News: Soldier trades teaching for infantry life
Story by Christina McCann
Spc. Chris McCann
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — College money, job experience and lack of employment opportunities are usually some of the motivators Soldiers cite for joining the military.
But Cpl. James Hogan left a job he loved, teaching high-school history and economics in Superior, Wis., to enlist in November 2005 to be a part of American history.
"I was teaching history and about the wars, and I felt it was my patriotic duty to serve, like the guys who went before me," Hogan said. "I don't want to sit on my deck at 60 years old and tell people I had a chance to serve and didn't."
Hogan graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Superior, and began teaching at a Catholic middle school, then at a high school in Maple, Wis. In addition to teaching American history, he taught economics, criminal justice, social science and sociology, and coached football, girls basketball, and track and field.
But he gave it all up to join the Army.
"The students were surprised. Some were sad, and some were probably happy," he said, laughing. "I always wanted to teach, and I was no good at math, I don't like science, and my vocabulary is terrible. But I love politics and history, and I love this country."
Hogan works with Company A, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), out of Fort Drum, N.Y. His unit is the military transition team that has been training 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division.
"I've really enjoyed working with them day in and day out," he said of the Soldiers in his company.
"From the different personalities, meeting people from all over the United States, I've learned a lot. I really respect everyone in the Army, whatever they do, but these (infantry troops) are the ones putting in blood, sweat and tears."
A willingness to be on the ground and on the front lines is a respect-earner. One of his heroes, he said, is Theodore Roosevelt.
"He really solidified my desire to join the Army," Hogan said. "He quit the Navy to join the Army and then formed the Rough Riders, because it always bugged Teddy Roosevelt that his father didn't fight in the Civil War when the country needed him.
"I like his maverick spirit, he did what was in his heart, and he sure wouldn't be making decisions based on poll numbers if he were president today."
Hogan has a rather maverick spirit himself, which serves him well with Soldiers both older and younger than him.
"I'm 33 years old," he said. "In civilian life, I would have been teaching some of these guys, but they're teaching me the ways of the infantry here," he said. "It's tough being older, especially as an enlisted Soldier. I didn't become an officer because that's not what I wanted. I've had responsibility. I just wanted to be a grunt. And it's tough to get smoked by a guy nine years younger, but that's when you just have to swallow your pride."
Hogan plans to return to teaching – and coaching – when his term of enlistment ends, but he's toying with the idea of going into the chaplaincy.
"I'm a man of faith," he said. "I want to study scripture more in-depth, and I want to serve Soldiers in a more personal way. Guys have been laying it all on the line here for five years now, and the turmoil and struggle and separation from family is hard. I feel I could help, and give strength to them to hang in there."
If he doesn't choose that road, however, he said what he's learned in the Army will serve him well as a teacher.
"I think I'll get more respect as a teacher – I can bring in my photos and things from Iraq, and that would be really good. If I go into the chaplaincy, I'd like to be an Army Reserve or National Guard chaplain so I could still teach.
"It's an honor to serve my country alongside all my fellow Soldiers in uniform," Hogan said, "and I'm thankful for the opportunity to do it."