By, Through and With

A Green Beret alumnus talks unconventional warfare and the power of education.

 
By Rodney Wilson | Published Mar. 8, 2018
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Jeremy L (photos courtesy of Jeremy L.)
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How’s your day going? Did you have a smooth commute, or was there traffic? Were a lot of emails waiting in your inbox when you turned on your computer, or could you start your day slowly? Was the office coffee too weak again?

For Jeremy L. (’10, ‘11), the workday very well may have started with an airplane jump from 18,000 feet in the air to land behind enemy lines. And maybe he spent the day teaching members of foreign armed forces strategies for military success against insurgent fighters. Then again, there’s the possibility he woke up in his Washington, D.C.-area home and headed to his civilian job as a government agent (which, though he declines specifics for the same security reasons that he asked we not use his last name, Jeremy indicates is way more exciting than 99 percent of the jobs out there).

As a U.S. Special Forces NCO (commonly known as a Green Beret), Jeremy doesn’t really get to live a “normal” life. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m not the type of guy who can sit in the office and do something that I really don’t enjoy for 40 years of my life,” he says. “I worked in a bank for quite a few years in my younger days. I didn’t enjoy it. So when I get sick of playing civilian, I go play Army; when I get sick of playing Army, I go play civilian. I’m a workaholic, I think, but I just love it.”

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Born and raised in suburban northern Kentucky, Jeremy quickly realized the traditional path wasn’t for him. “You go to high school, maybe meet your sweetheart, go to college, eventually come back, start a family, start a career,” he says. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do other things. And I couldn’t do what I wanted to do here.”

He mentions global travel as a perk to being a Staff Sergeant in the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), especially when it comes to his bucket list. “I want to hit every country in the world before I die,” he says. “It obviously helps being able to travel while getting paid.” But his military career is about more than collecting stickers for his suitcase—Jeremy finds deep meaning in what he does.

“I wanted to be part of something bigger than me,” he explains. “In my opinion, to be successful in life, especially in your career, you have to be a part of something that’s not about you. On a personal level, you need to know yourself well enough to know what makes you happy, then passion grows from that. And passion leads to heavy dedication, which leads to whatever your definition of success is.

“I think I’ve grown as a person, as an individual. It’s given me a lot of world experience. And the more I do now, the more I want.”

It takes a special kind of person to do what Jeremy does. As a non-commissioned officer in the Special Forces (an Army component within the Special Operations forces, which also include Delta Force, SEAL Team Six, Navy Seals and Army Ranger Battalion), Jeremy has undergone some of the most demanding training regiments in the military. And while his training has prepared him physically for combat, most of what he does on deployment is based in education and emotional connections.

“We’re the only force that is designed and trained to work with unconventional warfare,” he says. “We call it AAA—advise, assist and accompany. We go behind enemy lines or wherever and work with a force. We befriend them, gain their trust and work by, through and with an indigenous force.” Most recently, Jeremy has worked as an advisor to the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service, the Iraqi force widely considered responsible for the defeat of ISIS in Iraq.

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A Green Beret with a distinguished Army career, not to mention a government civilian job, Jeremy is quick to credit education for giving him tools for success. Holding two bachelor’s degrees from Northern Kentucky University, one in criminal justice and one in political science, the first-generation college graduate points to his determination in the classroom as an early indicator of his capabilities.

“For anything with the government, you have to have an education just to get your foot in the door,” he says. “I think, when you go to school, it’s all about what you put into it. And that carries over into the workplace, no matter what you’re doing—if you want it, go get it. I think at NKU, my instructors gave me tools to push my self-responsibility and work ethic to be able to achieve that.”

During his time at NKU, Jeremy and some other veteran students, with assistance from Bonnie May of the history department, banded together to start Norse V.E.T.S., an organization for which he served as first president. The organization developed the first Veteran’s Day celebration in 2009 and began lobbying for the eventual establishment of the Veterans’ Resource Station.  

Whether it’s earning two bachelor’s degrees, jumping out of airplanes, working with foreign military forces or doing government work, Jeremy sets himself to the task at hand with determination and self-responsibility. And it doesn’t hurt that he loves what he does.

“You ask me why I do this,” he says, “and it’s because, to me, it’s awesome. One day I’m sitting in front of the White House. A week later, I’m 18,000 feet in a bird getting ready to jump. Then I get home and the next day I’m back at the White House, in some desert across the globe or strolling through European streets. It’s cool."

As a U.S. Special Forces NCO, Jeremy’s role is popular fodder for TV shows and movies—and he’s quick to tell you that most of them get it wrong. He recommends the following books for those seeking a more accurate understanding of military special operations. (Click for drop-down content.)
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