‘Work hard and always seek excellence,’ veteran advises

Lt. Col. Darren Tremayne Spears, who is professor of military science at Grambling State University, has brought a wealth of experience to the job, including a stint as an instructor at West Point. GSU is the seventh duty posting for the native of New Orleans, Louisiana. His current rank in the military is lieutenant colonel.

Spears has served a total of 24 years, six in the Louisiana National Guard and 18 on active duty. He has been deployed to combat four times, having served one tour in Iraq (2005) and three tours in Afghanistan (2007-08), 2012 and 2014.

He talked about the difficulty in coming back to the U.S. after serving in a war zone.

It took the military a few years to revise reintegration training after Operation Enduring Freedom began. The reintegration process is very deliberate. Soldiers are taught to ease themselves back into their family environment. The family has been operating just fine without the service member for 9-12 months and it is disruptive for a service member to insert him- or herself back into the family abruptly.”

Spears’ job and duties includes being an infantry officer, and he has served in all positions from the rank of second lieutenant to lieutenant colonel. Other duties of Spears included infantry platoon leader, company executive officer, company commander, brigade chief of operations, brigade planner, battalion operations officer, battalion executive officer, observer controller trainer and professor of military science.

Spears started his journey at 17 years old, when he enlisted in the Louisiana National Guard while he was a senior in high school in December of 1994.
Lt. Col. Spears’ first duty assignment as a second lieutenant was Korea.  He then moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, and served as a company executive officer and company commander.  The third duty station was Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he served as a Company Commander.

His next assignment was at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, where he served as an instructor and infantry branch representative. While there he traveled to Austria for three weeks to work with the Austrian Military Academy.

Then came Fort Carson, Colorado, where he served as in battalion operations and as battalion executive officer. His final duty assignment before GSU was at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Spears has been married to wife Latisha for 16 years, and all three of their children were born on Army installations: 14-year-old Caleb at Fort Benning, Georgia; Kayla, 12, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and Kyle, 8, at West Point, New York.

Spears has seen changes in the military over the years, and talks about the difference between draftees and enlistees, being drafted vs. being a volunteer.
“I think the draft was a good thing in the ’60s because there was a large need for soldiers to support the Vietnam conflict. Today we have an all-volunteer force, which we do not have many issues finding young men and women who want to serve as a sense of duty to the nation.”

Spears thinks there will never have to be another draft because today, there is more sense of patriotism and willingness to serve. “Young men and women want to serve for a variety of reasons. I personally do not think the draft will ever be reinstated, and I do not think Congress will reinstate it,” Spears said.
Some advice Lt. Col. Spears would give anyone seeking a career in the military is “Work hard and always seek excellence in everything that you can personally affect. Maintain a high level of physical fitness, listen to your non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and always get a second opinion before you make a decision that will affect the outcome of one of your subordinate’s career.

“Finally, find a good mentor and remain prayerful,” Spears said.  

His current career goals are to retire from the Army after 20 years of active duty service and transition to a JROTC program at a high school where he aspires to continue to impact and help shape young people’s lives. Spears has a passion for helping kids who need a little guidance to get on track with achieving their life goals.

 “The military is a unique lifestyle but it is a very rewarding profession,” Lt. Col. Spears said. “If you like to be challenged, then the military is a great profession for you. It can also provide you educational opportunities to earn advanced degrees as well as see the world. The time really goes by fast and if you take care of your soldiers they will take care of you!”