A Salute to Our Soldiers: Park Scholarships Alumni in the United States Armed Forces

Scholarship. Leadership. Service. Character. The four pillars on which the Park Scholarships program is founded are also at the core of the U.S. armed forces’ mission – and more than one Park alumnus currently serving our country has remarked on this parallel. In recognition of Veterans Day, we asked six service men and women with shared roots as Park Scholars to shed light on why they chose to join the armed forces, what advice they would offer those who are considering military service, and how their NC State experiences have influenced their post-graduation endeavors.

We are grateful to these fine individuals and to all who serve and protect our nation.

William Cauley '12, U.S. Army
William Cauley ’12, U.S. Army

William Cauley ’12, U.S. Army
Undergraduate major: history
Hometown: Burgaw, N.C.

With strong interests in both history and public service, William Cauley ‘12 decided at an early age to join the military.

“Our nation’s recent wars created in me a desire to do my part,” he said. “I felt it was my duty to step off of the sidelines and contribute directly.”

Cauley reported for active duty almost immediately following his December 2012 graduation from NC State. For two months he served as an instructor for the Leader Development and Assessment Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. He completed the Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course, his branch-specific training, at Fort Benning, Ga., and then reported to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) at Fort Irwin, Calif., where he now serves as an Infantry Platoon Leader in B Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th ACR. Cauley supervises about 20 soldiers and several tracked and wheeled vehicles. With the assistance of Non-Commissioned Officers, he is responsible for maintaining millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and ensuring the training, safety, and productivity of his soldiers.

“My unit is a ‘dual-mission unit’ which, while a standard Army unit that must itself be prepared for deployment, has a primary role as the Army’s Opposing Force (OPFOR),” Cauley explained. “The OPFOR provides a skilled and realistic foe for other Army units to train against, particularly right before they go on their own deployments. We cannot simulate combat perfectly, but we do our best to make sure that the rest of the Army has been at least somewhat tested before it goes into harm’s way.”

Cauley plans to remain in the military; however, he is laying the groundwork for a transition. He is applying to the Army’s Funded Legal Education Program with aspirations of becoming a Judge Advocate.

“That same drive to serve the public has led me to love the idea of entering the legal profession,” he said. “It would be doubly exciting to practice law on behalf of our nation’s servicemen.”

Since graduation, Cauley has come to appreciate two particular lessons he learned as a Park Scholar: to apply oneself fully, and to always be ready for change.

“The armed forces need gifted people who are driven to succeed and who are willing to make changes,” Cauley said. “For those who are already considering such a move, I would recommend they take to heart those two things I learned from Park: think and learn with an open mind and never sell yourself short. The Army (or any other branch) is a culture all of its own that is both noteworthy and flawed, but I would not do it differently, and I think that many Park Scholars would take a similar liking to a unique and challenging profession where they could certainly make a difference.”

Cameron Cooper '09, U.S. Coast Guard
Cameron Cooper ’09, U.S. Coast Guard

Cameron Cooper ’09, U.S. Coast Guard
Undergraduate major: textile engineering
Hometown: Randleman, N.C.

Cameron Cooper ‘09 originally planned to work for a boat building company, but when he graduated from NC State, jobs in that industry were scarce.

“I wanted a career near the water, so the Coast Guard came to mind,” Cooper said. “In a way, it’s a large boat building company, amongst many other things.”

After a brief stint working for a research company in Raleigh, Cooper was accepted to Coast Guard Officer Candidate School. Now he is an Officer at Sector Charleston, S.C., where he inspects commercial vessels – everything from sailboats and dinner cruise boats to container ships and tugboats – for regulatory compliance. As a collateral duty, he serves as a Search and Rescue Controller in the Command Center for the coastal waters of South Carolina and Georgia.

“When someone calls ‘mayday’ on the radio,” Cooper explained, “I’m the one who responds, launches the appropriate boats and/or helicopters to the last known position, and plans the search pattern with the help of high-tech computer software.”

Cooper’s service in the Coast Guard has taken him all around the country; for example, he was deployed to the Gulf of Mexico for an extended period in 2010 to help with cleanup after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. While he plans to make a lifelong career of Coast Guard service, Cooper is always looking for new opportunities and increased responsibility. In 2015 he will transfer to a new unit or tour, and hopes to supervise his own Marine Safety Detachment. He will also pursue a master’s degree over the next several years.

“I’m forever grateful for my time in the Park Scholarships program,” Cooper said. “I learned how to ask the right questions, show the right courtesies, research the necessary backgrounds, and pursue whatever pathway I felt drawn to. The program gave me the confidence necessary to take life by the horns.”

Noting the Coast Guard’s small size and competitive selection process, Cooper encourages those who are interested in joining to gain sailing experience, and to maximize opportunities for leading and serving others.

“The Coast Guard is an amazing service,” he said. “You get to make a career out of saving lives.”

Katy (Horner) Couron ’09, U.S. Air Force
Katy (Horner) Couron ’09, U.S. Air Force

Katy (Horner) Couron ’09, U.S. Air Force
Undergraduate majors: sociology and Spanish language & literature
Hometown: McLeansville, N.C.

Eager to gain experience for a future job with the Federal Bureau of Investigations – a career that had long interested her – Katy (Horner) Couron ‘09 enlisted and entered Air Force Officer Training School at Maxwell AFB, Ala. immediately upon graduating from NC State. After 14 weeks of intense physical and leadership training, Couron received her commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.

“I quickly realized that my leadership skills learned over the years made me a great addition to the Air Force,” Couron said. “So I decided to stay in the Air Force and continue serving my country this way. The Air Force core values – ‘Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence In All We Do’ – mirror the values of the Park Scholarships program. Each decision is made upon this foundation.”

Following her commission she spent a year at Goodfellow AFB, Texas in Intelligence Officer Training School, earning the honor of Top Graduate in November 2010. Couron began her first assignment at Cannon AFB, N.M. under Air Force Special Operations Command. After volunteering to deploy and spending six months in Afghanistan, Couron became the Assistant Director of Operations for a squadron under the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Agency. She served for one month as Detachment Commander at Kadena AB, Japan, and is now stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas in the position of Executive Officer to the Vice Commander, Headquarters 25th Air Force.

“In this role I assist the Vice Commander, a Brigadier General, with daily and long-term requirements. I serve as a liaison between the Command Section and the Staff to ensure we remain on track with our Commander’s guidance and vision while answering the tasks of the national Intelligence Community, the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for ISR, and Air Combat Command.”

Couron will continue to serve in the Air Force until the end of 2015; however, she is contemplating a move into the private sector after that.

“To serve in the military has been an incredible honor for me that I will always cherish,” Couron said. “The experience has taught me about serving and leading people in ways I could not have imagined. Whether you serve for four years or for a career, the military is an excellent way to learn and gain experience in how the federal government and its departments execute their duties for our nation.”

Dr. Jeffrey Hoffmann ’09, U.S. Army
Undergraduate major: chemistry
Hometown: Chapel Hill, N.C.

Throughout college, Jeffrey Hoffmann ’09 felt he had a responsibility to contribute to our nation’s military efforts, and decided the best fit for him would be to serve as a physician in the armed forces. He completed his undergraduate career in three years, and then earned his M.D. from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences School of Medicine in Bethesda, Md. in 2012.

As a third-year resident in the five-year orthopedic surgery program at William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC) in El Paso, Texas, Hoffmann is in a non-deployable status. He looks forward to completing his residency program and serving active duty service members and their families.

“My experiences as a Park Scholar contributed to my professional development in that they encouraged me to find the way I felt I could best contribute,” Hoffmann said. “The program helped guide me to recognize how to follow through on ideas and interests in a concrete way.”

Regardless of whether they choose to serve in the armed forces, Hoffmann urges current Park Scholars to identify “an avenue of service that accentuates one’s strengths and builds on existing areas in which one has sincere convictions.”

(For more on Hoffmann, see this story about medical school couples that appeared in the El Paso Times on July 8, 2013.)

Leslie (Herman) Myers '11, U.S. Navy
Leslie (Herman) Myers ’11, U.S. Navy

Leslie (Herman) Myers ’11, U.S. Navy
Undergraduate major: biological sciences
Hometown: Newton, N.C.

Leslie (Herman) Myers ‘11 had longstanding interests in both military and medical careers, but was unsure how to reconcile these goals until her freshman year at NC State, when she learned about the Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). She later applied to the HPSP, was selected as a scholarship recipient, and commissioned as an officer in the Navy in April 2011.

Myers is now in her final year of medical school at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine – Carolinas Campus in Spartanburg, S.C. Attending an osteopathic medical school was important to her, she said, “because their philosophy of treating the mind, body, and spirit and their mission to serve underserved populations matched my beliefs and goals.”

“This decision was the right one for me,” Myers said, “as I have developed a more holistic approach that will serve me well in family medicine, and learned Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, which I will use often with my patients in the Navy.”

The HPSP allows Myers to focus on her education by serving as a Navy reservist with minimal training requirements during her four years of medical school. She has spent the designated training periods attending Officer Development School in Newport, R.I., and engaging in clinical clerkships in family medicine and psychiatry at Navy Hospital Camp Lejeune (N.C.) and Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (Va.), respectively.

Upon graduation from medical school in May 2015, she will earn the rank of Lieutenant (O-3) and will begin active duty and an internship in family medicine. From there, Myers will either go straight through her residency, or first complete a General Medical Officer (GMO) tour in flight surgery, undersea medicine, fleet marine force, or surface warfare. Following residency, she will serve at least an additional four years as payback for her scholarship. During this time, she could be stationed at any Navy base and could be deployed if necessary.

“NC State and the Park Scholarships program gave me great opportunities for leadership development,” Myers said. “Through the many enrichment experiences, the excellent curriculum, and the many clubs and activities I was well prepared for medical school. The leadership skills I gained during my college years will certainly serve me well as a naval officer over the coming years. There will be many opportunities, whether at a stateside Navy hospital or deployment overseas, to use my skills to lead, treat, and teach sailors and their families.”

For those considering a path similar to hers, Myers encourages plenty of advance planning and information-gathering.

“If it matches your personality and career goals,” she said, “the Navy provides an excellent opportunity to get money for education, serve your country, and gain incredible experiences along the way!”

J.Michael Shuping '13, U.S. Air Force
J.Michael Shuping ’13, U.S. Air Force

J.Michael Shuping ’13, U.S. Air Force
Undergraduate major: aerospace engineering
Hometown: Salisbury, N.C.

J.Michael Shuping ’13 commissioned from NC State’s Air Force ROTC program in May 2014. He recently entered Active Duty and is eagerly awaiting the start of Undergraduate Pilot Training. Shuping will be required to serve at least ten years in the military upon completion of his training.

“I love my country and have always wanted to be a pilot,” Shuping said. “I believe becoming a pilot in the U.S. Air Force was the best course of action I could have taken to serve both interests. Not to mention, being around airplanes and jets all day is awesome! How many jobs out there carry the thrill and pride of defending freedom with some of the most advanced aviation equipment ever created?”

Shuping says the lessons in leadership and etiquette he acquired as a Park Scholar have enhanced his skills as an officer and established a firm foundation for his Air Force career.

“The Park Scholarships’ pillars of scholarship, leadership, service, and character go hand in hand with the Air Force’s core values of ‘Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence In All We Do,’” Shuping said. “Although the organizations are different, both hold their members to the highest of standards.”

posted 2014.10.31