An innovative program called C2C (Combat2College) hopes to help combat veterans successfully traverse the bridge between military service and college. Launching this fall, the collaborative effort between the National Rehabilitation Hospital, the Washington D.C. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Montgomery College will be the first of its kind in the nation created especially for the host of young veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan who face a sometimes difficult transition to college life.
“One day they are on the streets of Baghdad and the next, they are in a classroom,” says NRH psychologist Dr. Joseph Bleiberg, who headed the team that developed the program. “There used to be time for transition. But now these young people get off a plane and jump right back into their lives.”
C2C will address the unique needs of these returning vets, especially those suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and will provide significant services to students, and training for faculty and staff, as well. And because it leaves a “small foot print” by making adjustments to existing college activities and resources requiring few new expenses or acquisitions, C2C can be easily replicated in community colleges throughout the country.
Simple changes will be made to courses that introduce all students to college life. With the addition of “veteran relevant” themes such as exploring how military training and combat experience can help promote success in college, and teaching students about learning disability, combat stress, PTSD and TBI. In addition, referral to resources will be made available to help those students experiencing special problems.
“Inclusiveness is very important in C2C and we are striving to erase the stigma some of these young people feel,” Bleiberg says. The program will work hard to help veterans integrate successfully into college life, while also providing formal and informal opportunities for veterans to meet one another.
“We emphasize the positives in their military experience — their knowledge and discipline,” he said. “And we show respect and appreciation. The best thing we can say to these veterans is ‘thank you and welcome home.’”