Have you ever felt directionless? Imagine if you have no idea what you want out of life; beyond that, there is no foreseeable way to change your current situation. That was how Ta’Lena Wilson felt around five months ago. At the time, she was working at the UC Clermont Subway, and had been there for a little over a year. It was there that Ta’Lena’s life changed. With hard work, a support system, and some luck, Ta’Lena found her purpose. Now, she is serving in the US Army, Charlie Company Class 01-17. She is currently taking classes to become a geospatial intelligence imagery analyst.
This success story also happens to involve Paul Guthrie (pictured left with Ta’Lena), an assistant electrician on campus. He met Ta’Lena through her job at Subway. Paul said that he would stop by occasionally fix anything broken, and struck up a friendship. Ta’Lena explained to The Lantern that he would also often come by Subway just to talk. Because she worked on a small college campus, she would often see the same people come and go. She began to look forward to seeing Paul and said that “he was really helpful and nice.”
One day as they were chatting in the hallway, Ta’Lena confessed that she was having some problems with her life and couldn’t see any options for herself beyond working at Subway. Paul explained to her that he had once felt the same way—that he worried that he would never get to leave his small town or make something of his life. His solution was to join the Army. He told her that joining the military as a teen was a fantastic experience for him, and that it helped him find a sense of direction. Paul explained to Ta’Lena that, in the military, she could have any job she wanted, as well as a sense of community and stability. When she inquired further, Paul told her that she may want to speak to someone more knowledgeable about this subject.
Serendipitously, SSGT Bailey, an Army recruiter, happened to walk by that very minute. From there, Ta’Lena knew that joining the military was what she wanted. It was something she had already always wanted to do, but she had never been able to take that first step. With the support of Paul and the help of SSGT Bailey, she began the process of enlisting and preparing for basic training.
Part of the process of enlisting in the Army is taking the ASVAB. According to military.com, “The ASVAB is a timed multi-aptitude test, which is given at over 14,000 schools and Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) nationwide and is developed and maintained by the Department of Defense.” Ta’Lena scored one of the highest math scores the recruiters had ever seen, which gave her the option of choosing nearly any job she wanted She decided to become a geospatial intelligence imagery analyst. In this position, she would read data from satellites, among other things. Her scores also qualified her for a $20,000 signing bonus.
Ta’Lena ended up enlisting on December 20th of 2016, and she “shipped out” to basic training, at Fort Leonard Wood, on January 9, 2017—an experience that Paul said “she loved.” Many enlistees dread basic training, but Ta’Lena enjoyed it and excelled in the challenges it presented.
On March 23, after ten weeks of basic training, Ta’Lena graduated. Paul drove out to attend, and cheered her on the entire time as she walked across the stage. After that, she was sent to Fort Huachuca in Arizona to take twenty-four weeks of classes that would prepare her for her job. She is still currently taking these classes, and after her current military contract ends, she has dreams of working for the military in the FBI.
Ta’Lena loves her life in the military. “[I wanted] to be able to make something of myself,” she said. “And overall, I really enjoy this job. It’s a great career.” She says that it allows her to give back to her country, and that it’s given her the purpose that she needed.
“What a way out!” Paul added. “She’s found her calling.” From working in Subway, unsure of what was next for her, to finding a career she loves—the past five months have seen some quite dramatic changes in Ta’Lena’s life. But during this time, she has found her purpose and now knows exactly what she wants. And, we at UC Clermont couldn’t be prouder of her!