For some cadets, a turn to civilian employment

When Richard “Goose” Johnson began his four year career at Norwich University as a member of the Corps of Cadets, he had aspirations of joining the armed services. During his time here, his path has shifted and new goals have arisen.

Johnson has hopes of backpacking Europe, learning a foreign language, going to graduate school, and climbing mountains around the globe.

A sense of freedom, curiosity, and adventure is what Johnson seeks now. He wants to start his life after Norwich free of any restraints and with the time and ability to explore all of his opportunities.

Goose Johnson participates in Rescue Team activities. (Spencer Williams Photo)

Goose Johnson participates in Rescue Team activities. (Spencer Williams Photo)

Johnson, 22, a studies in war and peace major from Aurora, Ohio, will take all of the skills he learned from being at a military school and apply them to the civilian world. Like other students in his position, he wants to see the Corps of Cadets put more focus on those students who wish to follow a career outside of the military.

“Norwich brought out the best in me and units such as the Mountain Cold Weather Company have given me confidence,” said another cadet aiming for a civilian career,  Thomas Houghton, 22, a civil engineering major from Long Island, N.Y. “However, after my sophomore year, I knew for sure I didn’t want to join the armed services because I wish to pursue a job as a civilian engineer.”

Houghton speculates that only a third of the senior cadet class will be commissioning, leaving the majority of cadets to find a job in the civilian world. In Houghton’s opinion, there needs to be an option to shift towards professional leadership development that is not strictly military.

“I participated in both Army ROTC and Air Force ROTC and learned a lot from both,” Houghton said, “but after I decided I didn’t want to commission I felt as though I was no longer receiving leadership specific training.”

Houghton cannot help but sometimes feel out of place walking around in Army fatigues as he knows he is not a contracted member of the of the services. In his opinion, there should be more options and encouragement given to those cadets who want to find a job in the civilian workforce because they are the majority when it comes to numbers.

“I have by no means closed any doors to the military a profession,” Johnson said, “however, I am fully aware how serious a commitment like that is. I wish to explore many more aspects of life before making a decision like that.”

For Johnson, four years at a military college can “wear you out and box you in” as far as personal perspective goes. Because of this, he wants to get out, travel, try different jobs, and see the world to figure out what it is exactly he wants to do.

“I’m really confident with my decision to not go directly into the armed services,” Johnson said, “however I feel as though not commissioning or enlisting out of a military academy generates a negative connotation.”

In Johnson’s eyes, when a student first comes to Norwich, they typically have high hopes of pursuing a career in the military, but a lot of people find that a professional military life is not for them. Being exposed to both lifestyles and then being able to choose is one of the unique benefits of going to this school.

“There is a very strong pressure to go into the military upon graduation,” Johnson admits, “I understand it completely, but I wish the same encouragement would be given on the other end of the spectrum sometimes. After all, the school was founded under the concept of a citizen soldier.”

For Ricky La Vache, 22, a health science major from Barrington, N.H., making the decision to not go into the military was extremely difficult in a place like Norwich because students can be very judgmental, especially for someone who is dropping a contract. “There is a lot of peer pressure to go into the armed services and if you turn away from that path you can get some negative attention for sure, even if you know it is the right decision,” La Vache said.

Houghton, who wishes to become part of an engineering firm after graduation, knows that the skills he has learned from a military environment will put him ahead of his peers. “Just as the military is in need of good leaders, so is the civilian workforce,” Houghton said.

Similar ideas were expressed by La Vache, who was contracted with the Marine Corps for three years until finally, in his senior year, he decided that he wished to pursue a career in the civilian world and subsequently dropped his contract.

“It had always been my dream, joining the Marine Corps, but over the years I realized that what I liked most about the military was the fitness component,” La Vache said. “Through my major in health science and staying in shape for the military, I decided that my true passion lay specifically in the fitness world.”

La Vache is convinced that being part of Marine Corps ROTC and a member of the Corps of Cadets was crucial in discovering his passion for fitness and wouldn’t change it for  the world. “I’ve learned so much about myself and was happy with how well the Marine Corps meshed with my health studies,” La Vache said.

Other Corps students, such as Brian Dunne, 22, a criminal justice major from Peabody, Mass., expressed similar thoughts. “I came here to Norwich, hoping to contract with the Navy and while I was unable to do so, I have found a more suitable path in the law enforcement field.”

“I’m glad to see that the school has taken some steps forward with the career development center for those students pursuing careers in the civilian sector,” Dunne said. “At times it feels as though students in my shoes are put on the back burner.”

“Without a doubt, I would never have done well in a non-military environment. I have the Corps of Cadets and my time in ROTC to thank for bringing out the best in me,” Houghton said. “I know that for me personally, I do not wish to pursue a career in the military, but am glad to have been immersed in the lifestyle for the past four years.”

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