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November 10, 2013

Military training ‘invaluable’ on Jacob Tennant’s career path

FAIRMONT — When Jacob Tennant entered the military straight out of high school, little did he know it would pave the way for the career that he would eventually pursue.

Tennant served in the U.S. Army Military Police from 1984 to 1986. For the majority of that time, Tennant said he was stationed in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and his main duty was to provide security.

From road patrol to site security to crowd control to military fund escorts, Tennant was on the job.

But Tennant also had exposure to another skill besides law enforcement.

“I worked as a desk sergeant and dealt a lot with computers,” Tennant said. “That was back when computers were first starting to become prevalent.” 

From that point forward, Tennant said working with computers remained a hobby, but he never thought of it as a potential career.

“Computers were something that just stuck with me for years and years,” he said. “My wife finally suggested that I go get a degree. And that’s what I did.” 

After returning from the military in 1986, Tennant, of Morgantown, said he worked a number of odd jobs, but his primary job was working as a bus driver for Monongalia County schools.

In 2010, however, he decided to pursue a degree in information systems at Pierpont Community & Technical College. By May of 2013, Tennant had completed his degree, and as of July, he started work as an IT development specialist for Pierpont.

 “My job entails everything from installing wall outlets to running the wire to fixing computers,” he said. “I build servers and develop the systems that are going to be used later on down the line. The things I’m building are probably still going to be here 20 years from now.”

And Tennant said the military prepared him in more ways than one for being able to successfully complete those types of tasks.

“The military helped get me where I am today by starting me down a path of having discipline and drive,” he said. “The training is invaluable.”

During his time overseas, Tennant said he had the opportunity to see and experience things he would have never thought imaginable.

“We were only a two-hour drive from Paris, France,” he said.

His proximity to Paris enabled Tennant to know the feeling of being on top of the Eiffel Tower and have a dining experience at Moulin Rouge.

One thing that particularly sticks out in his memory, though, was when he was sent to the Berlin Brigade to provide temporary assistance.

“That was three or four years before the Berlin Wall came down,” he said. “We got to see Checkpoint Charlie, and we could stand at one post and look 200 feet away and there would be sitting an East German soldier.” 

Tennant said experiences like those are things he will never forget, and they reinforce his gratitude for the time he spent in the military.

“I can’t foresee ever being able to having the time or resources to go back to Germany now,” he said. “The unit I was in is no longer even in existence. The company deactivated after the Berlin Wall fell down. Now when I look at pictures, the buildings and things that I remember are no longer even there. It’s all gone.”

Aside from attending to his military-specific duties, though, Tennant was also having to deal with things that were going on back home in the United States.

“My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer in February of 1986, right before I was supposed to get out,” Tennant said.

Tennant said he came home for 30 days on emergency leave to spend some much-needed time with his family before returning back to Germany. While he was overseas, though, home was still very much on Tennant’s mind.

“There was this feeling of not knowing if and when that phone call was ever going to come while still having to perform my regular duties,” Tennant said. “It made things kind of nervous.”

In September, Tennant received word that he needed to come back home because his father, who had also served in the military, didn’t have much longer to live. So, Tennant returned to Morgantown, where he worked in the recruiter’s station for the remaining two months of his enlistment. Throughout it all, though, Tennant said he took comfort in knowing he had his father’s full support.

“He was extremely proud of me and supportive of me joining the military,” Tennant said. “He was behind me 100 percent of the way.”

Email Kaylyn Christopher at kchristopher@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @KChristopherTWV.

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