anything but a trivial subject. Learning how to prevent and extinguish destructive fires that can harm — even kill — people and destroy property provides a sense of purpose that may be lacking elsewhere.
Provides Excitement and Adrenaline Rush
One aspect of military life that many former soldiers say they miss is the adrenaline rush that comes from the life and death situations they face in the field. Even those soldiers who don’t face danger on a regular basis note that the military life is usually exciting — how can you not be excited by training missions that involve jumping out of helicopters? Returning to civilian life, then, is often disappointing, as civilian life tends to be comparatively quiet and sedate.
Becoming a firefighter can provide the excitement that many veterans are looking for. Facing down a major blaze, performing rescues and protecting life and property can give former soldiers the rush they are looking for while also performing a valuable community service.
Similar Physical Requirements
Firefighters are expected to be nimble and fast while carrying hundreds of pounds of equipment while wearing full gear and wearing full protective gear — much like soldiers, who must meet the same standards. Soldiers are well-equipped, then, to handle the physical demands of firefighting without much difficulty or additional physical conditioning.
Similar Skill Sets
When a fire department team heads out to battle a blaze, each member of the crew has a defined role. If one person fails to do his or her job, the entire effort could be in jeopardy — much like a squadron in the military. Veterans who opt to move into a realm of public administration like fire science often find that the skills they learned during service translate seamlessly to life in a fire house: Decision-making, leadership and defined roles and responsibilities are all vital to firefighting, just as they are in military service.
While embarking on a path toward becoming a firefighter and providing service in a new way is an idea fit for many soldiers, it’s not right for everyone. Those dealing with major trauma, either physical or psychological, may find the stresses of fire management overwhelming. However, for many soldiers, it’s a natural transition and one that offers the ideal balance of risk and reward.