It’s September, which means students are flocking back to campus after the summer break. At Fordham’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies, more than 300 of those enrolled this fall will be participating in the Veterans Administration’s Yellow Ribbon program, which covers tuition and fees for eligible post-9/11 veterans at select colleges.
This past May, Mahlon Bailey, a subway mechanic for the MTA and Property Book Officer in the104th Military Police Battalion in the New York National Guard, joined the ranks of Fordham’s Yellow Ribbon graduates. He recently sat down to talk about how the degree he earned in organizational leadership helped him become an officer.
Full transcript below
Mahlon Bailey: I like to say I’m addicted to service because, I don’t know, I like to help, I like to give, I like to serve, and that’s why I’m still here after 18 years.
Patrick Verel: It’s September, which means students are flocking back to campus after the summer break. At Fordham School of Professional and Continuing Studies, 300 of those enrolled this fall will be participating in the Veterans Administration’s Yellow Ribbon Program, which covers tuition and fees for eligible post 9/11 veterans at select colleges.
This past May, Mahlon Bailey, or just Bailey to his friends, a subway mechanic for the MTA and property book officer in the 104th Military Police Battalion in the New York National Guard, joined the ranks of Yellow Ribbon graduates. He recently sat down to talk about how the degree he earned in organizational leadership helped him become an officer.
I’m Patrick Verel and this is Fordham news.
Talk to me about your time in the military. Now, you enlisted in the marine corps when you were 17, correct?
Mahlon Bailey: I was actually laying in my bed thinking about what to do next and I got a call from a Marine Corps recruiter. At the time I was not interested in going college, but I didn’t want to not go to college at all, so he offered the possibility of learning a technical skill and going to school later on, and I said, “Perfect.”
Patrick Verel: Why did you feel like it was what you needed at time?
Mahlon Bailey: By the time I got to 11th grade, I was burnt out. I was tired of school, so I wanted to take a break, but I kept hearing, if people that take a break never go back to school, or they plan on taking a break and they just don’t go continue with college and that’s a source of pride for my parents, so I said, “I’m definitely going to school, because they want me to go to the college.” Both of them are college graduates.
I then said I was a jet engine mechanic, which was a technical skill that would have been marketable after I leave, and then I got out. And I switched to the National Guard.
Patrick Verel: I once heard you say that you quote/unquote “live logistics.” What do you mean by that exactly?
Mahlon Bailey: It’s just every part of my life, basically. I like to make complicated things simple. You remember superstorm Sandy?
Patrick Verel: I do.
Mahlon Bailey: Okay, so the governor activated the state, the Guard in the state, and just brought a bunch of National Guard soldiers together and we were in charge for the relief effort. I was a platoon leader for that. Well, I had to get all those people on the same page and say, “Listen, we understand that … Well, I understand that you might be going through also. However, we need to help these people. Right? I’m going to my best to take care of you and your personal issues, but we need to focus on this mission.”
It takes making a complicated thing simple to have those, a platoon full of soldiers, execute that mission effectively. I like to say I’m addicted to service, because I, I don’t know, I just like to help, I like to give, I like to serve, and that’s why I’m still here after 18 years.
Patrick Verel: Why did you want to get a college degree in 2014 and why did you come to Fordham?
Mahlon Bailey: That was one of the promises my recruiter made to my mother, right? “He can get it,” because that was her main focus. “Can he still get a degree?” The Yellow Ribbon events encourage education and transitioning from being on a deployment to focusing on bettering ourselves.
Also, my father had a health scare, right? I said, “I have to get this before it’s too late.” The fact that Fordham was a Yellow Ribbon school, that’s what said, “All right. This is the place I need to be.”
Patrick Verel: What was it like to go back to school after all those years?
Mahlon Bailey: Challenging.
Patrick Verel: Yeah? How so?
Mahlon Bailey: I didn’t know how to write. I definitely did not know how to write. I thought I was a pretty smart person, but professor Windholz basically shot that down, definitely. I thank professor Windholz for being as demanding as he was because he set me up for the rest of my Fordham life, but that was the most challenging course I took, because at the time, I was still working full-time, going to school, and I remembered getting a Monster or a Red Bull or doing push-ups just to stay awake to write this paper that he, specifically the way he said to write it.
Patrick Verel: Wow, it must have been overwhelming when you actually got to get your degree in May.
Mahlon Bailey: Yes. Yes. It was. My parents were there. It was definitely overwhelming. It was, it was similar to when I graduated boot camp.
Patrick Verel: For people who aren’t familiar with the military, what is a property book officer?
Mahlon Bailey: The technical term for my position is property accounting technician. I account for property on the level in a battalion.
Patrick Verel: So, you’re gonna keep track of every tank, every gun, every toilet seat, everything that belongs in that battalion.
Mahlon Bailey: Keep track, yes.
Patrick Verel: Make sure it doesn’t walk off.
Mahlon Bailey: Yes, that’s a good way to think about it.
Patrick Verel: You’re making a big transition because you had been working for the MTA, and you previously had been enlisted, and this is going to help you become an officer. Is that a way to think about it?
Mahlon Bailey: So, I’m a reserve, and I work for the MTA. I fix trains for the MTA. That’s my civilian job. My military career, ever since I’ve been in the Marine Corps, I was dealing with logistics, so when I switched to the Guard, continued with logistics, that experience is what led to become a warrant officer, and having a college degree in organizational leadership as a logistician and also as an officer, completes the package.