AMU Military Veterans

The Value of an English Degree in Military Service

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By Dr. William Overton
Professor of English, American Military University


My experience in the military began right out of High School when I joined the Army National Guard. I learned a great deal about effective communication in the Guard and I continued to learn as I took college courses toward a bachelor’s degree. In a few short years, I reached the rank of Sgt. E-5 and was assigned to the “Commo” Section as a Chief Intermediate Speed Radio Operator. This was a big opportunity for me because it linked with my interest in electronics and amateur radio. I quickly joined the Military Affiliate Radio System and learned a great deal about how valuable the National Guard is for individual state governments in times of emergency and disaster response. Our unit was activated at one point and I spent just under a year in advanced training with our Combat Engineer Battalion.

So what does this have to do with the study of English, and most importantly, earning a degree in English?

As I studied business writing courses and attained other critical thinking skills in my college work, I found that my improved skills in writing opened many opportunities to work across the different sections in our Headquarters Company while on active duty. On one temporary duty (TDY), I was placed in charge of a radio teletype unit (yes, this was a few years ago). My job was to take information gathered from a variety of sources and develop clear and concise summary messages that contained all the necessary information. This became one of my “stable” skills. Later, after I had been discharged and was working in law enforcement, I taught report writing classes for new recruits in the Peace Officers Standards and Training Academy. I had learned in my military service that the best way to communicate was to, “get all, get it right, and make it clear.”

Being able to communicate effectively and efficiently, both orally and in writing, is frequently one of the major requirements for rank advancement in the military, in law enforcement, and in almost any field you can name. A Bachelor of Arts in English enables a person to develop essential skills, not only in writing, but clear and concise reasoning and critical thinking. Those skills can assist in moving your career into the next chapter, but especially in an area such as Intelligence where “get it all, get it right, and make it clear” can be crucial, if not mission-critical.


Dr. Overton holds a PhD degree in Adult Education, Research Emphasis, an MA in English, and an MPA. He has been with APUS since 2005 and is a Professor of English. He is a Director of Faculty in the School of Arts and Humanities. He served in the United States Army as an NCO.


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