RALEIGH, N.C. – College students across the country found themselves in situations they never expected during the Spring semester – classes moved online, campuses closed and graduation ceremonies canceled.
For Cpl. Chase Boozer, the changes brought on by the coronavirus are only part of what he has experienced in this final semester of his undergraduate program at North Carolina State University.
He was one of more than 900 Soldiers and Airmen with the North Carolina National Guard (NCNG) activated in support of the COVID-19 response, and he was also supposed to walk across the stage at his graduation ceremony on May 9.
Boozer, who was working on a degree in applied mathematics with a minor in economics, said he emailed his professors as soon as he was notified he would be part of the group of Guard members supporting local emergency and health officials.
“I knew by answering that call I would be put in difficult situations to complete both my classes and my duties here at the Guard,” said Boozer, a fire direction specialist with 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment. “But I always keep it in the back of my mind that this is a possibility and it is my responsibility to respond to crisis when my country needs me.”
Federal laws and regulations protect military students who are activated for overseas deployments and domestic operations, which includes the response to the current pandemic. Professors and universities typically work with service members to make up work or allow students to drop classes without penalty.
With less than a month from the time he was activated to the end of the semester, Boozer wanted to finish school, even if it meant having to study after a full day supporting the Orange County Emergency Operations Center where he and others with his unit are working during the COVID-19 response.
“I’ve been studying every night till midnight, and then waking up at 6 a.m. to come in and work,” Boozer said. “I had a coding project for numerical analysis class and I finished it up late Saturday night. It was a huge relief to get everything turned in.”
Boozer has been working on his degree since January 2014, and in that time he deployed twice with the North Carolina National Guard.
“Most people won’t know all the work that I put in to finish my degree through two deployments and state active duty and all the [annual trainings,]” Boozer said. “I remember going down to Fort Bragg and studying in my tent at night because I had a test on Monday morning. Those experiences will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Boozer is not alone. Another Soldier activated with him is also in school while supporting the response to the pandemic.
Spc. Joey Radman, also a fire direction specialist with 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, has been working on his degree in Cybersecurity Management and Policy from the University of Maryland Global Campus and did not let the activation slow his progress.
“I had spent a year away from school on deployment and during the deployment, I had set a goal for myself to complete my degree by 2021,” said Radman, who was already attending online classes before the pandemic closed schools. “When I was told that I was activating for COVID-19, I was conflicted, but I was ensured by my command team that I would be allocated plenty of time to complete my schoolwork while assisting my community.”
Like Boozer, Radman has also been finding time to complete his studies around his military duties. He said that by bringing his laptop with him, he is able to knock out portions of his homework during his lunch break.
“It has not been easy, but proper time management is crucial in both military and civilian life,” Radman said. “Using the time management skills I have learned throughout my military career has allowed me to stay up to date on all my assignments.”
As the semester comes to an end, graduations are canceled and Guard members are still activated.