(Marvin Hill, U.S. Army Command Sgt. Major (Ret.), is the new director of Residential Living at the Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks Job Corps Center in Memphis.)
I have faced and overcome many challenges in my lifetime, from growing up in the Walker Homes community of Memphis to serving as Gen. David Petraeus' hand-picked senior enlisted adviser for four combat tours, including the U.S. Central Command.
I served as the senior enlisted adviser to Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré as part of the Army's Joint Task Force response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I was selected by the Department of the Army to be an instructor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
I am proud of my service and accomplishments in the U.S. Army, and I am prouder still of what I learned from them – that hard work, dedication, perseverance and honor lead to success, no matter what the endeavor is.
Now, after retiring from 35 years of active duty, I have begun a new chapter in my life. It is one that will also have its share of challenges, but one that promises many rewards, large and small.
I have joined the staff of the Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks Job Corps Center here in Memphis as the Director of Residential Living. I am thankful to Booker T. Jones, president and CEO of MINACT, which operates several Job Corps centers across the country, for being committed to hiring veterans – something that I hope becomes more of a trend nationally – and for the opportunity to take my experience and pay it forward.
In my new role, I will mentor young men and women, helping to shape their lives in a positive way and to get them on a path to success. As I learned in the Army, though, it will be up to them.
As far back as I can remember, I have experienced first-hand the benefits of having positive role models and the joys of being a mentor myself. My parents certainly served that role, inspiring me to be involved and work hard to create a good life for myself. I was active in the Riverside Missionary Baptist Church and at Mitchell High School, participating in sports, the band, JROTC and student government.
After graduation, I chose the Army as a way to start a life and provide for my new family, and it was a match made in heaven. It is there I truly learned the value of mentoring. I was trained, pushed and inspired by many great military leaders. I learned that I had a duty, not only to myself, but to those around me. As I rose through the ranks, I was able to instill those values in others, and I had the pleasure in Iraq and Afghanistan to serve with cadets I once trained at West Point who became colonels commanding battalions or serving as senior staff members.
I now get the opportunity to work with young people ages 16 to 24 in Job Corps, a U.S. Department of Labor program that's one of the most successful federal job training programs ever. Since it was founded in 1964, it has provided education and career training to more than 2 million young people, creating lifelong success stories for many who otherwise would likely have led dead-end lives.
It is an opportunity and a challenge that inspires me, and one that I sincerely look forward to. The young people in this program need and deserve a chance to succeed. They are economically disadvantaged, and many of them quite frankly lack role models in their homes and communities.
While serving one's country in the military is important, so too is serving the future of our country by working to make a difference in the lives of future generations of workers, citizens and, yes, role models.