Destination Graduation: Senior taking his career to new heights as a paratrooper

There was no sound to be heard but the wind screaming past his falling body. The only view in sight was the miles of ground stretched before him, moving closer every second. He felt as close to the heavens as one could get as he was hurtling towards the earth in a free fall.

Many people think jumping voluntarily from a perfectly good airplane is one of the stupidest things someone could do. Forrest LeBlanc wanted to make a career out of it. LeBlanc is leaving for Fort Lewis, Wash. after he graduates Sam Houston State University in May to begin the process of joining the 82nd airborne division of paratroopers as a Rifle Platoon Leader.

“I knew by the time I was eleven or twelve that I wanted to join the army” LeBlanc said. “I was probably watching something on the history channel with my grandpa, something about World War II with the paratroopers. And [since] then, I’ve wanted to be a paratrooper, which makes the 82nd airborne division a really big deal for me.”

LeBlanc began his dreams of joining the army at an early age, but he said SHSU and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) have helped prepare him to make that dream come true.

“The ROTC program here is by far one of the best in the nation,” LeBlanc said. “The cadre and faculty we have are outstanding, and they’ve taken the time to develop us and train us. . . . Academically, all the professors I’ve had have been awesome. All of the professors in [the history] department have helped my ability to write, to communicate and to take information you need out of a source and turn it into a product, which is essential for a history major.”

LeBlanc will be leaving after graduation to work at the Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) in Washington during the summer, the location where ROTC members are required to attend final training before their senior year. He will then be going to the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course (IBOLC) which will last for four months where he will learn all of the responsibilities that come with becoming an officer and will then attend ranger school in the spring.

After his training is complete, LeBlanc will be stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina to join the 82nd airborne division to take up his position as Rifle Platoon Leader.

LeBlanc said he was glad of the support his family showed him when he told them of his decision to join the army and was also glad they encouraged him to join in the right way.

“When I told my family in high school, they wanted me to do it in the right way,” LeBlanc said. “I knew I wanted to make a career out of this, so their concern was for me to join in the right way. Going in through this method, the government has paid for my schooling and I was able to get a degree, which is great.”

LeBlanc said he had several great professors in his time at SHSU, but Major Paul Lohmann, Andrew Orr, PhD., Nicholas Pappas, PhD., and Terry Thibodeaux, PhD., have especially influenced his career.

Thibodeaux also enjoyed his interaction with LeBlanc and was proud to have him as a student.

“Forrest is a bright, conscientious young man,” Thibodeaux said. “I am proud that he is graduating from SHSU and will be protecting our country in the military. And it’s always a point of pride for me when a student values their unique Acadian heritage as Forrest does.”

LeBlanc said he would not have a problem adjusting to army life thanks to the training he received in the ROTC program.

“One of the great things about ROTC is that it gives you four years of a taste and feel for what the army is like, what my role in the army will be like as an officer,” LeBlanc said. “All of the military science classes we go through help develop us as leaders and teach us the procedures and protocols of the army. The schools and training they send us to help develop us into the best officers we can be.”

LeBlanc also said he was ready for anything the army could send his way, including being deployed overseas.

“Ideally, I would be going. One brigade will be deploying out of the 82nd next year and I’m hoping to get that brigade. And yea I’m nervous about going overseas, but it’s more of an excited anxiousness to go. It’s my job, and I’m ready to go wherever it takes me.”

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