The story of new Georgia Southern University graduate Rudy Madrid is one of determination, perseverance and a commitment to service. As an enlisted service member in the United States Army, Madrid had his sights set on achieving greater levels of service. To do so, he had to navigate the world of higher education as a nontraditional student to pursue his dream of becoming an officer in the Army.
“My dad was a part of the military and later became an officer when I was growing up in El Paso, Texas,” said Madrid. “So I enlisted in the Army a year after high school as an aircraft mechanic. I deployed once to Kuwait and once to Afghanistan and worked my way up to staff sergeant. During that time I learned about the Green to Gold program.”
The Army Green to Gold active-duty option is a two-year program for enlisted soldiers interested in pursuing their first undergraduate or graduate degree and earning a commission as an Army officer.
“With the Green to Gold program and with the credits that transferred from my one year of college and my JST [joint services transcript] for my military experience, I saw the second chance I could have after not finishing college right after high school,” said Madrid.
The 30-year-old’s journey toward graduation and officer commissioning was not without its challenges. Balancing his time between ROTC, college classes and his two young daughters was demanding. But Madrid was appreciative that he was freed from his Army duties to spend time focusing on school, thanks to the Green to Gold program.
“I learned many new concepts and ways of thinking as well as brushing up on the basic fundamentals of Army leadership during my time here at the Georgia Southern Eagle Battalion,” said Madrid.
He found it somewhat difficult to adjust to being around younger ROTC students after serving in the Army for a decade, but he found support in the Military and Veteran Services and Resource Center at Georgia Southern.
“The Resource Center helped me by finding other people who were going through the same thing I was going through and helping me out with my GI Bill,” said Madrid. “They have a lot of people who are experts in their fields and they were able to give me the advice that I needed. Plus, they have a great place where we can all just go and hang out between classes and tell our stories.”
Georgia Southern University prides itself on being a military-friendly institution that provides outstanding support and resources for all military-connected students. Madrid’s story is an example of the University’s commitment and the impact it has on students’ educational journeys.
“The director, Col. Fred [George Fredrick, Ed.D.], lives and breathes military and veteran services,” said Madrid. “He will do just about anything for us.”
Although Madrid will be finished with his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology with an exercise science major, he won’t be finished with his education plans.
“I’ll go back to school again eventually to complete my master’s and I have a goal to come back someday and teach at Georgia Southern as a military science professor,” said Madrid. “But the main thing that you need to know is that Georgia Southern taught me that if you stick with it and keep going, you can accomplish so many things.”
When Madrid commissions as an infantry officer in May, the dream inspired by his father and championed by Military and Veteran Services will finally come true.