Visitors or callers to the GCC Veteran Services Center will receive a warm welcome from Heather Pierson, a full-time GCC student and part-time employee at the Center. But the warm welcome is only the beginning. Heather also helps veterans deal with paperwork, get certified for classes and decide which classes to select.
Heather brings more to the job than just great people skills. A veteran herself, Heather understands the camaraderie that comes from shared experiences.
While stationed at Luke Air Force base, Heather scored high in mechanical aptitude. She went through tech school there, and then worked on the flight line (where the jets are parked, near the runway) as an aerospace ground-equipment technician. She repaired and maintained generators that supplied power to the jets while on the ground, and conducted operational checks, ensuring things like lights and radio-communications equipment on the jets were functioning properly.
A six-month tour of duty in Saudi Arabia was somewhat isolated, but an opportunity to meet members of the British Royal Air Force, and also French personnel serving there.
After finishing military service, Heather had two daughters. In January 2012, she started at Glendale Community College, where she’s pursuing an Applied Sciences (AS) degree.
When she completes her AS degree, she plans to transfer to Arizona State University to study psychology. “After that, I could find a job — or I could keep moving up,” says Heather, who envisions a big goal: Having her Ph.D. by the time she’s 45. (She’s now 33.) Benefits she earned while in the military will help pay for her education.
Heather describes herself as more of a listener than a talker. While in the military, she got to know people in the behavioral-health center. “Once I learned what they did,” she said, “it made sense that it could be a career for me.” Recently, Heather’s been thinking that after she completes her education, she could return to the military to help service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other challenges.
Heather says she loves her job at the GCC Veterans Center. “It’s hard, and at times it keeps me on my toes, but it’s so satisfying to help the veterans,” she says, adding that they often feel more comfortable opening up when they find out she served in the military.
GCC is on the national list of Military Friendly Schools. These schools offer tools and staff to assist veterans with their education decisions, including academic advisors who are familiar with Department of Veterans Affairs programs and requirements.
The Veteran Services Center at GCC – which started as a single desk in the enrollment center – now has its own building offering a comfortable environment, with couches, a flat-screen TV, computers and video-conferencing. Many of the amenities, including the TV, were donated by the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). Open to veterans and their families, the center serves up to 100 people weekly.
Heather says being in the service was a great experience for her. “I was never told I couldn’t do anything my male counterpart could do; I was never assigned to do something less important because they didn’t think I was capable,” she recalls. She cites a supportive supervisor who was always first in line to put her name up for awards.
Heather encourages young women to consider serving in the military. “The training you get while you’re in technical school – discipline, integrity – is really important. You’ll learn things that are applicable to every aspect of your life,” she says.
Likewise, she encourages all veterans – male and female – to take advantage of the G.I. bill when they get out. Female vets, in particular, sometimes need encouragement; for all veterans, the GCC Veterans Center is a good place to start.
GCC’s Veteran Services Center is located just north of the Student Union on the college’s main campus at 6000 West Olive Avenue, Glendale, 623-845-3363.
Additional resources: www.facebook.com/mcccdVeterans