From “The Crescent”: Leaving the battlefield and hitting the books

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This story was originally published in The Crescent of George Fox University on October 15, 2014. It was written by George Fox staff writer Amy Rose. This story is printed here through the Northwest News Network, a collaborative project between many northwestern collegiate newspapers.
Photo contributed by Terrance Mitchell of George Fox University

Photo contributed by Terrance Mitchell of George Fox University

The convoy crawled through the hot desert. Insurgents were in the area; it would only be a matter of time before they would have their first contact. Suddenly, an explosion: the convoy had hit an improvised explosive device. Intense fighting followed.

This was war.

Sergeant Terrance Mitchell looked out and saw a wounded soldier––an AK-47 firearm had blown his leg off below the knee. Instincts kicked in and Terrance had to help him.

“Permission to dismount, sir,” he said to his sergeant. Despite being denied multiple times, Terrance dismounted and rushed to his first casualty.

His training was being put to the test: Move the casualty to a safer zone. Control the bleeding––use a tourniquet, apply direct pressure to the wound. Get fluids into him through an IV. Provide antibiotics and pain medication. Call the medical evacuation team and transport him out.

Another wounded soldier was brought to him. Those were their only casualties from this fire fight.

“Only two were wounded, but we killed 11. We won that one,” Terrance said of the battle. “That was when I realized: This is war. You can’t be afraid.”

Terrance was a part of a specialized group sent to Afghanistan for Military Transition Training.

“It’s pretty elite,” said Terrance. “It’s male, non-commissioned officers: all professional soldiers, no young recruits.”

His team worked with the Afghan national army and police. “We trained them and fought with them against the insurgents. We were essentially combat advisors,” he said.

“I wasn’t attached to a particular team. I was dispersed pretty often,” Terrance said. Missions varied: seek and destroy, claim new land, humanitarian efforts…

All of this began for Terrance after high school when his best friend put him up to the idea of joining the Army. After meeting with an army ranger recruiter, Terrance began taking the idea seriously. The recruiter suggested he join health care.

Basic training was nine brutal weeks of physical conditioning and learning soldiering skills and weapons. Terrance spent basic training in Georgia at the hardest training site in the U.S.

He then moved into Advanced Individual Training, where soldiers learn their specialties over the course of 16 weeks. Terrance’s specialties were as a dietitian assistant (hospital food service), medic, and cook. Through an Additional Skill Identifier, he gained another specialty: combat advisor.

“I took on all the leadership positions I could. In the barracks, in classes, wherever,” said Terrance. “I wanted to be a good soldier.”

In two years, Terrance earned his ranking as a sergeant. Normally, it takes five years.

“I was just motivated,” he said. “It’s something I believe in.”

Overall, Terrance spent nine years in the army, one of which was overseas. The rest of the time was on active duty within the U.S., completing missions and further training.

Like so many other soldiers who experience war firsthand, Terrance was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was discharged from the army.

Now 32 years old and a sophomore at GFU, Terrance studies Business Management and minors in Finance.

He originally started out as a Nursing major. Terrance said, “It just made sense. I had spent all this time as a medic, it seemed right to go into nursing.”

However, being a nursing student proved to be difficult.

“In military training, you focus on one topic at a time. You are so much more focused. In school, you have to study five different topics at a time and the subjects are more scattered,” he explained.

With a degree in business, Terrance has the opportunity to fulfill his dream of working with Nike.

“I love sports; I play pretty much all sports. I’m athletic and enjoy training and being physically active. I absolutely love what Nike stands for,” Terrance said.

Everything in that statement is reflected in his image. His love for being active is evident in his athletic build. Most of his clothes or gear has the famous Nike “swoosh” logo.

Each arm displays a tattoo peeking out from under his Nike shirt. Both are Chinese symbols. One means, “Forgive me, Lord”; the other, “Feel my pain.”

Besides translating the symbols and a brief comment about getting the tattoos while in the army, Terrance did not elaborate much. Yet the tattoos speak loudly of his character and faith, which he shared a little bit more about.

“I have to say I have a unique relationship with God,” he said. “I definitely believe; my faith is strong. I try to walk a straight line and live a good life. I don’t read the Bible or go to church as often as I necessarily should, but Jesus knows I love him.

“While I was deployed, I went through a lot of emotional stuff,” Terrance continued. “I learned who I was. There were lots of stresses. You have to sleep where you killed people, with your body armor on, with your rifle loaded and ready. Stuff like that was hard.”

But those experiences contributed to the strong person he is today.

“I know I’m strong––I’ve been through a lot. I grew up in a broken home; I overcame a lot of adversities. I bought my own house when I was 26. I’ll be the first person in my family to graduate college. I can make it through anything,” he said.

When asked how others see him, Terrance replied with humility. “Not to speak highly of myself, but my friends admire me. They know I’m a real person. They respect me.”

“I definitely have my weaknesses,” Terrance said. “I can be closed off because my life experiences taught me to not depend on anyone for any reason. It’s hard because you can’t live alone.”

For Terrance, being at GFU has helped him stay connected with good community as he works towards graduation. He will keep working hard so he can achieve his career goals and continue to be a leader.

“The Known,” a weekly series written by Amy Rose, introduces you to people at the George Fox University who deserve to Be Known. It can be found at http://www.gfucrescent.com/

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