University of Wisconsin students risk falling behind in school due to deployment


Lucas Robarge pictured second to the right is a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire student who is in The National Guard. ©2017 Specialist Kienetz

Casey Ryan

By Casey Ryan

Nicolas Cravillion was sitting at home with his son, when he received a call that he would be deployed for hurricane relief efforts in Florida.

Hurricane Irma hit on Sept. 2017 and The National Guard was deployed for relief efforts which included students from University of Wisconsin schools.

“I was deployed for Hurricane Irma, I was scared that I was going to have to drop out for the semester,” Cravillion said. “Thankfully the disasters were not as bad as predicted, and the people of Florida were able to recover fast enough that we were not needed as long as anticipated.”

Lucas Robarge a student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire was deployed longer than Cravillion. Robarge was unable to continue the fall semester of 2017 once his deployment ended; Cravillion, however, was able to re-enroll after a shorter deployment.

“I received a call that I would be deployed for the hurricane relief efforts, I was there for three weeks, and there was no way I could continue my semester when I was back in Wisconsin,” Robarge said.

National Guard students who are deployed risk falling behind in their collegiate careers. If deployed, they can fall behind a semester, or a year of classes. Robarge, consequently, is a semester behind in his collegiate career.

“I knew going into the National Guard that I could be deployed for a semester or two,” Robarge said. “I needed financial assistance for college and this was a good way for me get it.”

Robarge said that he was proud of his service in the National Guard, but it can also get in the way of college courses. He has a busy schedule with his weekly duties and missing a semester of college was difficult for him. He is still hoping to graduate within a few years, but he knows there is a possibility of future deployment.

Cravillion who attends University of Wisconsin-Green Bay was deployed for a week and a half, he was able to work with his Veterans Affairs office in UW-Green Bay to re-enroll in his courses for the semester.

Cravillion faced a decision when he was in the US Army, he had to decide if he wanted to re-enlist or do something different with his life.

“I was due for getting out or re-enlisting, I was basically holding the re-enlistment contract in hand knowing I was being sent to Germany,” Cravillion said.

Cravillion said that he wasn’t ready to get out of the military, he loved what he was doing, but he felt he needed to be there for his child and that’s when he decided to enlist in the National Guard.

“I served in active duty in the US Army from 2011-14, when I found out that my son was being born,” Cravillion said. “I decided to re-enlist in the Wisconsin National Guard, moved back home, and pursued a career, which started with college.”

According to The National Guardcollege students who are soldiers can be deployed, but most schools will work with students to smooth out the details in the event that happens. Student’s may have to withdraw from the semester or meet with their academic advisors to plan for their future semesters.

According to Joe Abhold, Dean of Students at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, The UW-Eau Claire students were only given a short period of time for their activation notice. Students had little time to contact their instructors to figure out their course of action, to withdraw or continue the semester.

According to UW-Eau Claire, there is a military policy in place. Military students who do not attend UW-Eau Claire for more than one semester must complete a leave of absence form. A military student on a leave of absence does not have to apply for reentry; however, if the military student is suspended or stays out of school for a period longer than the approved leave, he or she must apply for reentry.

All UW system schools have a similar military leave policy in place. According to the Veterans Affair Office at UW-Eau Claire, National Guard students are encouraged to complete these forms as soon as they are notified of active duty leave. Veteran Affairs at each UW system school are there for students enrolled in ROTC or The National Guard.

UW-Stevens Point student Devon Bonikowske was deployed for Hurricane Irma relief efforts but was able to continue his semester.

“I withdrew before we left on the convoy that weekend, but I was immediately re-enrolled in all of my classes when I returned a week and a half later, thanks to the Veterans’ Affairs office on University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus,” Bonikowske said.

Bonikowske says that sometimes people assume that National Guard soldiers don’t go overseas, and she wants to make more people aware about the National Guard and what they do. Bonikowske’s boyfriend and her friends are overseas now, and they had to withdraw from school. She said they could be there for a year or more and is unsure of when she will see them again.

In 2010, the Department of Education published regulations implementing the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, according to the Reserves Officer Association. The regulations, 34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R) section 668.18went into effect in July of 2010. This law protects education for students and is codified under20 United States Code (U.S.C) Section 1091 c.

The law and regulations are for post-secondary education students whose education was interrupted by voluntary or involuntary military service. This applies to students who are members of The National Guard or Reserves and who are called to active duty.

Sean Jackett, a National Guard soldier attending University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that he didn’t enlist while in college, instead he enlisted in the Army directly after high school. He served active duty for five years then transitioned into the National Guard as he began attending college.

Jackett enlisted originally to serve his country and to have college paid for. He transitioned into the National Guard in order to serve Wisconsin and make a little extra money.  Jackett is the president of Student Veterans of America at UW-Madison.

The National Guard allows students to receive educational benefits for school. Students can also use their scholarship for rent, groceries, books etc. Many students want the option of having their scholarship to use for anything they may need other than tuition.

“The one weekend a month I have to serve I have to take time during the week to pack and prepare for drill on the weekend and ensure that all my schoolwork is done ahead of time,” Jackett said.

Jackett was deployed for hurricane relief efforts the majority of the semester. He was unable to re-enroll in his courses, as he was deployed for the duration of the relief efforts.

“I assisted preparing our convoy for Florida, but I was sent to Texas for the semester to oversee the transition of equipment from the unit there to the Wisconsin National Guard,” Jackett said.

Jackett said that he wants to serve his country and put the needs of many before his own. He said that being a part of The National Guard is something he can do to make a difference in the world.

Cravillion said that serving his country means that he wants to preserve the freedoms, rights and liberties of Americans. Cravillion is continuing the National Guard and is currently the president of Vets4Vets program at UW-Green Bay. It is the only student run organization supporting veterans on campus.

Robarge has recently heard from The National Guard and he is going to be deployed September 2019 to Afghanistan. He is preparing with his advisor to figure out what his plan should be for the 2019-2020 school year. Robarge said he knew this was a possibility but never thought he could be sent to Afghanistan.

“I’m glad to serve my country and I’m grateful for the services at Eau Claire but I am nervous about going to Afghanistan.”

Robarge is in a situation that can happen to anyone in The National Guard. University services are there to help students figure out a plan for their academic career and they offer counseling services.