Transfer Student, Anthropology
By Marge Perko
Where did you grow up and what did you do before you signed up for military service?
I grew up in a small town called Glenrothes in Scotland, in the United Kingdom. I had never done any traveling till I left for the States when I was 19. I left on my own to work on a residential summer camps for kids with disabilities (both physical and cognitive). It was a summer camp in the rural Connecticut hidden in the woods. I was invited back the next year, and by the end of the third I was offered a full-time job. I worked as the assistant director until 2000, where I then started working inner city EMS. I had been doing this part time but chose to take on a full-time position.
When did you join the military? What roles did you fulfill in service?
After the attacks on the World Trade center I joined the Army. I arrived at Fort Jackson on September 9, 2002 where I went through basic training. Then, I went through Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sam Huston, Texas. I was trained to become a medic – and as I was already trained as an EMT, my training was moved forward 7 weeks.
I then went to Fort Benning, Georgia. Here, I would do three weeks of jump school. On my 26th Birthday (March 20th), I jumped out of a C130 Military Aircraft three times that day. I gained my Airborne wings. I arrived at Ft Bragg NC, home of the 82nd Airborne on March 21st 2003. By May, I was in Iraq as a line medic with the 3/307th Combat Engineers. We were assigned to be the demolitions (sappers) for the 3/505th Paratroop Infantry Regiment.
I spent ten months in Iraq the first time, going on numerous combat patrols and engaged in several attacks on our platoon. My second deployment was to Afghanistan in 2005, for the Afghani elections. We spent six months on the side of a mountain in a base that was in an area where few of the locals even realized the Russians had left. I was again a line medic -- this time with the engineers, attached to 325th Infantry Regiment.
My final deployment was with the 3/73rd Cavalry Regiment (still within the 82nd Airborne). I was now the senior medic in charge of the aid station at night. I spent 18 months in Iraq in 2008. I was then transferred to Fort Knox, Kentucky where I worked as the sergeant for the medical platoon that provided medical support for all the live fire tank ranges on the installation.
What drew you to study at UC Santa Barbara?
My wife wanted to return to California, I had never lived there. However, I had no family in the States while all her family was in Southern California…so off to California we went.
I planned on doing my nursing prerequisites, but I found that after 20 years in the medical field, I had become burnt out. I discovered anthropology at Antelope Valley College in Lancaster, California. I realized I could use my medical experience to study bones and focus on bioarchaeology.
I was drawn to UCSB because there are several research opportunities for undergraduates here. Also, the attitude I got from admissions at UCSB was completely different from any other of the UCs. They were helpful. Their attitudes toward an older student with a family was very accepting. I sensed that some of the other UCs felt dealing with me was an inconvenience. The attitude I got from UCLA was one that I would be competing against my peers. I wanted more of the collaborative attitude that UCSB seems to have.
Everyone here has been extremely supportive and focused on all students’ success. My plan is to go on to get my doctorate in either osteology, bioarchaeology or forensic anthropology. My goal is to go areas where we have service members who were MIA, retrieve their remains and bring them home. After being a medic and seeing a lot of loss, I want to help bring closure for service member families. I also want to fulfill a promise that our country gives all military personnel: that everyone comes home.
As a parent, what are some challenges you face as you balance school and raising a family?
As a father, there are challenges all the time. I must trade off study time for time with my son and wife. It is a continual balance that my wife would tell you I get wrong a lot -- but I try.
I want my son to not only be proud of me but to also value education. I want him to get his education when he is young and make the most out of it. I want him to learn from my errors.
I have just gotten here, so I have not had as much chance to utilize the resources that the VRC has. However, they are very welcoming and I have been kept in the loop on many things that are going on. I found out about the McNair Scholarship because of the VRC. It was Kevin who made sure that I could complete it. Also, I was given a scholarship by a group who support students through the VRC. I never applied for it. I just got a phone call from Kevin saying “we have a scholarship for you.”
What can you say about your fellow student veterans and Kevin’s role as VRC coordinator?
Kevin is amazing. He is one of the factors that confirmed my decision to come to UCSB was the right one.
The VRC is a great place to hang out and get study done. I have never felt unwelcome. Even with the crusty attitude that many vets have, we are still some of the most accepting and inappropriate groups you will ever meet. I hope once I get my footing here at UCSB, I will be able to be a bigger part of the VRC. I am excited about getting to know everyone better.