While the flood waters have started to recede in Texas, the impact of Hurricane Harvey struck Ryan Green in Lincoln by mid-afternoon Aug. 29.
A specialist with the Nebraska Army National Guard, Company G, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion, Green is among local service members who have received get-ready order for possible deployment to assist with hurricane recovery efforts in Texas. He is also a junior mechanical engineering major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
Fewer than 24 hours after receiving the order, student veteran support systems on campus kicked into high gear, helping reduce Green’s concerns and allowing him to focus on preparations a handful of days before possible deployment.
“A week and a half into the new semester and suddenly everything was thrown into chaos,” Green said. “The last 24 hours have been crazy. But, right now, I feel pretty good about my situation because the support I’ve received from the university has been tremendous.”
Among Green’s first campus stops after receiving the order was to meet with Darrell Everhart, director of the university’s Military and Veteran Success Center. Launched three years ago, the center is designed to support student veterans, members of the military and their dependents from the first day they step on campus to graduation day.
“In the last week alone, I’ve had about a dozen student veterans come to see me about military deployments,” Everhart said. “The first step is to assure them that we are here to help in any way possible. Then, I give them a checklist that outlines the entire campus process they need to follow to prepare for deployment.”
Green followed Nebraska’s military service and pre-deployment checklist after his Aug. 30 meeting with Everhart, reaching out and meeting with necessary faculty and staff. Key items on the list include meeting with an academic adviser, the bursar’s office, scholarships and financial aid, and Deb Quinn, who coordinates education benefits received by military personnel.
“When student veterans receive deployment orders, they have a number of decisions to make — from if they can finish classes to recouping veteran benefits,” Everhart said. “It’s important that they let us know as soon as possible so we can help get everything ready for them.”
Green’s previous deployment was to Kuwait for Operation Inherent Resolve in spring 2015, the same year the Military and Veteran Success Center opened. Unaware that the center existed, Green attempted to self-navigate through the university’s temporary withdrawal/leave process.
“I had four or five months to get ready for the first deployment and I really struggled getting everything squared away on campus,” Green said. “I was months into the deployment in Kuwait and I was still dealing with a few details back in Nebraska.
“The help from Darrell and knowing the vet support center is available has made the process so much better than the first time I was deployed.”
While the process has been easier this go round, Green’s orders are more difficult to process as they do not include specific details about his unit’s destination. The order is simply a readiness call, outlining that he has a week to be ready to depart to an unknown destination with no timeline for return.
“We’ve heard it could be for two months, but it could very well be shorter or longer,” Green said. “After meeting with my professors, they told me I can miss about two weeks before it becomes too difficult for me to catch up. So, for now, I’ve decided not to drop out of classes.”
Unit scuttlebutt has basically confirmed the destination will be Texas. Green said the rumor makes sense as his unit is specifically trained for rescue and medical assistance. Their Blackhawk medevac helicopters are also good for hauling supplies and transporting passengers as needed.
“I’m excited to be able to serve through the National Guard and help the people down in Texas,” Green said. “But, at this point, there’s a chance we’ll receive orders to stand down and I’ll be back in class on Tuesday.
“If that happens, I’ll need to play catch up because I’ve stopped attending class and missed quizzes getting ready for deployment.”
Within the battalion, Green is a crew chief on a medevac chopper. His responsibilities include helicopter repairs, helping scan for dangers in the air and looking for individuals on the ground. He also is lead operator of the hoist that hauls medics and others for rescues and recoveries.
Everhart said Nebraska faculty, staff and students can best assist Husker student veterans by being aware of resources offered by the university and understanding the sacrifices military services members are willing to make.
“It’s helpful to just be aware that these students are going through transitions that can be stressful,” Everhart said. “They’re preparing to fulfill a commitment that they have made to the country. And, they’re dealing with family matters and trying to get their lives at the university and off campus organized before they depart.
“If you get a chance, talk with a student veteran and let them know that you support their service. Also, be sure to remind them that the university offers a variety of services that can be helpful.”
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln jumped 78 spots, from No. 102 in 2016 to No. 24 this year in the “Best for Vets: Colleges 2017” rankings by Military Times. Learn more about student veteran services at Nebraska.