Pat Tillman Foundation can’t fulfill its mission to empower military veterans and their spouses without the generosity of our supporters across the country. Nationwide, over 400 Tillman Scholars are striving to impact our country and communities through their studies in medicine, law, business, policy, science, education and the arts. Every “Tillman Tuesday,” we are committed to highlighting the individual impact of a Tillman Scholar, focusing on their success in school, career and community—all thanks to your support. This week we learn more about 2013 Tillman Scholar and Army veteran Meaghan Mobbs who earned her Master’s in Forensic Psychology from George Washington University and is currently a first-year doctoral student studying Clinical Psychology at Columbia University. Hailing from a military family with her husband still serving as an active duty Captain in the Army, Meaghan is on the path to improving psychological care for service members and their families.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
“I grew up in a military family where my father served as an Army officer for 34 years and my mom served for 12 years. With that came the idea that service to country was a key part of being a great person. While I was in high school I visited West Point and fell in love with it and couldn’t have asked for a better college experience – I was challenged and given so many opportunities. One of those opportunities was when I went to Airborne school during my junior year, I fell in love with jumping out of airplanes and everything about it. My dad was Airborne and my mom was one of the first women to go through Airborne school. During my time in Airborne school I was in Quartermaster Corps and was named the Honor Graduate of my course and with that I was able to essentially ensure that my first platoon would be a rigger platoon at Ft. Bragg, NC, where I spent all 5 years of my service.”
WHAT WAS YOUR ROLE DURING YOUR DEPLOYMENT TO AFGHANISTAN AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF DURING YOUR TIME IN THE SERVICE?
“As a 1LT, I deployed to Afghanistan as the detachment commander of an aerial delivery detachment. We were responsible for the aerial resupply for dozens of FOBs and COPs. It was a distinct honor, knowing that I was resupplying the warfighter.
I learned that as human beings we can undergo a lot of different traumas and always bounce back and that there’s another side to everything. During my time in the Army I felt stronger in ways I hadn’t before and realized we as humans are extremely resilient.”
AFTER SERVING FIVE YEARS ACTIVE DUTY, WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO SEPARATE FROM THE MILITARY?
“I realized coming back from Afghanistan, where I was deployed 2010 – 2011, that we as an organization did not do a very good job of providing psychological services down range as well as providing psychological services to returning service members. Not just from an active duty perspective, but also National Guardsmen and reserve units coming back. There just wasn’t resources readily available to our service members. With that being said, I became more interested in Psychology, though my undergrad was in Comparative Politics.
With my husband being an active duty Infantry Officer, after the birth of our first daughter I still wanted to be in the Army but I wanted to find something that was really meaningful if I was going to spend time away from my daughter. I wanted it to be something that really spoke to my soul. I was serving on a battalion staff and it wasn’t what I was looking for anymore. I loved the Army and the people, I just realized that I couldn’t jump out of planes forever and spending a lot of time on staff as a Logistics Officer didn’t light that fire in me.”
AT WHAT POINT IN TIME DURING YOUR DEPLOYMENT TO AFGHANISTAN DID YOU REALIZE THERE WAS A NEED FOR MORE PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSISTANCE FOR OUR SERVICE MEMBERS?
“I realized there was an urgency to push people through and ‘check the box’ so to speak, but there were people that had additional challenges and needed services but there never appeared to be the time to seek out the assistance they needed. As a Detachment Commander I had people that really struggled with health issues, some service related and some not service related. The military is an organization that values itself on strength and perseverance and pushing through your weak moments physically, but the problem is there are also issues going on in people’s minds.”
AFTER HANGING UP YOUR MILITARY CAREER, HOW DID YOU TAKE THE NEXT STEP TOWARDS WHAT YOU WERE PASSIONATE ABOUT?
“Luckily, I had a fantastic Battalion Commander who helped me with my next steps. I got out of the military in September and that same month I started my Master’s in Forensic Psychology at George Washington University. Actually, that’s where the Pat Tillman Foundation supported me. I knew that with my undergrad not being in psychology, I had to get some experience in the field to make me competitive for doctoral programs.”
HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE TILLMAN SCHOLARSHIP?
“I learned about the scholarship through my search for other military scholarships. In order for me to get my Masters, my husband and I were going to have to be geographically separated so we had to figure out how it was going to work financially.”
WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU TO HAVE BEEN SELECTED AS A TILLMAN SCHOLAR AND CARRY FORWARD PAT’S LEGACY?
“I couldn’t believe it had happened when I received the call, I was completely honored and humbled. I was driven not only to help carry on Pat’s legacy, but also try to help make the world a better place in many different ways not just for Veterans but for everyone. I’m motivated to bridge that gap between people that have served their country and are now trying to serve the world in a different capacity.”
EXPLAIN WHAT YOU’RE DOING NOW IN WORKING WITH THE RESILIENCE CENTER FOR VETERANS AND FAMILIES AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY.
“I wouldn’t have been able to go back to school had it not been for the Tillman Foundation. Getting into a Psychology program is very competitive, in some cases more so than medical school. I received my Masters in Forensic Psychology from George Washington, knowing it could be a springboard to help me pursue my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. I applied to Columbia University because Dr. George Bonanno is a lead researcher in human resilience, so I knew I wanted to work with him. At the same time, I found out they were establishing the Resilience Center focusing on research involving Veterans on top of providing free psychological services to Veterans and their family members.
I’m currently involved in a study in collaboration with Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), in conducting a national longitudinal study of Service Members as they transition from active duty to Veteran status. This study seeks to assess the unique stressors Veterans face as they leave the Armed Forces and the subsequent impact on their mental health trajectories.”
HOW DO WE CONTINUE TO MAKE ASSISTANCE FOR THOSE WITH POST-DEPLOYMENT PSYCHOLOGICAL ISSUES BETTER?
“There’s no clear answer but I think we need to normalize it and recognize that strong, capable people struggle. Recently a Sergeant Major posted on social media that he was taking some time off for some mental wellness and that speaks volumes that there are individuals in very high positions that have a lot of responsibility and recognize there’s a time and a place to take a break. Increasing the amount of mental health care providers is key and even going as far as having every service member that returned from an area of operation sit down one-on-one with a mental health care provider. Building a therapeutic alliance and connection between soldiers and the resources that exist could give them the knowledge of where they need to go for assistance.”
IN ADDITION TO PURSUING YOUR EDUCATIONAL GOALS, HOW HAS THE TILLMAN SCHOLARSHIP IMPACTED YOU ASIDE FROM THE FINANCIAL ASPECT?
“At this point in my life I would say it has provided me with inspiration. Being away from the military community where you’re constantly surrounded by people that have an amazing self-given purpose towards something greater than yourself is very rewarding. It’s inspiring to ask myself how I can be better or make the world a better place and being part of the Tillman community gives me that. It makes me look at myself as a small part of a greater whole and how I can help in ways I may not have otherwise done so before. The transition gap when leaving the military can be such a challenging time and even though I started school right away there was a huge void in my life.”
WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL IN THE FUTURE?
“As a first year doctoral student in Clinical Psychology my primary research project is serving as the primary investigator on a national longitudinal study that looks at service members transitioning to veteran status. It helps in piecing apart psychologically why some cope well with it while others really struggle. I’m really focusing on looking at the gap from when you leave military service to transitioning to the civilian sector and how we can make that better for future veterans.
I went back to school to get my doctorate in Clinical Psychology with the intent on going back in the Army as an active duty Psychologist – that’s my five-year plan. There’s been a huge push to increase the number of Psychologists on active duty in all the branches of our Armed Forces because of all the things we’ve been seeing throughout the past decade. Either way I would like to work with the military in some capacity that supports the Veteran population.”
HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN BALANCE IN YOUR LIFE WITH YOUR HUSBAND STILL SERVING, YOU GOING TO SCHOOL, BEING A MOM ON TOP OF VOLUNTEERING?
“My husband is incredible! So many people say that marriage is 50/50 but I feel in life there are times when it is harder for one and easier for the other. It’s about one person doing more in the other’s time of need or struggle that makes an incredible partnership. My husband embodies all of that. When he was deployed and I was going to school for my Masters, I felt it was my responsibility to pick up the necessary requirements for our family. Now it’s my turn and he has been doing that for our family, all the while getting a Masters himself.”