Profile – Jeff Flint – Medium
Jeffrey R Flint
Professor: Dr. Ljiljana Coklin
03 March, 2019
Profile of a Civically Engaged Person
Winter Quarter 2019
Profile of an Unsung Hero:
Meet Nick Tash
It was Sunday evening, the day before the fall quarter of 2018 officially began at UCSB. There was a knock at my door and in walked my new roommate, a tall, lean, rugged looking young man of 29 years old. We exchanged names and shook hands. Instantly, there was warm vibe of mutual respect between two veterans that has flourished over time. Although Nick is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, he is currently serving his country as a part-time enlisted man in the United States Air Force, attaining the rank of Corporal, and a non commissioned officer. His story is one that needs to be told; he represents many others that dedicate their life as civically engaged for the good of our nation without the individual recognition that they deserve.
All too often we hear about our veterans only as a group, and occasionally there might be an award ceremony, brief media recognition, or a passing “thank you for your service”, without fully understanding the scope of dedication and sacrifice that our military demands from its soldiers, each and every one of them. Nick has already proved himself in that regard, but it is his future goals that stand out. As I interviewed him for almost one hour, I could see the outstanding
positive potential he has to offer the community at large, and how he is making this a reality.
The Formative Years
Nick Tash was born and raised in Butte, Montana, a city of many that are often referred to as “Main Street, USA”. It represents minimal change, low crime rates, and a picturesque countryside environment with all four seasons. Butte is mainly populated by Irish and Italian Catholic Democrats that strive for center-left. Nick grew up with minimum exposure to diversity within his community, and in his own words: “in a loving and stable home”. As a true Montana boy, his favorite hobbies were fishing, hiking, biking, and sports, an “all-American” dream.
While in high school, not only was Nick academically inclined, but he also participated in basketball, soccer, football, and track. Obviously, he is multi-talented, and with many interests that will ensure his character to blossom in the future. A big smile was offered when he told me that he once ran a 4:15 mile. He went on to say that his father influenced him the most; a hard working man, with a nice demeanor that instilled positive values within Nick during father/ son moments, such as taking his son on many walks. Additionally, Nick tells me that he had many supportive friends that shared similar values of “clean living”, sports, and an appreciation for nature. He also was fortunate in that within his close circle of family and friends Nick is grateful there were no issues of alcohol, drug, or domestic abuses.
A Turning Point
After successfully completing high school, Nick was excited to enter the work force by accepting a position as a salesperson for a sporting outlet. It did not take long for him to figure out that there is a major difference between a job and a career; he was in a “dead end” job and viewed his life as going nowhere. This was the wakeup call that Nick needed, and certainly set the stage for the biggest life changer he has ever experienced.
One day, while at work, in walks a United States Marine Corp (USMC) recruiter in a full dress uniform. Nick was more than impressed with the uniform, and how the man carried himself. As coincidence would have it, this man happened to be the recruiter for one of Nick’s closest friends. The proverbial “light bulb” went on. It wasn’t just the flash of the uniform, but more of what that uniform represented: honor, dedication to the defense of the country, and democracy across the globe. This was a career that offered travel, adventure, good pay with
tremendous benefits, and an opportunity to engage the in a productive manner. Being “footloose
and fancy free”, and in outstanding physical and mental condition, Nick committed to a four year enlistment, and off he went into “the wild blue yonder”.
Military Duty as the Foundation
Being a very humble young man, Nick doesn’t talk much about his experience in the USMC, except that he misses the Corps very much and hopes to return. One can only imagine some of the hell he went through, all the while learning discipline and building character. These traits will be very helpful for the future civic endeavors that he is planning to pursue.
After fulfilling his four- year contract, Nick was honorably discharged with distinction and a host of medals for outstanding service to his country. He wasted no time in rejoining the military, but this time as an enlistee in the United States Air Force (USAF). As Nick explains during our interview, he wanted a change of pace, and somewhat of a lighter schedule to allow him to attend college. He chose to enter USAF as part time with the prestigious rank of Corporal. The obligation consists of one weekend per month, and two weeks per year on duty. The rank consists of a leadership role, and he tells me that he has had the pleasure to help train many other soldiers in various capacities.
Planning of this nature is quite practical, and indicative of Nick’s ability to facilitate strategic long term plans, with a tactical perspective to complete the necessary short term requirements. For example, he now has substantial benefits that pay for education, all the while maintaining his military status. This combination is exceptional, as it produces many productive options, all with upward mobility; both components enhance each other, military service and academic participation…absolutely brilliant!
An Academic Roadmap to a Professional Career
With a much lighter schedule, and his military benefits, Nick was able to enroll in Santa Monica Community College, and again was successful, in that he completed and obtained an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts & Humanities. His academic performance was so strong that it earned him priority entrance into the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), ranked fifth in the nation among public universities. He is now in the process of completing his third year, and advancing to senior status.
Nick has not chosen an easy academic path, as his emphasis is on philosophy, a truly challenging major. However, he enjoys the material, and values it most as excellent preparation for continuing his academic journey into law school while developing his methodology of critical thinking. Yes, law school is in his near future, and he views this opportunity to become an attorney to further serve the military community by professionally assisting in legal matters of concern.
Upon graduating from UCSB, Nick will engage in a contract with the USMC, where they will pay for law school and amenities, and once completed; he will serve five years on active duty as a lawyer, judge advocate, in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). This branch is concerned with military justice and military law. However, as a condition of his contract and acceptance back into USMC, he will also be required to complete Officer’s Candidate School (OCS), a brutal ten-week training period to educate and evaluate if the candidate is sufficiently prepared and capable of holding a commission in USMC. This preliminary process leads to the starting officer rank of Second Lieutenant ( O-1) while in law school, and a promotion to Captain (O-3) after graduating the three year program that will award Nick a Doctorate of Jurisprudence (JD).
After careful consideration, it becomes quite apparent that the process described is more than challenging, and additionally establishes a long term commitment. As I chat with Nick about these two aspects, he addresses them in his usual quiet tone, but with determination in his voice, a smile of happiness, and that spark in his eyes. It is clear that he will enjoy every step of this long journey.
First, it is important to note that an O-3 in the USMC is just that, an O-3. There is no additional pay for an attorney, and it is understood that all personnel are soldiers first, and their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) next, and in that order. The salary for these officers is somewhat competitive with civilian standards, however, as a judge advocate, the potential earning power is not commensurate with civilian attorneys. For Nick, it is not about the money, power, or prestige. His passion is directed to the ability to take action for a “center’ position in accordance with the prescribed laws.
Nick discussed some values he believes are most important: “Everyone should contribute
to society and in a positive way”. Additionally, his focus is on maintaining “center” attitudes
and ideologies in America. His flexibility extends from center-right to center left, and quickly dismisses extremists, and any and all potential threats, foreign or domestic, to the United States of America (US). He also sees a large number of high school children somewhat detached by the allure of personal social media and video gaming addiction. As our future leaders, he is calling for them to be more aware of contemporary and controversial issues.
I asked Nick some very probing questions regarding such hot topics as LGBTQ rights, same sex marriage, immigration policies, and activism for the feminist position on gender equality. Across the board, Nick had no personal agenda for or against. Instead he offered that if people have a constitutionally right to conduct legal activity they should be extended that opportunity. However, he dislikes communism that eventually leads to poverty and oppression, gang activity that leads to street violence and unpatriotic attitudes that can lead to disruption.
Potential for Future Impact
Engaging in the criminal justice system is one of Nick’s highest priorities. As a judge advocate in JAG, cases are assigned accordingly, and one case might entail criminal prosecution, and in another case criminal defense. In other words, duty and respect to the court, Uniform Code of Military Justice, and Military Code of Conduct raises above personal opinion.
There are four sources of criminal activity that Nick will address that unfortunately arise on occasion in the USMC: (1) crimes against the Corps and personnel, (2) crimes against the US, (3) crimes that violate the Geneva Convention, and (4) crimes against civilians. Nick might be assigned a case concerning any or all of these four issues. These are major concerns, as they have the potential to compromise the security of the US. These issues certainly tip the scale when compared to the recent increase of self-interest groups seeking social justice. The difference is that the former gets more media attention and local notoriety, whereas, when a soldier or a group of soldiers go “rogue” it is more often than not kept at a low profile and off the media radar. There are multiple reasons for this, including national security risks, embarrassment, and bad public relations. Nick will have to sort this out, a very challenging responsibility. However, this is his passion in life, to serve the country as the very best judge advocate.
Typically, it is rare to see any media exposure of military crimes, unless there is a severe breach of code. One of the most famous examples in military history is the prosecution and
conviction of murder after Lieutenant William Calley, United States Army, ordered the shooting of 22 Vietnamese women and children in March of 1968. Nick’s unit was just recently shown a movie concerning this tragedy, and discussed the details at length. Unfortunately, many other cases that are just as important, but not in the public spotlight, somehow manage to slip through the cracks. The general public is, for the most part, unaware of how many military crimes and disciplinary issues occur. Possibly, there is a newsworthy story worthy of urgency, in that there is a lack of, or irresponsibility in reporting most of these events. However, Nick has been briefed on military standard operating procedures, and must act accordingly. This includes minimum discussion of issues outside of appropriate military personnel. As my interview concluded, a sense of overwhelming seriousness filled the room. Suddenly, we looked at each other and burst out in laughter, as it is considered the best medicine.
So to Nick and all the other soldiers that have honorably served the United States of America, the most hearty thank you goes out to all of you. Nick represents a person at one of the major crossroads of civic engagement, an intersection where civilian and military sectors meet to improve social conditions with focus of applying correct interpretation of law, and enforcing code. Nick has the daunting task of sorting out all of this complex system, and its ambiguities. Best of luck to you, my friend. Can I get a “Hell Yeah?”