President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration planned for the post-war economic recovery for service members before the end of World War II. In June of 1944, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 was signed by President Roosevelt. This act is now recognized as the GI Bill.

Since 1944, service members have been given the opportunity to seek out higher education after retiring from the U.S. Armed Forces. There has been an increase in veterans and active duty service members taking advantage of their educational opportunities. Veterans account for four percent of undergraduate students, according to the American Council on Education. Even with the amount of undergraduate service members receiving an education increasing, the challenges they face compared to their peers stay the same.

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune hosted its annual Military Training Retreat on Aug. 8. Members of the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) and Cape Fear Community College’s faculty and staff visited MCB Camp Lejeune to learn how to better assist service members and overcome those unique challenges they face when seeking out higher education.

“We are trying to get a better grasp on what our [undergraduate service members are going through] as they transfer into [college],” said Von Yeager, a communications studies teacher at UNCW. “This helps us better relate to what they are dealing with.”

Every career varies from each service member, whether they are active duty or retired. Additional challenges that service members go through versus their peers may be adjusting back to a civilian life and recovering from mental or physical injury.

“We want [each service member] to feel at home,” Yeager said. “Part of that is us trying to figure where they are coming from and what their experiences have been. Anything that we can do as faculty and staff to help with that transition, we want to do that.”

Faculty and staff had a chance to participate in different exercises and speak with instructors and services members throughout the day. One opportunity that the faculty and staff got to experience was going through the Infantry Immersion Trainer (IIT).

“The average age for a lance corporal is going to be around 19 to 22 years old,” said Chip Olmstead, the range training area management deputy director. “Say, this lance corporal is in charge of a squad to carry out a specific mission. That lance corporal is being given a lot of responsibility, and then to put them in an environment they are not familiar with and need to be prepared for anything will be stressful.”

The IIT is an in depth environmental simulator that sets up a hypothetical environment to imitate a real environment. Creation of this real environment includes sounds, smells, lighting, buildings, props and contracted actors.

“When we were walking around the IIT with one of the instructors talked about his experiences and how they are trying to prepare for what these service members might encounter,” Yeager said. “It was very informative. What I want to be able to do is talk to the service members, ask them to step up in the classroom and bring their experiences to the other students.”

As service members receive their education, they are given the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills that will lead into their future. By preparing faculty and staff with this additional knowledge, they are prepared to help service members to the fullest extent every day.