When Robert Hunt ended his service in the United States Marine Corps in 2020, he, alongside many other people in the world, saw the trajectory of their lives change. For Hunt, however, it may have been for the better.
Hunt, 28, was living in San Marcos with his wife, who was working as a long-term substitute teacher, after exiting the military. Once the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head on the world, job prospects in the area looked bleak.
"When the pandemic hit, nobody in San Diego was hiring new teachers because they didn't know what was going to happen and how many students they were going to have and how many teachers they were going to need," Hunt said. "The place she grew up in, Ventura, wasn’t hiring either, but Bakersfield was hiring."
And off they went to Bakersfield for his wife's new teaching job, another chapter for his well-traveled life, having graduated high school in South Carolina and being stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., and Camp Pendelton in Oceanside during his service.
As for Hunt, his plans to begin his civilian life also included teaching. He figured his experience in the Marines would translate well in becoming a social studies teacher.
Hunt originally joined the Marines because he thought that "they were so cool. They just blew up things, yelled all the time and shoot guns. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?"
However, he quickly realized that wouldn't be a reality.
"I originally wanted to be infantry and shoot guns and all that stuff but the job was interestingly enough not available. So the most interesting sounding job was an Intelligence Specialist."
As it turned out, his denial to serve as infantry would provide Hunt with plenty of experience to carve out his civilian path serving as an Intelligence Specialist.
"You have to understand the weather, enemy and terrain," said the history major and economics minor at Cal State Bakersfield. "I had to understand how weather works and how it affects equipment, I learned about the enemy, which included international affairs and their capabilities and politics, and I learned the terrain and geography of the world so I'm very familiar with how it affects everyone."
Hunt also added that his past experiences with public speaking, research and presentation would also translate well into being a teacher.
In 2017, CSUB opened the Veteran Success Center and brought in current coordinator Jamie Pacheco to bring the vision to life. There were no on-campus resources for veterans or veteran dependents and spouses transferring into the university and the surrounding worries. It now serves 843 students.
"I started the Veteran Success Center from the ground up. I was hired in 2017, about five days before Veterans Day, and I hit the ground running ever since," said Pacheco. "I am a military spouse. My husband is an Air Force veteran so when he was a student, it was really hard for him and I saw how hard it was, so that is something I did not want to see our students struggle with."
The center's goal is to assist qualifying students with starting their GI Bill benefits, helping with applications and providing guidance to make sure the transition from the military to the university is seamless. Workshops are also provided to let students know what is available to them when it comes to resources and benefits. The center is also connected with foundations, community colleges and agencies in Kern County, which provide outlets for the students.
One such student was Hunt, who transferred into CSUB from Bakersfield College during the fall semester. While communicating with incoming students, Pacheco sent an email looking to hire a work study, which is, in Hunt's words, "the same idea as an office assistant or a secretary. We guide them through the process and if we don't have an answer, we figure out an answer. That’s our goal, to answer their questions and to help them get through the process of going to college." Hunt was hired for the position; Pacheco sees him as a perfect fit for the position.
"He's a great advocate for veterans. He spoke very highly about his experiences (in another interview) coming out of the military, coming out of BC and transitioning into CSUB."
Hunt took exclusively online classes while at BC, because of the pandemic, and Pachecho recalled a story when she first met him and he first stepped foot on the CSUB campus.
"When I met Robert, I gave him a tour of the campus and he told me that was the first time he had ever been on a campus," said Pacheco. "I told him I wanted to take a picture of it to remember the moment. Seeing him embracing the college experience was a really great opportunity and knowing I had a part in that is one of the highlights of my job."
As Hunt begins to conclude his first semester at CSUB, he sees the path that has been laid in front of him become clearer in becoming a future social studies teacher. He has been taking his past experiences and has been using them to help himself and others through the Veteran Success Center.
As for those future veterans who want to take a similar path?
"Have a plan," says Hunt. "Don’t come to school for enlightenment or to expand your mind. I'm here for job training. Have a plan of what you want to do to get your degree because the GI Bill is 36 months of paid school. That’s three years to get a four-year degree so they don't want you to waste your time partying or dilly dallying. You have to come here to work."