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May 1, 2013
By Philip Gruenwald, media relations assistant
Christopher Scroggins will be one of more than 700 Northwest Missouri State University students graduating this spring, but there’s one thing the comprehensive crisis response major can say that no other 2013 graduate can: He is a recipient of the Purple Heart for surviving an improvised explosive device detonation in a Humvee – an event he endured four times while serving in Iraq.
Scroggins served two tours of duty with the United States Marines from 2006 to 2009. The first detonation happened on his fourth day of patrol, when his Humvee triggered an underground IED, breaking the vehicle’s armor and sending shockwaves through its chassis. Scroggins said he was scared to death. The fourth occurrence earned the Purple Heart, and it was an experience that Scroggins remembers vividly.
“Someone was telling a joke, and I turned around to say something, and the next thing I remember was waking up from it,” Scroggins, of Oregon, Mo., said. “My door was blown open and I looked out, and the book I was reading was all over the road and the desert. My first reaction was, I grabbed the radio and said, ‘Everybody’s okay. We’re okay.’ I put the radio down and was like, ‘I’ve got to get my book.’”
The last explosion required three weeks in the hospital, after which he finished his term in California in July 2009. Just three weeks later, he began his education at Northwest. The abrupt, difficult transition inspired Scroggins to start the Northwest Student Veterans Association in fall 2011 to connect military veterans and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) students.
“It was really weird for me going from being physically fit every day and training all the time to not being structured and having to do everything on my own,” Scroggins said. “Just being around regular people again was really difficult. Listening to a civilian talk compared to a military person is very different.”
Finding the right degree program at Northwest gave Scroggins a sharper sense of purpose. The structure of the University’s comprehensive crisis response (CCR) program reminded him of his military experience, and the course content gave him opportunities to share personal stories with faculty and other students.
“In a crisis, you have your incident commander and the officers beneath them,” Scroggins said. “It’s similar to the command structure that’s set up for a battalion-level unit. When I was enlisted, I never understood how the whole system worked. Then once I started learning about it here, it started coming together. I could relate to it, and I could draw on some of my past experiences too.”
Scroggins soon began comparing military stories with Dr. Mark Corson, a CCR instructor, chair of the Department of Natural Sciences and a commanding general in the U.S. Army. The two conversed at Atlantic Hope, a CCR field-training exercise in Fort Pierce, Fla. After participating in the simulation, Scroggins, Corson and other comprehensive crisis response faculty hope to implement the experience at Mozingo Lake.
Experiences like Atlantic Hope have strengthened Scroggins’ desire to help people in disaster-stricken areas. After graduation, he plans to volunteer with Team Rubicon, a non-profit disaster relief organization recommended to him by Corson. Scroggins has volunteered with Rubicon and hopes to join the many other veterans working with them full-time, being deployed overseas or domestically to help with disaster response.
“They take civilians but it’s more of a transitional program for recent veterans because they’re kind of in ‘loss of mission,’ wandering and just getting out,” Scroggins said. “It gives that mission back to them a little and also helps them step down into civilian life. They’re out doing good things, and it’s good for their mental state of mind.”
As he prepares to graduate, Scroggins is glad to have connected with Corson and other CCR faculty who helped him apply himself to his major. He advises other veterans to look into CCR to become trained in giving aid during a crisis.“Even though the program is only a few years old, we have already done emergency plans for a few schools in the surrounding area, so local communities are definitely reaping its benefits as well,” Scroggins said. “I think it’s very beneficial to veterans, and a way for them to take their experiences out into the world.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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