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Face of Defense: Student Finds Path in Army

American Forces Press Service

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan , March 3, 2010 – Robert J. Goggins started his college career with the goal of becoming a mechanical engineer. Instead, he joined the Army as an infantryman.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Pfc. Robert J. Goggins shakes hands with a resident of Kandagal village in the Manogai district of eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Feb. 21, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Albert L. Kelley
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

His life as a soldier in Afghanistan is markedly different from his life as a NASA intern and as a student at the University of Virginia, but he said he gets a lot of satisfaction from it.

“I’ve really enjoyed my Army experience so far,” said Goggins, a private first class who’s a gunner with 2nd Platoon, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Lethal.

“I love finding myself in a situation where I have to make an important decision,” he said. “You don’t know what the right decision is. You make the decision, you’ve tested yourself and you’ve passed it.”

Goggins, a native of Bay St. Louis, Miss., spends his days in Afghanistan riding in a turret or carrying an MK-48 machine gun. At night, he can be found scanning his sector of responsibility during guard duty. Like every other member of his unit, he constantly searches for potential threats to himself and his fellow soldiers as he deals with cold weather and boredom.

“He’s super intelligent and he sees things through analytical eyes,” said Army Staff Sgt. Douglas R. Middleton of Siloam Springs, Ark., Goggins’ platoon sergeant. “I could see him being in the Special Forces community.”

Before he joined the Army, Goggins was set on becoming an engineer. To gain exposure to the field, he applied for an internship with NASA on a family member’s recommendation.

“I loved my experience at NASA,” he said. “It was my first exposure to how engineers really work.”

He said he was amazed what the agency accomplished with 1960s technology. “I remember seeing the analog gauges,” he noted. “That’s when it occurred to me that we sent a man to the moon with analog dials.”

Despite the experience gained at NASA, though, he decided a career in mechanical engineering might not be his calling.

“I never really felt the spark there,” Goggins said. “I felt like if I spent the rest of my life doing something I don’t like, that I’m wasting my life. I wanted to see the real world.”

Seeking a new direction following a series of personal setbacks, including having to return home to help his family because of flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Goggins took inventory of his career experiences. One particular experience he recalled was fighting his first fire as a volunteer firefighter at the University of Virginia.

“Going into my first fire, I was scared to death, but I pushed all that to the side,” Goggins said. “I remember walking out of the fire and seeing the other rookies looking at me with jealous eyes. That’s when I knew that I liked this kind of stuff. It’s kind of why I joined the Army.”

Goggins said he is happy with the Army, but still has plans to finish his formal education.

“I want to go back to school to finish up my degree,” he said. “But, I don’t think it’s going to be engineering. I haven’t decided what yet.”

(From a Combined Joint Task Force 82 news release.)

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