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One Soldier’s Story: How Christian Smurthwaite Found a Place to Belong at Otterbein

Read one soldier’s story and how he found a place to belong at Otterbein.  

Name: Christian Smurthwaite
Major:  First year History major
Hometown: Grove City, Ohio
Occupation/employer: Park Ranger at Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks
Military Service: United States Marine Corps; 4 years Active Duty
Rank: Corporal
Job/MOS: 0311 Infantry Rifleman

Where were your deployments?  

I was stationed on Oahu, Hawaii with 3rd Battalion/3rd Marines. I deployed twice to Okinawa, Japan. My first deployment we went on a US Navy ship to Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines and trained with their militaries in jungle warfare and jungle survival. My second deployment we did large scale training operations in South Korea and the Philippines. We also participated in the world's’ largest naval exercise in Hawaii, training with countries from all over the world like, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and even China.

What were some memorable moments during your service?  

The Marine Corps provided me with the opportunity to travel the world and gain invaluable experiences with other cultures and global issues. I've made friends from all over the country and world and from every lifestyle. In addition to the foreign countries, I also trained across the U.S. in the Carolinas, Southern California, the desert in Arizona, and winter mountain training in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Northern California.

How did you discover Otterbein?

I was recruited by Otterbein in high school to play football but decided I wasn't ready to begin college and instead chose to join the military.

What about Otterbein appealed to you?

Otterbein appealed to me because of its location and small school atmosphere. Many of my friends have graduated from Otterbein and they all really enjoyed their experience and recommended it.

How has Otterbein been helpful and supportive?

The Adult and Transfer admission office was very proactive to ensure I was always up date on everything during the application and registration process. They've always stayed in contact with me to make sure I know where I can find assistance with any veteran related issues.  The business office took care of all of my benefits and tuition payments directly with the VA.

Any particular challenges you encountered as an adult student and veteran returning to pursue your education? 

While transitioning back to civilian life I had a difficult time deciding what I wanted to do in the future. It was very stressful transitioning from a regimented, physically demanding workload, to having to make my own schedule for everything.

How did you overcome these challenges?

I’m finding a balance between work and school, maintaining a schedule and using the numerous resources through the VA and Otterbein.  It also helps to remember to relax and enjoy yourself. It's just college. No one is forcing you to do it. You get out of it what you put into it, so you might as well work hard.

Has your service training been useful as a student?

Being in the Marine Corps Infantry prepared me for any situation and to adapt to any rigorous schedule. I've trained in every environment from deserts and jungles in the summer to 10,000 ft mountains in the winter. One leadership course I completed required us to train all week in the jungle through sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion. Then, over the weekends we had to write 60-page strategic orders to use for the next week's training. After doing all that, pulling an all-nighter to study for a midterm doesn't seem as daunting.

What do you hope to accomplish once you earn your degree?

Since I'm in my first year, I'm still deciding what I want to do after college. Right now I'm thinking about teaching history and coaching football at a high school. I would also like to travel more and do some freelance writing. Regardless of what I decide to do I would like to find a way to use my experiences to give back and help others.

Advice for other returning veterans?

My advice for other returning veterans would be to stay proactive in preparing for work or college even before you get out of the military. It's okay to not know what you want to do but it's helpful to at least have some ideas and options. Get involved in some sort of organization or club. We have real world experience and training that very few do, so put it to use and continue to give back.